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Organic News and Commentary
From Maine
                Saturday, October 19th, 2019
                Volume 28 Issue 12


 In This Issue of The Wood Prairie Seed Piece:

  Harvest Complete.

     Night Sky, Sand Beach. Acadia National Park, Maine. 
  With increasing worldwide night-time light pollution, Maine’s extensive remote areas are receiving accolades for extraordinary night sky viewing opportunities.

     This beautiful Summertime photo was published recently in Maine’s Bangor Daily News. Maine is being increasingly recognized as possessing the largest light-pollution-free area in the Eastern USA. The newest member of our country’s National Park Service, undeveloped Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument (just east of Katahdin and Baxter State Park and 60 miles SW of Wood Prairie Family Farm) is a rising star amidst Northern Maine’s true dark night sky country.

     Maine’s potato harvest is now winding down. Harvests out West have been experiencing extremes of wet, snow and cold. Northern Maine’s frequent rain interruptions this Fall were far less severe than the calamities further West but nonetheless dragged out harvest for Maine’s potato farmers. With a sunny stretch forecast for several days ahead, many operations should be finishing up harvest next week.

     We finished our digging a week ago and have since planted our potato ground to a crop of Organic Winter Rye. Our yields were moderate, held down by the dry Summer. The word is late varieties have sized up considerably thanks to substantial rains received in early September. Farmers had been fretting due to rain-delayed planting in the Spring, then dry conditions and a reversal to wet weather as harvest approached.

Caleb, Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Bridgewater, Maine

Kentucky Farmer Wendell Berry. Wise words from a wise man.
Going Home with Wendell Berry.

     We’ve learned the best interviews emerge when a thoughtful and capable interviewer is able to intelligently carry her side of the conversation.

     Such is the case in this excellent piece in The New Yorker where deep thinker and Kentucky farmer Wendell Berry is interviewed by Amanda Petrusich.

     This is an interview which masterfully delves into Wendell’s well-articulated themes of place, home and economy. Please consider it must read!

Caleb, Megan & Jim

Two and a half years ago, feeling existentially adrift about the future of the planet, I sent a letter to Wendell Berry, hoping he might have answers. Berry has published more than eighty books of poetry, fiction, essays, and criticism, but he’s perhaps best known for “The Unsettling of America,” a book-length polemic, from 1977, which argues that responsible, small-scale agriculture is essential to the preservation of the land and the culture. The book felt radical in its day; to a contemporary reader, it is almost absurdly prescient. Berry, who is now eighty-four, does not own a computer or a cell phone, and his landline is not connected to an answering machine. We corresponded by mail for a year, and in November, 2018, he invited me to visit him at his farmhouse, in Port Royal, a small community in Henry County, Kentucky, with a population of less than a hundred...

“What are the payoffs of observing limits and accepting them? I’ve begun to think a lot about the economic importance of intangibles. For instance, if you’re a cattle farmer and you keep the same cow families on your place, generation after generation, one of the results will be a locally adapted cow herd. Over time, the animals will have learned how to live on your place, in your conditions, better than if they were strangers. Veterinary and other costs would likely go down. Just as when you keep yourself to your place, you adapt to it. And there comes a finally inscrutable history of influences back and forth.

"One time, when we were both up at the horse sale in Columbus, my friend Maury Tilleen said, 'Come here, I want you to hear this.' He wanted me to hear the story of Lancie Clippinger’s corn crop of the year before. Lancie had forty acres of corn at a time when corn was selling at hardly more than it cost to raise it. And he had bought forty sows. He bred the sows so that their pigs would come on when the corn was ready to harvest, and then he put the pigs into the cornfield. At the same time, he picked the

corn that he needed for his other stock. He made about a thousand dollars per acre off the corn that year partly by feeding it to the hogs. While we were standing there talking, Maury said, 'Do you farrow the sows in a farrowing house?' 'No,' Lancie said. 'I have a field I turn them out in. It has plenty of water and shade and I see ‘em every day.' This is culture at work—'I see ‘em every day.' What the man knew increased the worth of his corn crop. So, if you have an economy that deliberately destroys this culture of husbandry, you’re destroying both the land and the people, the basis of the economy."

Special Offer: FREE Organic Winter Rye Cover Crop Seed!

     Our Wood Prairie Organic Winter Rye is the hardiest winter cover crop out there! It may be planted after crops are harvested in the Fall. It will make minor to modest growth in the Fall, living through the Winter – when other less rugged Winter grain may Winter-kill – and protecting the soil. Remarkably early the the Spring, it will begin its growth. It may be mowed and incorporated for mid- and late-Spring crops. Left to grow, Winter Rye will produce heads full of kernels of grain Rye (for delicious Rye Bread!) and abundant Rye straw excellent for bedding or mulch.

     Wood Prairie Organic Winter Rye may be planted any time of year, including Spring (though it won’t form grain unless planted in the Fall), as a fast growing cover crop. We spin on Winter Rye during our last cultivation of Organic Seed Corn to form a protective ground cover. As an overachiever, Winter Rye is also allelopathic, which means it naturally produces biochemicals which inhibit competing weed seed germination.

     We recommend always having a sack of Wood Prairie Organic Winter Rye on hand. We’ll help by sending you a FREE 2.5 lbs Sack of Organic Winter Rye Cover Crop Seed (Value $9.95) when your next Wood Prairie order totals $59 or more. FREE Sack of Organic Winter Rye Cover Crop Seed Offer ends 11:59 PM on Monday, October 21. Please use Promo Code WPFF454. Your order and FREE Sack of Organic Winter Rye Cover Crop Seed - must ship no later than May 5, 2020. Offer may not be combined with other offers. Please secure your FREE Sack TODAY!

Please Click Here for All of Our Wood Prairie Organic Cover Crop Seed 


Wood Prairie Organic Winter Rye.
King of Winter-hardy cover crops.
Wood Prairie Family Farm Photos.

Harvested Wood Prairie Potato Ground.    Looking south, these empty rows by the Maple trees were where we had just finished digging our crop of the new mid-season variety, Caribou Russet.  This year the thundershowers seemed to miss us and we had a dry Summer.  Potato plants tended to buckle under the stress.  However, about the first eight rows of Caribous – closest to these Maples - benefitted from their shade (and moisture?).  Their tops stayed green longer and the harvested tubers were noticeably larger.

Megan and Amy During Potato Harvest (Andrew Lictenstein).
   Megan (left) and daughter, Amy, pal around while Jim (on tractor) logs in full pallet boxes keeping account of their associated seed lot numbers.  Aroostook County is one of the last places in the United States where school is still closed down for “Potato Harvest Break” so students like Amy can help local farmers get the crop in.  The tradition goes back to just after WWII when planners in Augusta decided a standard 175-day school year was a good idea.  Aroostook legislators lobbied and got passed an accommodation which allowed Aroostook schools to start up early in August to allow for the three-week Harvest Break in September and October.


Wooden Pallet Box of Adirondack Red (Andrew Lictenstein).
     Our Finnish Juko Potato Harvester sends dug up and field-run-sorted tubers directly into 4’ x 4’ x 4’ hardwood pallet boxes.   When full, the pallet boxes hold a ton of potatoes.   These Adirondack Red potatoes will be cured in our underground potato storage for a few weeks at 55ºF and high humidity.  Following that stage, using fans to blow in cold nighttime air we’ll quickly drop the cellar temperature to it’s winter setting at 38ºF.  Cooling arrests “physiological aging” of tubers.  This practice gifts our seed tubers with extra high vigor which translates to higher yields when you use our Certified Seed wherever you grow.

Amy & Sarah Gleaning Potato Rows.     Megan used her phone to capture this shot of Caleb’s sisters, Amy (left) and Sarah walking the rows gleaning potatoes.  Our Juko Harvester starts at one edge of a field, digging one-way one-row-at-a-time.  After a row has been dug, the Juko loops its way back to the starting point to tackle the next row.  Meanwhile, most of the crew saunters their way back on foot, picking up any tubers left behind. Once we’re done digging a field there’s very little waste to be seen.

Dismantling Wood Prairie’s Long Tunnel.
Before we could harvest the FY 1 (Field Year) Seed Potato tubers we grew in our Long Tunnel from tissued-cultured “Minitubers,” we had to dismantle and remove the portable 500’ structure.  Here, Caleb climbs into the Clark forklift - fine-tuning the positioning of our 24’ goose-neck trailer – which is performing double-duty as the staging unit for rolling up the 21’ wide aphid-excluding netting.  The netting excludes aphids which could vector potato virus to this early generation seed stock.

Wood Prairie Crew Rolling Up Landscape Fabric.
    Once the netted covering is removed, 20’ Long Tunnel framed sections are un-coupled and displaced, allowing landscape fabric to be rolled up. The visible crew (left to right) is year-round co-worker Megan #2, Jim (Caleb’s father), Caleb and Amy (Caleb’s sister).  On the ground - out of sight and knocking dirt off the fabric - are Megan (Caleb’s mother) and neighbor-brothers Nate & Seth who have worked for us for years, whenever school is out.

Last Morning of the Last Day of Wood Prairie Potato Harvest.
    One chilly morning a week ago we finished digging potatoes.   The last dozen rows of late variety, All-Blue  are what’s left.  Caleb is twisted around backwards watching the Juko harvester while driving our 1967 Oliver 1850 Diesel tractor with creeper gearing.  Megan is seated in the nearly full pallet box, tossing the stray rock here and there back onto the field.  Amy (purple hood) is at the Hedgehog position working the “Secondary Table” finishing the mostly complete job by the Juko which mechanically separates potatoes from rocks and tops. Nate (orange cap) is on the cart gleaning potatoes which dropped through the harvester (helped by Megan #2 out of view).  Missing from the photo and taking the shot is Jim who works beside Amy.

Planting Winter Rye on Wood Prairie Family Farm.
    As soon as digging was finished, Caleb took one tractor and picked rocks off the harvested fields with our mechanical Lockwood Rockpicker.  Jim followed on another tractor pulling a 7-Tooth International Harvester Chisel Plow ripping a foot or more into the soil aerating and busting up any soil compaction which accompanied this year’s wet harvest.  Following that step, the fields where harrowed to make them ready for planting.  Here Jim in using our ‘new’ Oliver 1750 Diesel to pull a 10’ wide IH 510 grain drill to plant all the fields to a crop of Winter Rye.  We fabricated that green rubber-tired land roller.  It’s purpose is to firm the top couple of inches of soil which improves germination of the Rye seed.

East Branch of the Penobscot River, near Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.
    KWWNM just celebrated its 3rd birthday.  In August 2016, Bert’s Bees Founder Roxanne Quimby gifted to the people of the United States 87,563 acres of woodland just east of Maine’s 200,000 acre wilderness Baxter State Park.  The next day, President Obama signed an Executive Order creating Kathdin Woods and Waters National Monument, the newest member of our National Park System.  When traveling on the Swift Brook Road to access KWWNM’s Katahdin Loop Road you will pass this unspoiled vista of the East Branch of the Penobscot River.

Roosevelt on Soil.

Recipe: Crispy Rosemary-Parmesan Potato Wedges.

Boil in salted water until just barely tender:
3 Butte potatoes, sliced lengthwise into 8 wedges each
Drain and cool slightly.

On a plate, combine:
1/3 c Panko breadcrumbs
2 T minced fresh rosemary
2 T grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Brush potato wedges with olive oil and press them into the panko mixture until coated on the cut sides. Bake in a 400F oven 10-15 minutes. Flip the wedges and bake for another 10 minutes, until crisp and golden.


A Delicious Fall Snack.
Photo by Angela Wotton.

 Caleb & Jim & Megan Gerritsen
 Wood Prairie Family Farm
 49 Kinney Road
 Bridgewater, Maine 04735
 (207) 429 - 9765 Certified Organic, From Farm to Mailbox