Having trouble viewing newsletter? Find this edition of the Seed Piece here.

Organic News and Commentary
From Maine
          Saturday, November 9th, 2019
                Volume 28 Issue 13


 In This Issue of The Wood Prairie Seed Piece:

   Giving Thanks.

     The Angelus. Circa 1859.
  Oil-on-canvas by French painter Jean-Francois Millet (1814-1875). “Het angelus” was painted by Millet over the years 1857-1859. Wikipedia provides this description: The painting depicts two peasants bowing in a field over a basket of potatoes to say a prayer, the Angelus, that together with the ringing of the bell from the church on the horizon marks the end of a day's work.

     Here in Northern Maine, the farming season has quickly drawn to a close and Winter is moving in. We’re expereincing snow and frozen ground which fails to thaw during the day. Field work is complete and most of next Winter’s firewood is safely put away under cover. For us, a good time now to focus on thanks.

Caleb, Jim & Megan

Caleb, Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Bridgewater, Maine
The Neccessity of Agriculture.

Young Amy Gerritsen. Wood Prairie Potato Harvest. Circa 2010. Photo by New Zealand photographer Lottie Hedley. Love of family farming expressed as youthful exuberance.

      Our friend Eliot Coleman recently shared with us this must read penetrating piece by Kentucky farmer and essayist Wendell Berry.  It appeared ten years ago in Harper’s Magazine and is a portion of an acceptance speech given at that time by Wendell on the occasion of his winning the annual Louis Bromfield Society Award.  Caleb, Megan & Jim

I read Louis Bromfield’s Pleasant Valley and The Farm more than forty years ago, and I am still grateful for the confirmation and encouragement I received from those books. At the time when farming, as a vocation and an art, was going out of favor, Bromfield genuinely and unabashedly loved it. He was not one of those bad pastoral writers whose love for farming is distant, sentimental, and condescending. Bromfield clearly loved it familiarly and in detail; he loved the work and the people who did it well.

In any discussion of agriculture or food production, it would be hard to exaggerate the importance of such love. No doubt there are people who farm without it, but without it nobody will be a good farmer or a good husbander of the land. We seem now to be coming to a time when we will have to recognize the love of farming not as a quaint souvenir of an outdated past but as an economic necessity. And that recognition, when it comes, will bring with it a considerable embarrassment.

How great an embarrassment this may be is suggested by a recent article in the Wall Street Journal about Japan’s effort to “job-train” unemployed urban young people to be farmers. This is a serious, even urgent, effort. “Policy makers,” the article says, “are hoping newly unemployed young people will help revive Japan’s dwindling farm population. . . . ‘If they can’t find workers over the next several years, Japan’s agriculture will disappear,’ says Kazumasa Iwata, a government economist and former deputy governor of the Bank of Japan.” But this effort is falling significantly short of success because “many young people end up returning to cities, unable to adjust to life in the countryside.” To their surprise, evidently, farming involves hard work, long hours, and getting dirty—not to mention skills that city-bred people don’t have. Not to mention the necessity of loving farmwork if you are going to keep at it.

Even so, the prospect of reviving agriculture in Japan is brighter than in the United States. In Japan 6 percent of the population is still farming, as opposed to 1 or 2 percent of our people. And in Japan, as opposed to the United States, policymakers and economists seem to be aware of the existence of agriculture. They even think agriculture may be a good thing for a nation of eaters to have.

If agriculture and the necessity of food production ever penetrate the consciousness of our politicians and economists, how successful will they be in job-training our overeducated, ignorant young people to revive our own aging and dwindling farm population? What will it take to get significant numbers of our young people, white of collar and soft of hands, to submit to hard work and long days, not to mention getting dirty? In my worst, clearest moments I am afraid the necessity of agriculture will not be widely recognized without the sterner necessity of actual hunger. For half a century or so, our informal but most effective agricultural policy has been to eat as much, as effortlessly, as thoughtlessly, and as cheaply as we can, to hell with whatever else may be involved. Such a policy can of course lead to actual hunger.
Special Offer: FREE Organic Caribou Russet Seed Potatoes!

          One of the most talked about potato varieties in recent years is University of Maine’s new and remarkable Mid-Season Organic Caribou Russet. As seems to be the nature of northern-grown Russets, most take their own sweet time to grow and are therefore typically classed as Late or Very Late potatoes. Organic Caribou Russet displays the prized “Mealy Dry” texture of a classic Russet such as Butte – great for light, fluffy Mashed or Baked Potatoes - but grows fast and has a mid-length of growing season akin to Adirondack Blue or Rose Gold. Organic Caribou Russet tubers taste good, grow to large size and they are good keepers.

      Here’s your chance to try out these new wonders in next year’s garden and it will be on us! Earn a FREE 1 lb. Sack of Organic Caribou Russet Seed Potatoes (Value $11.95) when your next Wood Prairie order totals $59 or more. FREE Organic Caribou Russet Seed Potatoes Offer ends 11:59 PM on Monday, November 11. Please use Promo Code WPFF455. Your order and FREE Organic Caribou Russet Seed Potato Offer - must ship no later than May 5, 2020. Offer may not be combined with other offers. Please place your order TODAY!

Click Here for Our Wood Prairie Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes.

Organic Caribou Russet.
Excellent New Mid-Season Russet for the North.

Wood Prairie Family Farm Photos.

Canadian Geese Startled From 'Big Pond' on Wood Prairie Family Farm.    For whatever reason this year we’ve had a lot more Canadian Geese hanging out on our farm than we’ve ever had before. Once, last month, we saw over a hundred geese gathered in one of our clover fields which had its over-story Organic Dylan Spring Wheat crop harvested back in September. In this shot, a large gaggle was lazing in the pond only to be quickly startled into flight when Jim peered around the nearby Spruce trees.

Coming & Going Chopping & Chiseling Rapeseed.
   Our last field work every Fall is to incorporate the plowdown crop of Biofumigant Rapeseed into next year’s potato ground. Last week, on a cloudy day in the 40s and just ahead of the inch-and-a-half rain predicted for Halloween, Caleb and Jim decided it was time to get this job done. On the left, Caleb is driving the Oliver 1750 Diesel tractor pulling a 7-tooth International Harvester Chisel Plow. Jim works a few laps ahead of Caleb chopping the Rapeseed with an Oliver 1650 Diesel pulling a seven-foot Woods Bushhog mower.

Caleb Chisel Plowing Chopped Rapeseed.
  The Chisel Plow’s twisted shanks bolted to the rugged teeth dig in about a foot deep and buries about 90% of the green matter left on the soil surface. Rapeseed leaves and stalks are chopped just ahead of chiseling to facilitate burying and decomposition. Akin to Organic Tillage Radish, the Rapeseed material decomposes in the soil and naturally gives off gases which cleanse the soil, killing weed seed and pathogenic fungi like Rhizoctonia and Pythium. The result is that next year we will harvest a higher quality Organic Seed crop. "Biofumigation" practiced by organic farmers has been extensively documented by scientists as an excellent cultural substitution for harsh and dangerous chemical soil fumigants. Chemical fumigant ‘Methyl Bromide,’ for example, is widely used on conventional farms and numerous times has been targeted for banning. It wipes out beneficial soil organisms and has been identified as a serious ozone depleter.

Mat of Winter Rye Protects Soil Under Organic Seed Corn Crop.      As Caleb continued to finish Chisel Plowing Rapeseed, Jim switched fields and used the Bushhog to chop the remaining stalks from a crop of harvested Organic Seed Corn. Back in July on the last pass cultivating the corn with the tractor, Jim used a 12-volt spin spreader - bolted to the tractor fender – to spin Organic Winter Rye onto the bare ground. The Winter Rye’s allelopathic ability discourages competing weed seed from germinating. The Winter Rye clearly achieved good growth and over the winter will continue to provide a dense protective mat. Come Spring, after snowmelt the Rye will grow once again. Then in July we’ll be able to harvest a new crop of Organic Winter Rye Seed.

Wood Prairie Guinea Hogs Pastured in Apple Orchard.
Our heritage breed American Guinea Hog herd enjoys our Apple orchard as their pastureland. We have a boar and several sows. All told we have around two dozen animals, all mostly related to one another and ranging in size from tiny to big. American Guinea Hogs are noted for being relatively docile and lacking in aggression. This characteristic allows us to keep the entire multi-aged clan together. They live on roots and grass, apple drops, cull potatoes and a small amount of grain. In winter hay takes the place of grass and they continue to get cull potatoes. If you look closely in the background, you can see three of the eight piglets born in the orchard to one sow about six-weeks-ago. At birth, a piglet is about the size of a beer mug.

Firewood Operation on Wood Prairie Family Farm.
    Concerned about our Climate Change trend towards heavier rains and higher winds, this Fall Caleb has been cutting down the shallow-rooted Poplar trees near our buildings. Pound for pound, dry firewood has the same BTUs whether it is maple or Poplar. Poplar is fine for firewood but since it’s half the density of maple it takes twice as many cords to get the same heat. Each pallet box is mixed with ¾ Poplar and ¼ Maple. We’ll save the maple for nights so we’ll have coals left in the morning. Here, Caleb works the Honda gas-powered homemade woodsplitter. Longtime co-worker and High School Senior Nate stacks wood into pallet racks and boxes. Nate has signed up to join the Maine National Guard after graduation in June. He’s already taking part in maneuvers one weekend a month down in Bangor.

Early Snow & Four-Foot Pallet Box of Firewood.
    This week we had our first snow, way less than the 10” they were predicting for us early in the week. Cold and more snow is forecast into next week. We’re pretty much a full year ahead on firewood. This winter’s supply has been seasoned and is safely stored away inside. This pallet box – and many others like it –will dry over the next year and be ready for use next Winter.

Geese Flying South on a Cold, Gray Nothern Maine Morning.
    Canadian Geese are smart enough to head south for the Winter. But if they grew potatoes they would want to stick around because Winter means plenty of work ahead for Maine potato farmers. This morning shot was taken looking westward across this year’s snow-covered potato fields, now planted to Organic Winter Rye. Temps were in the 20ºFs with wind a from the Northwest.

Wood Prairie Rose Hips Covered in Snow.
    Rosa Rugosa grow wild along the Maine coast. Over the years we’ve dug up plants from the coast and transplanted them up here near the west bank of our Big Pond. Over the years these Rose Hip plants have spread into a long, pretty thick hedge. Along with the snow, there are plenty of nutritious Rose Hips for our wintering Maine birds to enjoy.

Dr. John Ikerd on Large Farms.

Recipe: Potato, Parsnip and Parmesian Gratin.

4 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and quartered
Kosher salt
1 lb parsnips, peeled, quartered lengthwise, cored and cut into 2-inch pieces
4 T unsalted butter, cut into pieces
8 oz creme fraiche or yogurt
4 oz mascarpone
1/4 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper
1 egg white, whipped until lightly foamy
1 oz finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1 cup)

Put potatoes and parsnips in a pot, cover with water and add 1 T salt. Bring to a boil and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the potatoes and parsnips, put them back into the pot with butter, and coarsely mash with a potato masher. Fold in the creme fraiche or yogurt, mascarpone, nutmeg, t tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Fold in egg white. Transfer to a 9x13-inch baking dish.

Heat the oven to 375ºF. Sprinkle the gratin with the cheese, and bake until the gratin is heated through and the top is golden, about 40 minutes.


A Delicious Holiday Meal.
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