January 4th, 2019
28 Issue 01
Issue of The Wood
Short Days, Steady
Aroostook County, Maine, Logging
Camp. Circa 1895.
the Fall, after farming was done for the year, local men would often
take to the woods to work in isolated logging camps until the
Spring. Typically they were provided very rustic
accommodations, hot meals and earned $1/day, working six days/week.
Woods work would continue through Winter’s cold and snow until
mud-season came around in March or April. Then, the focus
once again shift back to farming and growing potatoes.
Our farm business is predictably busy every Winter. We
our entire organic potato crop from November through January.
This practice allows us to be ready to handle the flood of orders which
ship out during the narrow February to May window during Spring’s
Every year we
enjoy being the first farmers in Northern Maine to vicariously
experience the coming of your Spring. We sure do like that.
Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
.The National Geographic Stumbles
Tackling Organic Farming.
Farming on a Large Scale. Will the future leave room for
the recent article entitled, “We
Don’t Have Enough Organic Farms. Why Not?”
the National Geographic
shares its typically beautiful photography, a high standard we’ve all
come to expect from NG
These dazzling shots of big operations by George Steinmetz do not
However, don't go expecting a balanced view of modern organic
farming. Sadly, the accompanying text offers an interesting
shallow foray into the world of organic farming. The article has a
with very large-scale operations.
This issue of "scale" is an increasingly critical discussion within
organic circles. The unmistakable trend within agriculture of steady
consolidation and concentration - now that Industrial Ag has set its
sights on the organic market - represents an existential threat
to real organic family farmers
who are severely disadvantaged both by economies of scale and a heavily
stacked deck in Federal agricultural policy which unashamedly favors
and subsidizes large corporations.
For example, one corporate operation based in California grows 34,000
acres of Certified Organic vegetables, primarily carrots. It happens to
be one of the largest vegetable operations in the world. In
United States fully 25%
of all fresh market carrots are now organic
Industrial Ag has moved in.
society we must ask ourselves a very basic question, "Will we
maintain room for family farmers to exist?"
That is, practically speaking, do we want our nation's "organic"
carrots to be grown by a tiny handful of huge, distant corporate
operations each growing 20,000 acres of carrots?
As organic family farmers, we would argue instead of a single mega
factory farm, our country would be much better off with the
from 10,000 independent organic family farmers, each growing a couple
of acres of carrots and each serving in valuable roles as employers and
active and committed members of America's rural communities.
In recent years Industrial Ag has steadily been worming its way into
organic farming. The harsh reality is, with huge scale comes
concentrated economic and political power.
Ag has not been shy about throwing its weight around
in order to gain preferential treatment and skirt traditional and legal
organic requirements from corporate-biased regulator USDA.
As their dominance
Industrial Ag to work to further dilute both the traditional definition
of organic and the organic integrity
and your family have come to rely upon.
Here's one important fact you
would never suspect after reading this NG article: as of 2016, 73% of all
Certified Organic farmers are family farmers who farm 179 Acres or less.
After all, it was organic family farmers who invented organic farming
and who founded the organic community. We
farmers are still the vast majority of organic
However, it is this same group of local, honest family-scale organic
farms – located in all 50 States - whose existence is now increasingly
being threatened by the flood of new, dubious mega corporate Industrial
factory farms, entranced by organic price premiums. They
are forcefully pushing family farmers like us into the abyss.
Caleb, Jim & Megan
Here for Wood Prairie Certified Organic Cover Crop Seed.
FREE Organic Caribe' Certified Seed Potatoes!
our favorite workhorse varieties of potatoes is the very early Organic
bred by our friend Hielke De Jong, the now retired Ag Canada potato
breeder stationed for decades in nearby Fredericton, New Brunswick,
Canada. Originally designed and bred as a Canadian
variety for Cuba, it turns out Caribe’ performs even better in a
non-tropical environments – meaning it’s a sensation for the lower 47
States, plus the northern half of Florida, and Alaska.
Caribe’ is the only
variety we have ever admonished ‘should be
planted in every garden.’
Organic Caribe’ (Spanish for
has a beautiful, brilliant purple skin with pearly white
It is an excellent eating variety, whether as a new potato or a
Winter-long storage variety. The intense purple skin color
be brightest and last longest in storage when growing conditions were
not hot or dry. In our experience, the color remains through
Christmas then starts to fade over the rest of the Winter.
However, tuber quality and taste remains top notch all Winter long so
we consider this a good keeper.
Twenty-five years ago, noting it’s extra early maturity,
scientists at University of Rhode Island issued a recommendation to
grow Caribe’ as a
stand-alone tactic for surviving
Northeastern onslaught by Colorado Potato Beetles.
But don’t take our word for it! Grow this great variety and see for
yourself. Earn yourself a FREE 1 Lb. Sack of Organic Caribe’
(Value $11.95) when your next order totals
$39 or more. FREE
Caribe’ Certified Seed Potatoes Offer
ends 11:59 PM on
Monday January 7. Please use Promo Code WPFF441
Your order and FREE
Organic Caribe’ Certified Seed Potatoes
must ship no later
than May 5, 2019. Offer may not be combined with other
offers. Click or call TODAY!
Here for our Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes.
Caribe'. The one potato which should be in every garden.
on Wood Prairie Family Farm. A near perfect rop of Organic
|Brand New Wood Prairie Video
on ‘Grading’ Caribe’ Potatoes.
This week we were
grading out a beautiful crop of Organic
Caribe’ Certified Seed Potatoes and Megan
decided to record the effort and turn it into our new You
Tube video (2:09). Find it – along
with dozens of others - posted online on our
Wood Prairie You Tube Channel.
In this new video, Jim empties the last of 2000 pounds of field run
Caribe’ from a 4’ x 4’ x 4’ wooden pallet box, using the forklift and
“Box Dumper.” Potatoes land into a foam padded
hopper then meters out potatoes onto two in-series “Haines’ Brushers”
which dry brush clean the cascading spuds.
Next, tubers hit the wood “Haines’ Drop Sizer.” We bought
wooden Drop Sizer used at an auction twenty-five years ago (more
precisely, we bought three
identical wood Drop Sizers at farm auctions for $5 each and built-over
the best one and stripped parts off the other two). Our Drop Sizer was
built by our friends, Freddy and Junior (Fred’s father) Haines at
Haines Manufacturing, in nearby Presque Isle, probably 50-60 years
ago. Gone are the days of wooden equipment, but Haines Mfg is
still going strong to this day fabricating from scratch innovative
potato handling equipment, always painted red.
Jim’s elbows fly fast working on the “Roller Table” sorting (“grading”
or “racking over”) for size, quality and ultimate market
destination. The impact of drops or falls is
the use of foam pads to avoid bruising. Way back during our
harvests with hand crews, we would always caution our eleven and twelve
year-old hand potato pickers to “treat ‘em gentle just like
would an egg” to prevent potatoes from getting
All Winter we keep the potatoes in the cellar at 38ºF because that’s
the ideal temperature for storing Seed Potatoes long term. Jim prefers
to grade barehanded for speed and keeps warm both from
the work and from wearing three layers of vests (two wool and one
Carhartt) which allows fingers to keep functioning despite the cold.
Caleb & Jim
Click Here for Our Organic Wood Prairie Maine Certified Seed Potatoes.
|Wood Prairie Family Farm Photos.
Snowy Wood Prairie Family Farm Driveway.
in westward from Kinney Road towards our collection of farm buildings,
hidden from view. We’ve experienced persistent snow
lots of cold since October. So far, we’ve had 51” of snow in a dozen
snow events beginning with October 24.
Caleb on Oliver Tractor Blowing Snow.
the full moon before Christmas overhead, Caleb uses our seven-foot
tractor-mount snowblower to blow snow into the woods. The
has logging-style ‘ice-ring’ chains for traction.
Blowing Through Head High
multiple passes, Caleb breaks up six foot high drifts of snow piled on
the north side of our office, prior to a forecast of heavy
rain. The snow blower works hard and throws the snow thirty to forth
of the way.
Saturday Night: Unloading a Truckload of
Organic Ground Rock Fertilizer.
The truck was supposed to arrive
that Saturday before Christmas. However you never know what
expect with trucking and we ended up unloading 30,000 pounds of organic
fertilizer from this truck beginning at 8pm. The
hard-working long-haul truck driver was a young man in his twenties who
emigrated from Ethiopia to the United States just a few years
ago. His answers to Jim’s two questions were: Yes,
been treated well since he came to the USA; and his family was in
Denver. After being on the road since November, he
to make it home to Colorado by Christmas or New Year’s Day.
Caleb Putting Away Last Tote Sack of
We get our organic ground rock fertilizer custom-blended from
Amish-owned Lancaster Ag Products in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The
fertilizer comes in heavy 2900-pound “Tote Sacks” (aka “Sling
Bags”). We apply between 1000# and 2000# per acre of this dry
powder blend to mineralize the soil. The amount applied
depending on the needs of the field.
Shoveling Snow Off Roof Prior to Heavy Rain.
and high schooler farm-hand Nate, use snow scoops to shovel off two to
three feet of accumulated snow from our most stubborn roofs. The
tractor-mount snowblower is used to blow the piled up snow away, making
room to dump more snow. A day or two later an inch or two of
fell. Deep snow which sponges up a significant
gets exponentially heavy and has the capacity to collapse
roofs. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Emptied Potato Pallet Boxes Pushed Out
of Cellar. After
the potatoes in a field-run wooden pallet box have been graded out, the
empty box is shoved outside creating a long line ready to be
carted away. Caleb’s sister, Amy, got her driver’s license
Fall, and had saved up her earnings from potato harvest. Caleb
worked his magic and found this black Ford Ranger pickup for her and it
an incredible deal. It had low miles and was resting down on
coast. It had received some minor damage from a tree falling
it. It runs like a top and all Amy has had to do is buy a new
of studded winter tires. The tractor tire and wheel in the bed add
weight and help the studs dig into the ice, making driving in the
winter a lot safer.
|Ralph Waldo Emerson on Purpose.
Winter Salad with Spiced Maple Vinaigrette.
3 T pure maple
1/2 cinnamon stick
2 whole allspice berries
1 small whole clove
1 whole star anise
1/2 tsp grated peeled fresh ginger
2 T apple-cider vinegar
1/3 c neutral oil, such as grapeseed or vegetable
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
5 oz mesclun salad mix
5 oz head frisee, trimmed and torn into bite-size pieces
1 small carrot
1 small parsnip
1 small turnip
1/4 c shelled sunflower seeds, toasted
4 oz aged sharp Cheddar, crumbled
To make the vinaigrette, combine the maple syrup, cinnamon, allspice,
clove, star anise, ginger, and 1 T water in a 1-quart saucepan. Simmer
on medium-low heat to infuse the flavors and thicken slightly, about 3
minutes. Stir in the vinegar, and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into
a small bowl. Whisk in the oil in a slow stream and season to taste
with salt and pepper. Set aside and allow to cool to room temperature.
Assemble the salad by combining the mesclun and frisee in a large bowl.
Peel the carrot, parsnip, and turnip. Using the peeler, shave each into
thin ribbons into the bowl. Add the sunflower seeds and half the
cheese. Whisk the vinaigrette to recombine, then toss the salad with
enough to coat. Serve sprinkled with the remaining cheese.
with Spiced Maple Vinaigrette.
Photo by Angela Wotton.
Gone Potato Barrels and Plowing in Warmth.
Gone Potato Barrels.
what happened to all the potato barrels? We had two of them in the barn
when we sold the farm in 2012.
Back in the winters during the 1970s I worked as a Cooper at
Bridgewater Barrel. We were paid piece rate ($0.80/barrel) and once one
had learned the tricks, by hustling and sweating it for nine hours you
could 'make' 50 barrels per day. $40/day was BIG money back then! I'd
come in at 4:30 am and get done by coffee break at 2pm. I could get
work done on the farm after making my quota. Now all those family
farmers who used the 11-peck cedar-potato-barrels are either dead or
long out-of-business. So, of necessity, the Aroostook barrel trade
shifted over to novelty and rustic-themed display barrels. Like the
ones you might see in Hannafords or Walmart displaying sausage or other
We just got
a 2008 F250 pickup w/plow and 46,000 miles on it. I've always plowed
with the Kubota, not the luxury of a pickup with heat and windows. It
will be a game changer.
For many years I plowed with a gas tractor and a fixed 7' blade angled
right, no cab, no heat. Plowing in the woods was one thing. Plowing
around the barns and house, in the open with the NW wind blowing was
quite another thing. After 5 hours in a snowsuit my beard and eyebrows
would be all iced up. At that point it was time to go inside and thaw
out my feet by the woodstove. A 4WD pickup with heat is definitely the
better way to go.
Caleb & Jim
& Megan Gerritsen
Prairie Family Farm
429 - 9765
Certified Organic, From Farm to Mailbox