Organic News and Commentary
From Maine
              Friday, January 25th, 2019
                 Volume 28 Issue 02


 In This Issue of The Wood Prairie Seed Piece:

  Inside Work.

     J.H. Todd & Sons Salmon Cannery, Victoria, British Columbia.  Circa 1938.
Beautiful Label Art from British Columbia’s largest salmon cannery, established in 1882.  Jacob Hunter Todd had been a farmer in Ontario and migrated west to supply miners in the Cariboo Gold Rush beginning in 1860.  He developed lucrative markets for his canned sockeye salmon in England and that – along with his business acumen and hard bargaining – gave his company dominance in the BC salmon fishery.  The Horseshoe design was a nod to the superstitions of his early miner customers.

       Back here in Maine we remain fortunate with lots of snow (36” inches additional snowfall so far this month) and cold.  We are about on schedule, nearing completion of pre-grading our entire potato crop.  This pre-grading makes it much easier for us to keep up with receiving and quickly sending out your orders.   The supplies of some potato varieties are getting tight, so we urge you to place orders soon!   We are always happy to hold onto and ship your order later in the Spring if that is your preference.  Just tell us in the Comment field.  Thanks!

Caleb, Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Bridgewater, Maine
Wood Prairie Wins New 2019 'Green Thumb Award'.   

     The work of Wood Prairie Family Farm of Aroostook County, Maine was honored Tuesday in an awards ceremony at the Direct Gardening Association's (DGA) Winter Convention being held earlier this week in Charleston, South Carolina.

       Our nationally-recognized organic seed farm was awarded a 2019 DGA Green Thumb Award for The Wood Prairie Organic Colossal Potato Collection, judged to be one of this year's two best edible plant introductions in the United States. This marks the second year in a row that Wood Prairie Family Farm has received a coveted Green Thumb Award.   One year ago, Wood Prairie's The Organic Potato Plant Detective, was awarded a 2018 Green Thumb Award, similarly in the Edible Plants Division.

       Winners of the 2019 Green Thumb Awards were selected by an independent panel of garden writers and editors. Winners were selected based on uniqueness, technological innovation, ability to solve a gardening problem and potential appeal to home gardeners.

      DGA Green Thumb Awards recognize outstanding new garden products available by mail or online. The awards are sponsored by the Direct Gardening Association, the world's oldest nonprofit association of companies which sell garden products directly to consumers via catalogs and websites.

      Wood Prairie Family Farm is a second-generation organic farm which has seen members of  the Gerritsen family growing seed organic crops for over four decades.   Three years ago, Caleb Gerritsen took over the farm and mail order business from his parents Jim & Megan, who started the Maine farm in the 1970s.  The farm continues to focus on the production and direct-marketing of MOFGA-Certified Organic Maine Certified Seed Potatoes as well as organic vegetable and grain seed.  

       2019 marks the sixth time Wood Prairie Family Farm has earned a Green Thumb Award.

       "While there are over 4000 potato varieties in the world, those that are grown commercially number only in the hundreds," said Caleb Gerritsen.  "The score of potato varieties we grow and sell as Maine Certified Seed Potatoes are the success stories from our family's decades of organic grow-out trials.  We're very grateful that our unique collection of outstanding organic potatoes has been held in esteem by the judges and awarded this honor."

      During the many decades it has grown seed potatoes, Wood Prairie Family Farm has subjected potential additions to its organic potato collection to two critical criteria:  1) the potato must taste good, and 2) the potato must grow well under organic conditions.

      The Wood Prairie Organic Colossal Potato Collection contains every organic Certified Seed Potato variety grown on Wood Prairie Family Farm.  Included are Early-Season favorites, famous Yukon Gold, reliable Reddale, beautiful Prairie Blush, great-keeper Red Cloud, high-yielder Caribe' and always dependable Dark Red Norland.   Mid-Season Collection varieties are sisters Adirondack Blue and Adirondack Red, stunning Huckleberry Gold, bug-resistant King Harry and savory Rose Gold.  Late-Season members are rare & rugged Butte Russet, disease-resistant Yukon Gem, steady workhorse Elba, heirloom All-Blue, the delectable German selection Carola, and late-blight champ Island Sunshine.   Rounding out the Collection are the two delicious and legendary century-heirloom Fingerlings, Russian Banana and Rose Finn Apple.   

    The Wood Prairie Organic Colossal Potato Collection is comprised of nineteen one-pound sacks, enough seed potatoes to plant over 200 feet of row.  All varieties are Certified Organic and are traditionally-bred, Non-GMO potatoes.   Comes complete with colorful Wood Prairie Potato Postcards for each variety, Wood Prairie Organic Potato Growing Guide and Wood Prairie Potato Recipes Booklet.

Special Offer: FREE Organic Caribou Russet Certified Seed Potatoes!

     University of Maine potato breeders have been trying for many decades to breed a high culinary quality, high-yielding, mid-season Russet potato which will perform well in short-season climates.   After years of painstaking traditional crossing and selection work, breeders came up with this distinguished cross between Reeves Kingpin (named after Maine Potato breeder Al Reeves stationed at the Aroostook Farm Potato Experiment Station in Presque Isle) and Silverton Russet (a western Russet bred in Idaho). It was first known by an administrative number, AF3362-1 (Aroostook Farm).   Legendary varieties in this potato’s ancestry include Kennebec, Katahdin, Waseon and Nooksack. The potato came to be registered as Caribou Russet, name of the nearby Aroostook town and our area's extensive world-class Caribou Loam potato soil.

     See for yourself what all the commotion is about!   Earn yourself a FREE 1 Lb. Sack of Organic Caribou Russet Seed Potatoes (Value $11.95) when your next Wood Prairie order totals $49 or more. FREE Organic Caribou Russet Certified Seed Potatoes Offer ends 11:59 PM on Monday January 28.  Please use Promo Code WPFF442. Your order and FREE Sack of Organic Caribou Russet Certified Seed Potatoes must ship no later than May 5, 2019. Offer may not be combined with other offers.  Please click or call TODAY!

Organic Caribou. The New Mid-Season Russet from Maine.

Sad State at the Concentrated Seed Industry. Growing mega global seed monopolies spell trouble now and ahead of us.
New Updated Chart on Troubling Global Seed Industry Consolidation.

          Dr. Phil Howard of Michigan State University has earned high accolades in the past for his work researching and preparing striking graphics which document and depict the alarming and growing consolidation in the world’s seed industry.

     Now Dr. Howard has updated his important work with the further consolidation which has occurred since 2013.  The trend of increased monopoly seed control has continued unabated and at breakneck speed.

      Why is Dr. Howard’s work so critical?   First, in order to solve a problem you must understand it.  He has rendered his twenty-two years of tracking mergers  phenomenally accessible and educational. 

       Secondly, seed is the foundation of crop agriculture.  Whoever controls seed therefore controls food.  And as Dr. Henry Kissinger remarked in 1970, “Control food and you control the people.” No institution should be allowed to have that power.  That most certainly includes despotic multinational misanthropes  Monsanto, Bayer and Dupont.

       Finally, monopolies represent the extreme antithesis of fair market competition.  Monopolies threaten everyone’s freedom and our democratic institutions.    With monopoly control comes dangerous concentration of wealth and the resulting abuse brought about by extreme economic and political power.

       Decades of neglect and inaction by the Anti-Trust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice – under both Republican and Democratic administrations – have meant a stunning and lasting disservice to Americans and to the world at large.

       When the pendulum swings, breaking up the mega seed monopolies will be a good place to start.


Wood Prairie Family Farm Photos.

We’ve Made it Halfway Through Winter in Northern Maine.  Yesterday marked Northern Maine’s halfway point for the Winter.  Three months ago this shot was taken of our first snowfall of 4”which fell on October 24.  Three weeks before that snowfall, we completed potato harvest in this same field.  After harvest we immediately chisel plowed the field and spun on an oat cover crop.  However, October ran cold and the oats never germinated.  Look closely and you can see a flock of several dozen startled Canadian Geese taking off in flight.

Winter Rye Seed Headed for Maine’s Blue Ox Malthouse.  We harvested a very nice crop of Organic Winter Rye seed last August, which was planted right after our 2017 potato harvest.  We cleaned and bagged up five tons of the Rye, pictured here, for Caleb to haul down in his trailer, to young entrepaneur Joel Alex and his ‘Blue Ox Malthouse’ in Lisbon Falls. The Rye is now going through the malting process and will soon end up in batches of Maine-made craft Beer.  Parked beside the truck and trailer is a wagon load of 16 wooden pallet boxes headed down into the cellar for use in our potato pre-grading process.

Three of Caleb’s Trucks Ready for Work. When the farmer is a mechanic, there is no shortage of trucks on a farm.  As a sideline, Caleb buys, fixes and sells both entire trucks and parts out others.  He is a loyal Ford man.  The leftmost and rightmost trucks are both diesels and they commonly have a life of 300,000 or even 400,000 miles.  Caleb completely rebuilt the red & white truck at right from scratch and it’s in mint condition.  Nowadays, a new comparable diesel truck like this one, with its crew cab, would run one a jaw-dropping $70,000.  Back twenty years ago, a friend who then worked for us noted that such trucks then cost $35,000, which he wryly commented was more than he paid for his nice house in Houlton.  After dropping off those six tote sacks of Winter Rye in Lisbon Falls, Caleb loaded on a Ford Ranger Pickup to bring back home.  Traveling in tandem, a buddy drove back another one-ton Ford flatbed gas job with dually rear wheels which Caleb had found on Craig’s List.

License Plate on Amy’s Ford Ranger.   Caleb’s sister, Amy, secured her Maine ‘work permit’ Driver’s License in September.   This practical solution allows 15 year old Maine students with jobs to travel between school, work and home.  This arrangement works out well for kids with ambition.  Caleb found Amy a used Ford Ranger (compact pickup) in excellent condition at a bargain price.  Like a lot of her friends in Aroostook County, Amy opted to pay $20 extra for an ‘Ag Plate’ (“Support Maine Agriculture”) registration.  The extra fee goes into an “Ag in the Classroom” kitty established by the Maine Legislature which funds teacher curriculum for teaching agriculture units to school kids across the State of Maine.

Max Planck on Scientific Truth.

Recipe: Pan Fried Potatoes.

Thinly slice 1 1/2 pounds of potatoes such as Prairie Blush or Caribou Russet.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the potatoes until just cooked through and tender but not falling apart. Drain the potatoes and let dry and cool for a few minutes.

Heat 1/2 cup olive oil in a cast iron pan and add the potatoes when when oil is hot. Cook over medium heat, stirring and tossing regularly until golden, about 15 minutes.

Season with sea salt, fresh herbs such as rosemary, dried tomatoes or crispy bacon.


Wood Prairie Farm Discovery 'Prairie Blush'. Prairie Blush Meets the Fry Pan and we like the results
Photo by Russell French.
Mailbox: Wyoming Potatoes, Potato Harvest Break and Huge Tubers.

Wyoming Potatoes

     Your news article on picking potatoes reminded me of picking potatoes in Johnson County Wyoming for Harold Madsen and John Kumor nearly 70 years ago. It was after the war, my Mother and Aunt would pick during the week and kids could join on the week-ends. We drug big sacks behind us attached at the waist. The money was wonderful, but best of all were the harvest dinners served at both farms that were better than a Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. I think we looked forward to it more than the money. The women enjoyed the days away from home and the cash and of course potatoes for the winter. Women in those days didn't need to go to exercise class they were strong and fit from working hard every day. We kids learned a lot from the big variety of workers who showed up to pick potatoes and listening to all their stories.

Buffalo, WY

Great story! Thanks for sharing.


Potato Harvest Break.

     So do Aroostook County kids have a longer school year to make up the days, or do they actually get to work inside of the regular calendar? Do schools close or just have an exemption for farmers?

Shelter Island, NY

     In the School Districts  which participate, schools completely close down. School Districts in Aroostook County start their classes up in mid-August - three weeks early - in order to fit the three-week Potato Harvest Break. Prior to WWII, schools in Aroostook County started up in November after farming was done for the year and then ran until mud season in early April. After WWII, some bright bulb in Augusta had the idea of establishing a mandatory statewide 175-day school year. Aroostook County responded to this edict by getting legislation passed which established an accomodation allowing schools to start up early and hold a "Harvest Break" so long as they held classes for 175 days. So our tradition of Aroostook kids working the Harvest really goes back 200 years. "Harvest Break" as we now have it is over 70 years old and is Aroostook's way of maintaining a great tradition, getting the potato crop out, and meeting State requirements.


Huge Tubers.

     Is this huge tuber just luck of the draw or can a huge potato be used as seed stock to produce more huge potatoes? Asks the potato novice.


     Since potatoes are vegetatively propagated, most likely this spud's mother simply benefited from being at the right place at the right time. Maybe the seed piece only had one eye and grew one plant that just set this one tuber that didn't have to compete. Maybe the potato planter tire hit a rock and dumped a triple jolt of chemical fertilizer close by. Maybe this tuber's plant was down hill of some ledgey (shallow to bedrock) soil and prospered from rain which funneled downhill and season-long prevented the plant from getting thirsty.



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