Organic News and Commentary
From Maine
            Friday, September 28th, 2018
                 Volume 27 Issue 19


 In This Issue of The Wood Prairie Seed Piece:

  Connections with the Past.

     Aroostook County Potato Harvest, near Caribou, Maine. Circa  1940. Another wonderful photo of a potato harvest from Maine’s past by talented photographer Jack Delano.  
        For several days last week, the work of this year’s Wood Prairie potato harvest was captured by accomplished professional photographer Andrew Liechtenstein.  Andrew has already had two books published.  His prize winning Never Coming Home  contains stories about American soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice serving in Iraq.  A more recent work is Marked, Unmarked, Remembered: A Geography of American Memory which presents photographs from significant sites in United States history.  Andrew is a deeply committed individual who has his eyes open and plies his skill as a photographer to create a transformational impact on his audience.
        Andrew is now in the early stages of his next big project:  a series of portraits of Americans fighting back against repression and corporate greed.   One rainy day he interviewed Jim and spent the rest of his time photographing us as we progressed through yet another Maine potato harvest.
      We have a good crop and we’re making steady progress getting it dug.  All we need is more dry weather. 
Caleb, Jim & Megan Gerritsen & Family
Wood Prairie Family Farm
Bridgewater, Maine

Comon Ground Fair Public Policy Teach-In. Holding the Feds culpable for liquidation of family farmers.

Video:  Jim Gerritsen Speaks at MOFGA’s Common Ground Fair “Public Policy Teach-In.”

            Last Saturday we took a day off from digging potatoes and drove the 185 miles down to Unity to attend MOFGA’s famous Common Ground Country Fair.  Jim had been asked to serve as one of the speakers on the Fair’s Teach-In panel in the afternoon.  The Teach-In event has been recorded on video (59:50).  Jim’s portion begins at Minute 42:16.

      Agriculture is being widely looked upon as one of the potential bright spots for future growth in the Maine economy.  Collaborative work is being performed by agricultural leaders in Maine seeking to develop a strong, working platform for the new Governor and Legislature to be elected on November 7.

     For his part, Jim took square aim at the disastrous collateral damage from the Federal ‘Cheap Food Policy’ which began with the Farm Bill of 1952.  Relentless institutional bias on the part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - favoring consolidation and catering to Industrial Ag - has resulted in a tragic liquidation of family farmers and the steady growth of corporate factory farms.

      With our current farm crisis, that liquidation of family farmers is now picking up steam. Hear Jim explain.

Special Offer: FREE Organic Caribe' Certified Seed Potatoes.

     If you have never tried growing the potato variety, Organic Caribe’, we strongly encourage you to give it a try.  We have grown Organic Caribe’ for thirty years and have found it to be a beautiful, reliable, hard-working potato.  It tastes great and is a good keeper.   Organic Caribe’ is the only potato we have ever advised “Should be planted in every garden.”

     See for yourself! Earn a FREE 1 Lb. Sack of Organic Caribe’ Certified Seed Potatoes (Value $11.95) when your next order totals $39 or more.  FREE Organic Caribe’ Certified Seed Potatoes Offer ends 11:59 PM on Monday October 1.  Please use Promo Code WPFF436. Your order and FREE Sack of Organic Caribe’ Certified Seed Potatoes must ship by May 5, 2019. Offer may not be combined with other offers. Please order TODAY!

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

Organic Caribe'. The one potato we think should be planted in every garden.
Wood Prairie Family Farm Photos.

2018 Potato Harvest on Wood Prairie Family Farm. This is the first of ten high-caliber photographs of our on-going potato harvest taken by professional photographer Andrew Liechtenstein of New York City.  In this shot, Andrew captured how we dig the vast majority of our crop with our tractor-drawn one-row Finnish ‘Juko Super Midi’ potato harvester.  Maddie is working on the trailing ‘Juko cart’ carefully retrieving baby potatoes which somehow slipped through the harvester cracks.

Jim Demonstrating How He Judges Soil Moisture.  We’ve had 2.65”of rain in September, with all but a half-inch coming since we began digging potatoes two weeks ago.  Way back we learned the importance of protecting our soil and not working it when too wet.  Jim’s technique for judging soil moisture is to grab a representative fistful of soil into his right hand and then squeezing it into a compacted clump as tightly as possible, using both hands. Then he uses his right thumb to exert pressure in order to bust apart the clump of soil.  It takes some experience to establish the correlation between the strength of soil-clump-adhesion and moisture content in the soil but that correlation exists. The function of soil-thumb-pressure necessary to break open that clump tells us when the soil has dried out sufficiently for us to safely get back to work.

Flame Killing Potatoes into the Night.   High quality seed potatoes must be killed when plants are still in the juvenile stage and tubers are physiologically young.  This practice results in youthful tubers with high vigor which then translates into the highest yields in the next generation potato crop grown from this seed. In this photo, following a day of digging potatoes, Jim is driving a tractor into the night making a final pass with our propane flamer over a late variety whose time has come to be killed down.  Conventional potato farmers of all stripes in the East use Diquat herbicide to kill their potatoes.  In the West, growers apply Sulfuric Acid to kill tops.

Pallet Box on Juko Harvester Filling Up with Caribe Potatoes.  Last week we dug a near perfect crop of organic Certified Seed Caribe’ potatoes:  high quality, high set (number of tubers per hill), and high yield.  Here, a 4’ x 4’x 4’ wooden pallet box – which holds 2000# of potatoes when full -  is being filled on the Juko.   The burlap sling is strategically positioned to slow the fall of tubers and protect them from bruising as the box fills.

Topping Off a Pallet Box of Potatoes.   After finishing out a seed lot of Caribe,’ in this shot Jim is using a remnant pallet box to top off a four-foot storage box.  As the soil picks up moisture from our recent rains, it becomes harder to shake all the dirt through the harvester lags.  This explains the visible accumulation of soil in the corner where that box filled.

‘Punching a Hole’ in the Center of a Potato Field.   The Juko Harvester requires a minimum of twelve feet clearance (the equivalent of four-potato-rows ) to work.  While usually not a problem when beginning digging on the edge of a field, invariably we’ll dig over to a variety just recently killed and not yet cured and ready for harvest.  When this happens, we need to ‘punch a hole’ in the center of the field so we can move in the Juko to harvest varieties ready to dig.  For this punching-job we use our old two-row John Deere #30 digger and ‘pick’ the potatoes by hand, in this case, mid-season variety, Caribou Russet.

Megan & Tom Picking Caribou Russet by Hand.  Megan Gerritsen and Tom are on the ground picking Caribous by hand and helping ‘punch a hole’ for the Juko.  Jim is switching tractors and hooking up the green 1952 Oliver 77 tractor to the ‘green wagon’ used to haul potatoes.

Hand-Picking Complete and Megan Driving Wagon Out of Field.    Amy Gerritsen stands beside her mother, Megan.  On the green wagon, along with full-time Wood Prairie Farmer Tom, are students Maddie, Nate and Jack.  In a tradition going back to just after World War II, Aroostook County is one of the last areas in the United States where schools still close every Fall for the three-week Potato Harvest Break.   We’re grateful to have an outstanding crew of four students – including our Amy -  helping get our crop out this Fall. 

Potato Harvest Handstands on Wood Prairie Family Farm.    Here Amy and Jack show off their considerable gymnastic skills.   Years ago Jack’s mother, our neighbor Allie, started up an after-school gymnastics school business. Amy, and her older sister, Sarah became fully involved in these classes from an early age.  Now, over 200 rural kids in Aroostook County – from age three on up – are taking Allie’s gymnastics, dance and cheering classes. The strong gymnastics skills developed among local youth explains why our Central Aroostook Cheering Team has won the State of Maine’s ‘Class D’ (smallest high schools) Cheering Championship for ten out of the last eleven years.  Sarah has continued working for Allie as a coach at the same time she attends college in Presque Isle.

Amy & Megan Heading Down to Juko.    With the Juko harvester lining up for another pass of digging potatoes, Amy and her mother, Megan, head down the hill.  Like her sister, Sarah, before her, Amy usually works the demanding ‘hedgehog’ position on the harvester.  Round potatoes – like Caribe’ and Reddale – flow well.  Longer potatoes – such as Russian Banana and Rose Finn Apple Fingerlings and Carola – need additional persuasion to find their right path along the harvester.  The person in the ‘hedgehog’ position can get quite a workout.

Wendell Berry on Solutions.

Recipe: Potato Pepper Spanish Tortilla.

1 T olive oil, plus more for serving
1 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced 1/4" thick
1 pepper, ribs and seeds removed, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
Coarse salt and ground pepper
8 large eggs
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
1/2 tsp hot sauce

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add potatoes, pepper, and onion; season with salt and pepper. Cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are crisp-tender, 14-16 minutes. Uncover, and cook off excess liquid, about one minute.

In a bowl, whisk together eggs, parsley, hot sauce, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper. Pour mixture over vegetables in skillet, and gently stir to distribute evenly. With the back of a spatula, press down on vegetables so they lay flat and are submerged.

Bake in oven until set, about 15 minutes. To unmold, run a rubber spatula around edge of skillet to release tortilla; invert onto a serving plate. Drizzle with oil. Serve hot or room temperature.



A Delicious and Healthy 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