Jim Gerritsen of Wood Prairie Family Farm in Aroostook County, Maine, is not just a potato farmer; he’s a potato artist. Wood Prairie Farm provides certified organic seed potatoes and other products to customers around the country through their mail order catalog. Certified organic since 1982, Wood Prairie Family Farm has 40 acres in production, with ten or twelve of those acres in seed potatoes each year.
After an orientation to the history of Wood Prairie Farm and the potato culture of Aroostook County, we dig into the whys and the how’s of growing a great crop of from seed warming and green sprouting through weed control to harvest. We also discuss the ins and outs of producing Maine-certified potato seed. Jim is an observant and specific farmer and marketer, and really brings out the details of what goes into bumper yields and high quality spuds.
Named by the editors of the Utne Reader to the magazine’s 2011 list of 25 “People Who Are Changing the World,” Jim is also one of those organic farmers who spends a large part of his time serving the community. Jim is the president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, and has served for more than twenty years on the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association certification committee, along with about a dozen other roles that he has played in the organic farming movement.
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Quotes from the Show
Trying to sell potatoes in Aroostook County is every bit as easy as selling coal in Newcastle.
A lot of what we’ve tried to do is learn how the old-timers did things before they had things like insecticides.
Physiological aging can be looked upon as a measure of stress. In a hotter summer, the tubers that we harvest in the fall are going to be physiologically older than they would have been in another year when the temperatures were cooler.
Calcium is the wonder mineral, and potatoes love calcium.
If you give a good rhizosphere around the seed where the tubers are developing that’s all important in terms of quality and vigor.
Organic farming is the best life possible, but it’s also probably about the most difficult life.
Wood Prairie Farm has instructions for green sprouting (also called “chitting”), including instructions for building the green sprouting trays.
Wood Prairie also has a potato growing guide available online.
Jim mentioned the use of Organic Triggrr as a seed treatment to increase the tuber set.
Wood Prairie’s Juko Super Midi potato harvester has a sorting belt where workers can sort potatoes and rocks before the crop goes into the bin.
Jim’s recommended resource on potatoes is The Complete Book of Potatoes by Walter Young.