Aboard the Seed Train

A seed train hosted by the Kenosha Potato Project made a stop in Potter County, Pennsylvania this week.  It carries onboard many unique botanical potato seeds also known as True Potato Seed (TPS).  Each of the seed packet contains specific TPS that can be likened to railcars traveling along on a train.

TPS Arrivals on Seed Train

TPS Arrivals on Seed Train

Seed sharing with others who have a similar goals is an age-old practice that helps preserve seed diversity. This method of seed swapping uses the US Postal Service to exchange seeds.  The concept is a Pinch for a Pinch.  Each seed swapper on the mailing list pinches out some seeds of their liking, then adds their own seed packets to the mailing, and mails it on down the line.  We’ll select some of the seeds grown by the other participants who sent along seeds from their harvest.  And, we’ll soon be sending the mailing on down the line, along with our local TPS tributes as passengers onboard the outbound train. This year, we contributed RED THUMB, RUSSIAN BANANA and MAGIC MOLLY seeds from our TPS harvest.

We’ll grow-out a few of these TPS offerings as an alternative way to farm potatoes for eating, fun, learning and research. By doing some of our own plant breeding over time, we hope to evolve some reliable localized performers, known as landraces or “folk varieties.”

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Grassroots Seed Saving

The Seed Saver Exchange is a gardener-to-gardener seed swap that takes place online and through an annual yearbook. Their mission is to conserve and promote America’s culturally diverse food crop for future generations by collecting, growing, and sharing heirloom seeds and plants.

This year, we have contributed five (5) varieties of  botanical seed harvested from potato berries which were open-pollinated by bumble bees. Why is this important?

Harvested Potato Berries

Harvested Potato Berries

Recently, there has been a monopolistic tread toward a few large commercial seed suppliers instead of the traditional seed-saving by many home gardeners. Open pollination is an important aspect of grassroots seed saving. Plants that reproduce through natural means tend to adapt to local conditions over time, and evolve as reliable performers, particularly in their localities, known as landraces or “folk varieties.”


True Potato Seeds (Russian Banana, Magic Molly and Red Thumb)

These seeds are the local tribute to the Seed Saver Exchange to give a horizontal resistance to the commercial suppliers. Here are the links to the Seed Exchange annual yearbook.

Russian Banana True Potato Seeds

Papa Cacho True Potato Seeds

Purple Sun True Potato Seeds

Red Thumb True Potato Seeds

Magic Molly True Potato Seeds


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Apple Stories

Here’s an apple story guessing game. Can you name of the apple from stories described here? Some of these apples are widely known and some are lesser known.

Apple Story One

Can you identify this Apple?

Can you identify this Apple?

Did you know that Hurricane Camille brought forth an apple? Camille brought devastating rains and flooding to Nelson County, Virginia in 1969, and the orchards of Clyde and Frances “Ginger” Harvey were badly washed out. In recovering the few of the surviving trees around the edge of the Winesap orchard, an apple tree was found which Clyde Harvey recognized as being different. It was replanted with the rest, but was found to produce yellow rather than red fruit of the Winesap. The variety was eventually named after Clyde Harvey’s wife. It is one of the first yellow apples to ripen in the fall, and the quality and consistency of its bearing is very suitable for eating out of hand.

(Note: The answers are place below at the bottom of this blog post so that the reader can find it, but cannot see it immediately.)

Apple Story Two

Here’s another apple story. Can you guess the name of these apples?

Every apple has a story. Well in this case, this apple has two stories that have developed into a sort of apple fisticuffs, West Virginia vs. Idaho. Some say it was a chance seedling with heritage back to the very famous apple of 1890 Clay County, West Virginia that was originally named Mullin’s Yellow Seedling with parentage to the Golden Reinette and Grimes Golden. Idahoans say the apple was found in Idaho as a random open-pollinated seedling from around 1960 and is not a sport to that famous Clay County apple. Everyone seems to agree that it’s a good eatin’ apple with a flavor that is somewhat reminiscent of a peach.

Can you Identify this apple?

Can you Identify this apple?

Can you guess the name of this apple? Also, do you know the name of the famous Clay County apple that was first called Mullin’s Yellow Seedling? Hint: In 1914, the Mullins Yellow was renamed by Mr. Lloyd Stark. And this famous Stark apple has since become the ancestor of millions of such apples.



Apple Story Three

Here’s another apple story. Can you guess the name of this apple?

This apple was developed in 1898 by Professor S.A. Beach at Cornell University’s New York State Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva and named for a nearby county. An older American variety, it is a cross between the McIntosh and Ben Davis apple. It has long been one of the most commonly produced apples in New York, consistently ranking in the top ten in the state. This apple is known for its ability to thrive in cold weather and can be found growing in apple growing regions on the east coast as well as on the west coast.

Can you identify this Apple?

Can you identify this Apple?

Described as, “One of the more successful McIntosh offspring, with all the usual characteristics, including the sweet vinous flavor”.

Professor S.A. Beach wrote “The Apples of New York” first published in 1906 with color plates of apples throughout. It’s highly collectable and this book is a great reference with very detailed descriptions.

Apple Story Four

Here’s yet another apple story. Can you guess the name of this apple?

Can you identify this Apple?

Can you identify this Apple?

Here’s an old apple tale about a Scottish apple. It has a strange tale to tell. The story probably happened on a cold, damp night not much different than this one; but not here, and not recently. Let’s say a night like this one in Gowrie, Scotland sometime in the 1880s. An unfortunate ploughman was caught stealing apples from the estate landowner’s orchard. He was shot dead by the gamekeeper. His wife got the bag of pilfered apples and in her grief tossed them away. Well what happened is that one of the seedlings that emerged from these discarded apples was rescued by a farm worker and planted near the grave of a ploughman. And, as the story goes, from that replanted seedling grew a tree, which bore this variety of apples. It has a knobby skin and a crimson-red color, and the flesh is stained red as well.





Answer 1: Ginger Gold is the namesake of Ginger Harvey.

Answer 2a: Golden Supreme has the disputed origins.

Answer 2b: The famous stark apple of Clay County origin is the Golden Delicious. Some say of the Golden Supreme is a little firmer, has smoother skin and is more highly-flavored than Golden Delicious.

Answer 3: Cortland was named for Cortland County in New York

Answer 4: Bloody Ploughman Apple which turns out to be an apple common in the United Kingdom and not-so-common in America. But, it’s my favorite apple story.

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A Matter of Taste

Gathering of Garlic (right to left) : Georgian Fire, Basque Turban, German Red and Persian Star

Garlic (right to left) : Georgian Fire, Basque Turban, German Red, Bogatyr and Persian Star

By way of our good fortunes, we had a gathering of garlics. What to do when you got garlic? Well, Chef Butch hosted a garlic tasting event.  We sampled the raw garlic and recorded the taste.  We learned that the taste of garlic gets concentrated when combined with certain other foods. For example,  a dip in olive oil intensifies the spiciness (much hotter).  And, a dash with a pinch of salt accents the sugars (much sweeter).  Also, we noted that taste is also dependent on growing conditions, weather and soil; so traditionally hot garlic can be mild, and mild garlic can be hot. And finally after all of those considerations, taste literally comes down to a matter of personal preference.

Add Salt for Sweetness

Add Salt for Sweetness

You can read tasting notes below:

Persian Star: Mild at first but ends with some heat; gives a soft-sweet heat; a garlic bread garlic

Bogatyr: Not too hot and not too spicy… but mild. It has a “plain” garlic flavor.

German Red: Mild start, warming, the hotness creeps up with a delayed reaction. A garlic lovers garlic.

Basque Turban: Flavorful and very pleasant; voted most liked by tasters; a raw salad garlic

Georgian Fire: Mild leaving only a warm garlic flavor behind. It was the “mildest” garlic contrary to its’ name.

Polish White (not pictured): Sweet and spicy with mellow after-taste. A very pleasant eating garlic.

Dip in Olive Oil for Spiciness

Dip in Olive Oil for Spiciness

Interestingly, that wonderful garlicky taste isn’t in the garlic until it is crushed or cut; so injury to the garlic activates a flavor-filled reprisal compound on the taster with an aromatic aftershock. It’s the  Allicin that does that.

Yes my friend, garlic is one of those foods that bites back. And, the garlic tasters can certainly vouch to that.

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One dollar, Will You Give Me 2?

Back in October, we had harvested several bushel of organic fingerling potatoes. We had more than we could reasonability expect to sell at the local markets. What did we do with the surplus? We decided to look for a produce auction.  However in our area, like so many other things, we don’t have a close-by option due to our remote location.  And, when we were looking at the end of October, our choices were further limited, because most of the regional produce auctions had already ended.

One auction that we found within a hundred-mile radius, and ran to the end of October, was the Buffalo Valley Produce Auction. One might think with a name like that, it would be located somewhere near Buffalo, New York.  Well no, actually the Buffalo Valley Produce Auction is located south of Williamsport  in Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania. So, we filled out the registration form on-line and waited for a reply. The quick reply came back from the operations manager with the consignor number and the message asked if we had any questions about consigning products. We did have some questions:  “Do you have an organic produce section? Is there much organic produce sold at your auction? “.  The response was that “We do not have an organic section.  We would be glad to sell them for you but the organic label does not add value at our auction.” Those weren’t the answers we were looking for.


Genesee Valley Produce Auction

Doing some more looking, we found the Genesee Valley Produce Auction in Centerville, New York. It had a certified-organic area and held auctions on Tuesday’s and Friday’s through October. Long story short, we took some of our fingerling potatoes there to run through the auction.

And so, as first time consignors of USDA certified produce, it was a learning experience. One might wonder; what is a produce auction? It is many things. For one thing, it’s a large building with lots of floor-space, and with open sides. Lesson one: dress warm for it is likely to be very crisp in an open air building in October. Lesson two: look for painted lines on the floor, forming long rectangles. The color of these lines mean something. Pallets of produce are placed inside these designated spaces; for example green lines are for certified organic (Ah-ha moment). The other colors were for conventional produce, and all had rules as to how much produce was being sold per pallet; full-skids or half-skids or some had a minimum number of boxes per pallet. The white area was for NOT locally grown. So, we divided our bushels of fingerling potatoes onto six pallets of small lots in the green section, attached tags and waited for the auction.


Certified Organic Potatoes at Auction

Before the auction began, there was time to meet bidders; as a number of people had questions and were very interested in the fingerling potatoes we had brought to auction. This was a good time to exchange information, do some marketing and network with other growers and buyers; all of which we did. We heard that we should have come in September when there were the “big buyers”, who would have “snapped-up” those organic fingerling potatoes. So, we learned that we were late to market.

Does anyone understand the auctioneer’s rapid-fire cadence? Kind of hard to follow; but when slowed way down to a novice’s level of comprehension, it’s “One dollar, now 2, now 2, will you give me 2? Two dollars, now 3, now 3, will you give me 3?” But, in real time speed, it was a learning curve. Also, are those bids per pallet or per bag or lot? Another learning curve to climb. Anyways and regardless of lack of familiarity, in a matter of minutes, it was over. It turned out that there were several bidders who bought the six pallets. Some went to Buffalo (the town not the auction) to be sold at city markets, and some were purchased by an Amish family, who had a potato crop failure and needed a winter larder of potatoes. And, the other bidders were probably also buying in bulk for their winter storage needs.

The overall experience at this auction was positive. There were of course, the familiarity challenges to overcome; like finding the auction location, learning the auction rules, identifying the buyers and understanding how the auctioneer was selling the various lots of items. In short summary, we have learned a path to travel to exchange locally grown seasonal farm produce at a newly found and organic-friendly convergence.

We have fingerling potatoes available locally at Costas’ Food Center in Coudersport, Pennsylvania, and if anyone locally has need to fill their own winter larder, let us know; we have you covered.

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Organic Bumper Crop

We had an unusually productive Russian Banana fingerling potato harvest. One could say, it’s a bumper crop.  One 300 feet rows gave us 20 x 1/2 bushel bags. Best we can figure, it’s about a 17 times yield.  All we can say is that there’s lots of very nice looking bananas.  Here is our potato storage area. It’s an old fashion under-ground root cellar. In the mid-summer the temperature is about 65 F and in mid-winter it is 35 F, and always humid (damp) and very dark. The potatoes keep very well there.

Potato Storage Area

Potato Storage Area

And, we are a certified organic farm; we use only a natural production system. So, there’s  satisfaction in growing our own food and filling our table with delicious, healthy produce. And, now we know that these organic practices can produce bountiful and successful harvests on our Potter County farmstead.  Native to the mountains of South America, fingerling potatoes seem to like our cooler climate and soil conditions.

High-Yield Russian Banana Row

High-Yield Russian Banana Row

Local customers can tap into this delicious bumper crop too, and get our favorite fingerling variety in quantity. We are offering a 1/2 bushel bag at $30 for pick-up at the farm or $37.50 delivered within our local area. For certified organic fingerling potatoes, that price is a real bargain.  And, we can give extra discounts for larger orders.  So to place an order, please get in touch by telephone at 814-647-8458 or email us at wooleylot@yahoo.com or see us at the Potter County Farmers Market. Potatoes are an excellent storage crop.

Sliced Bananas

Russian Banana Fingerling Potatoes

What is a bumper crop? In agriculture, it’s used to describe an unusually large crop growth and harvest. The word origin comes the from the use of bumper in the 17th century to describe a large glass of beer or wine that was filled to the brim, hence the sense of bumper as a large amount.

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It’s A Satisfying Thing

Make your way back to local organic food; it’s the satisfying thing to do.

Cousin Bob's

Have you ever heard of someone, opening up a can of snap beans or a bag of carrots from the produce aisle in the supermarket and being totally satisfied enough to write a note to thank the grower. No probably not; it doesn’t happen that way because the growers of the store-bought items are people completely removed and unknown to the customer and the produce is just so-so.

Being farmers who sell directly to customers, it has certain benefits not available to the larger farms. Incentive comes our way when the customers know the farmer.  And that, customer appreciation invigorates us.

Here’s one such comment that we recently received just this week:

“The garlic arrived today as you said it would. We are delighted with it! Thank you for your excellent customer service and prompt delivery.

I am going to make one of our favorite summer meals this evening — a sauce made with fresh uncooked tomatoes, basil and lots of garlic served with sprouted wheat pasta and some parmesan cheese.”

On another occasion, we were sent a wonderfully hand-made and very artistic thank you card with a note written inside:

Thank You

“Josh and I wanted to thank you again for going out of your way last month to show us your lovely farm and your delicious produce! We loved everything  — the garlic, the potatoes, the squash and the amazing pesto! And we also loved getting the chance to meet you and talk with you about you and your farm. We would be happy to say hello –and buy more garlic garlic! — if our paths cross in the future!” — Rose and Josh, New York, New York

Needless to say, these customer comments made our day. Happy customers are satisfying to us.

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