Our 2022 apple crop looks great! We will have apples available for both u-pick and purchase in our on-farm store. We start harvesting our early apples beginning the second week of August and end our harvest around mid-October. We expect to harvest approximately 12 different varieties this year. So, if you want to enjoy as many varieties as possible, please visit us often throughout the season.
Our goal is to produce an abundant crop of high quality, nutritious apples for our customers using the most effective and environmentally sound methods as possible. Consequently, we are using two different management systems to produce our 2022 crop.
Our entire orchard has been certified organic since the year 2000 until this year. Approximately half of our orchard remains under organic management and continues to be Certified Organic under the USDA. Downsizing the Certified Organic portion of our orchard allows us to double-up our organic practices and to continue to research and develop better methods of organic production.
In the early years of our orchard, very few organically approved products were available. There was also little in the way of research and good information to help organic apple growers produce a quality crop. Fortunately, helpful research (some of it conducted on our farm) and more effective products have emerged in the last decade.
“Sustainably Grown” has been defined by growers and academics in a variety of ways. What do we mean when we say some of our apples are Sustainably Grown? It means that we emphasize the use of methods that sustain our crop, our environment, our workers, and our farm. If we can’t sustain even one of those things, then we would not be able to produce the food that people want and need. It’s that simple.
You might also say that our crops are “Conservation Grown” because of the resources we conserve in our Sustainably Grown orchard and our Certified Organic Orchard. Most of our crops are perennial crops. That means that we disturb the soil only once when we plant our fruit trees. Therefore, soil remains covered and not subject to erosion. We conserve water by capturing rain in our farm pond and then use this water to irrigate our crops. In addition, we maintain a diversity of plants on our farm that bloom throughout the season to provide a habitat for pollinators and beneficial insects.
Why Sustainably Grown?
In recent years we have seen an increase in pest damage to our trees and fruit. Consequently, we have decided to take the best of organic management practices and combine them with the softest of conventional products on approximately half of our apple orchard. We consider apples grown under these production methods as being “Sustainably Grown.” This strategy maximizes the production of an abundant quality crop while maintaining the safety and health of our workers and the environment.
What We Do:
- We continue to learn about orchard pest life cycles and “soft” management strategies through university research projects, workshops, conferences and networking with other growers.
- Monitor insect activity with insect traps.
- Apply the softest of effective conventional and organic insect and disease management products only when necessary.
- Pest-specific management products are used only at strategic times in the pest’s lifecycle.
- Woodchips are used under tree rows to mulch over grass and weeds, build soil organic matter, and conserve moisture.
- Only use organically approved products to wash our harvested apples.
- Plant and maintain a diverse landscape of annual and perennial flowers for pollinators and beneficial insects while adding beauty to the farm.
- Bluebird houses are maintained throughout the farm to encourage natural insect predation in the orchards.
What We Don’t Do:
- “Restricted-use” conventional products are never used. This means the products that we use can be purchased by anyone. In other words, a Pesticide Applicator’s license is not required to purchase and use these products. These are the softest of conventional products.
- Antibiotics are never used to manage apple tree diseases.
- Conventional synthetic herbicides like Round-Up are never used.
- Conventional synthetic products are never used to thin the apple crop.
- Conventional synthetic products are never used to retain apples on the tree.
- Our apples are never waxed after harvest.
We are looking forward to a great harvest and having you visit us here at Wills Family Orchard!