How We Grow Fruit
So often we get asked the question "Are your apples organically grown?" Well technically no, however, we do use organic practices and techniques. We use a program called IPM, Integrated Pest Management.
What is IPM
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is best described as a way of using organic techniques with limited and carefully targeted chemical applications to maximize crop quality, reduce orchard overhead cost, and most importantly minimize risk to people, property, wildlife, and the environment. IPM is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with their environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods, is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to our community. Here is a list of just a few of the pest control options we use:
Disrupting the mating and life-cycles of harmful pests.
Selectively planting varieties with proven disease resistance.
Deploying and monitoring insect traps for harmful or problem-causing insects.
Tracking weather data.
Attracting and protecting “good” insects, “beneficial” birds, and other animals that eat harmful pests.
Effectively scouting for harmful insects, diseases, and fungi.
Setting "required action thresholds" means not taking action at the sight of just one insect. Knowing that a few of something is ok and that total elimination of an insect is not the end goal.
Using “soft chemicals” to target and reduce specific pest populations without harming “good” insects or other wildlife.
Spraying sparse amounts of pesticides ONLY when absolutely necessary for the health of the crop.
and keeping up-to-date and accurate pest records that comply with all local, state, and federal regulations.
As you can see from the list above, IPM can involve the use of chemicals and biological controls, cultural tactics, and the use of resistant plant varieties. Monitoring pests with insect traps, spore counts, and visual observation, provides the information to decide when or if action-required thresholds have been reached and which control option will be most practical. Accurate identification of pests is essential to making proper pest management decisions. To achieve this goal we have and continue to attend many educational conferences, seminars, classes, and conference calls with other farmers, chemical reps, local, state, and federal officials as well as industry leaders and top professors to make sure we are always up to date on the latest and greatest, and most importantly, proven effective methods available.
To put all of this in laymen's terms, we put out traps in the trees to see if, how many and what kinds of insects are present. Once there are too many of a particular type of insect, we take action to reduce the numbers. We have lots of different ways to archive this with just one of them being chemical spray usage. But rest assured that when we do use chemicals we do our best to use the mildest one available in the lowest effective dose possible to get the job done. Long story short if we wouldn't eat it or give it to our kids then we wouldn't sell it.
Orchards are a year-round commitment and responsibility
There's no off-season for us here at Witt Orchards! Taking care of the trees and their crop is a year-round job! We all know that the apples and other tree fruits we grew ripen in late summer thru the end of fall. So, during this time of the year, we are picking, washing, packing, and selling our crops. But what else is there to do? Those lucky farmers get the rest of the year off! Right?. . Wrong! We are always doing something (and I do mean always!) In the Winter we are done picking but we continue to wash, pack and sell our fruit year-round! We also go out and prune the trees for the next season, pull out any dead or less productive trees, order new baby trees to be planted, and do year-end equipment maintenance.
In the Spring, we are poised and ready. As soon as the weather breaks we out and about working the ground getting it ready to plant the new baby trees. At this time of the year even though there is no "crop" yet on the trees they still need to be cared for. As temperatures begin to rise the new tender growth of the trees become vulnerable to diseases, bacteria, and harmful fungi that are drifting through the orchard. This is when our careful vigilance, regular scouting, and knowledge are put to the test. Like little tree doctors we carefully diagnosed any ailments the trees may have and do our best to give the trees their "flu shots" so to speak to get ahead of what we can and treat what we cannot.
Now we have made it to the summer the baby trees have been planted and now require regular watering for the first year. We are also pounding posts to help hold the baby trees upright. But the baby trees aren't the only ones getting attention this time of the year. The older trees with fruit need to be thinned. Thinning is where we remove some of the small growing fruit buds to make room for the remaining fruit buds to grow big and fully colored. Thinning also keeps the trees from going into bi-annual bearing (or only producing a crop every other year). This occurs when a fruit tree puts so much energy and effort into the crop for one year that it is too exhausted to produce a crop for the next year and basically takes a year off to rest.
This then brings us back to the wonderful and hopefully bountiful fall. When we get to enjoy the literal fruits of our labor. This is always rewarding but our favorite part is seeing how happy it makes our customers visit with us again and enjoy their favorite varieties of apples, peaches, pears, plums, and more year after year. And that is what makes all of the countless hours of sweat and hard work all worth it. A job was well done!
We strongly believe that the care and love we put into our family farm is returned to us and those who visit in the form of delicious tastes, beautiful sights, and lasting memories. Thank you for your continued support, we really do appreciate it! As long as you keep buying we'll keep growing! So let's build this farm together!