Wednesday, August 22, 2007

I was walking around the orchard the other day tasting the very first apples of the season--Pristine and Zestar--when I realized something so deep and profound, that I said, "What the heck!" At that very moment, I decided to just take the leap of certifying all my acreage and producing all my crops as organic. I am not quite sure exactly where I'll start, although I know it'll begin somewhere between 2 and 3 AM some sleepless night this winter.

Transitioning a long-time, conventionally managed farm to organic is no small task. In fact, I already have in the top drawer of my desk a much easier idea for starting an organic orchard from scratch. Clean land, clean trees, clean beginning. But right now I need to heal Stone Ridge Orchard, and there's a lot of healing to do. Even though I have committed myself to the most ecological sensitive farming practices I can find, there is so much that's left to be done.

In this quest for organic, I really want to go beyond. Beyond Organic that is. There are so many things about organic production that do not fit in with my basic farming ethos. And organic will be a marginalized produce category in a few years anyway. And if organic anything destroys demand for local farm produce, then that's a bad thing. However, if organic is where I have to start, then so be it.

There are many crops that are far easier to grow organically than apples. But apples are such a huge part of me, and I love eating them so much, that I can think of no greater calling than to figure out how to grow them in the most ecologically sensitive manner possible....whatever that may be. There are sure to be many chapters to this saga. And lots of highs and lows. But in the process, we'll heal the land beyond anything we've attempted so far. So, next year, we'll start fresh.

Join me in the journey and check back often.

Saturday, August 18, 2007


The other day I was asked for the umpteenth time whether we practice Integrated Pest Management, or IPM for short. Of course, my short answer was, "Yes." But, as I am apt to do, I lead quickly to the long answer. The long answer is to explain that IPM is a tool box and not a discrete practice. IPM can mean different things for different growers, and for Stone Ridge Orchard it means that we use a progressive IPM that incorporates many organic practices as well as some non-organic practices. Taking care of an older apple orchard full of pest susceptible varieties requires some reliance on older practices. So, yes, we spray. But so do organic growers, we all just do it differently. But I also do many other things that allow me to define ourselves as progressive IPMists.

In essence, running an orchard is like constructing a jigsaw puzzle. You're working with many pieces that once connected make a picture of some sort. But with orchards, the picture is constantly evolving. It is like a 3-D puzzle that changes depending on the puzzle piece you insert and there can be different ones. For us, we're moving a traditional-style managament system, to a progressive ecological system. Nonetheless, it is all IPM, just different styles.

This is why an uncertified IPM brand would never work: everyone would qualify. Even the most traditional growers in the world practice IPM. Likewise, your most ardent organic practitioners practice IPM. And everyone in between. the devil is in the details, as always.

For us we're moving towards to the organic end of a sliding IPM scale to a place called Beyond Organic. We use weather monitoring, beneficial insects, pheromone monitoring traps, and lots of learned experience to help us grow our crops. As we move to disease resistant apple varieties and high density planting systems, we'll be able to transition fully all the acreage here in Stone Ridge to certified organic. For now, we're replacing traditional puzzle pieces with cutting edge IPM technology to help make the transition smoother when it eventually happens.

So, yes we do practice IPM, just a very special ecological version. Stop on in and see how! & say Yes to Aphids!