Fall is in the air, which means apple season is in full swing. Whether you like to pick them, bake with them or anything in between, now is the time of year we often have shoppers asking us why local apple growers don’t certify organic. It’s a great question, and one that we posed to three different Minnesota orchards. Overall, the sentiment expressed by everyone we asked was that if they could certify organic, they would, or as John Zimmer of SOGN Valley Orchard puts it, “If I had my druthers, I’d [grow organic] in a heartbeat.” He went on to explain that he has presented a three-year plan to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources that would hopefully result in the orchard achieving organic status and he’s worked diligently to significantly reduce the use of chemicals at his orchard every year.
The greatest and most obvious reason for having to still use pesticides in orchards is simply that—pests. Each grower mentioned a desire to become organic certified, but felt that at present the use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques is vital to the livelihood of their business. These techniques involve spraying as little as possible with the absolute minimum frequency that would still allow for a large, desirable crop.
Kathy and Mark Parranto of AppleWood Orchard explained that while right now it’s not possible to grow their crop organically, “if a [way to do so] comes, we’ll do it.” Right now, however, the Parranto’s customers express to them that buying produce that’s local is more important than buying organic produce that’s been shipped in from far-off locales. Like other growers, the Parrantos makes sure to use IPM and spray only what has to be sprayed when it has to be sprayed, leaving no residue by harvest time.
Scott and Linda Sederstrom of Cedar Hill Orchard explain that if they can use an organic method of pest control, they do, like frequently mowing grass to give pests fewer places to nest. Linda Sederstrom points out that there are some benefits to not being completely organic at this point, explaining that using organic fertilizer would heighten the chance for E. coli in her crops and some organics are harmful, like organic clay, which would require apple pickers and packers to wear respirators because of potentially harmful natural chemical compounds found in the clay dust.
Overall, it’s clear that these growers are aware of the delicate balance they’re walking between growing a healthy, attractive crop for consumers, but at the same time addressing those consumers desires for organically certified apples. We can be thankful that these growers are taking care to implement organic methods when possible and to keep pesticides to a minimum when they have to be used at all. Keep that in mind the next time you take a bite of a delicious fall apple!
LOOKING FOR A COUPON? Visit our online coupons page and find a coupon for local apples! Coupon good through October 25, 2011.