Organic Verus Sustainable

Organic vs sprayed apples

A Word from Gregg
Short essay on "organic" vs sprayed apples

   A near neighbor of ours has 5 acres of full grown apple trees.  Several years ago he decided to go "certified organic" in his farming practices.  (No spray of inorganic chemicals)  His productive trees rapidly deteriorated into an apple orchard infested with various "scabs" (fungi which blemish the exterior with black blotches) and borers (insects which will feed on the apple itself - like worms)  These pests will eventually damage and destroy the trees much as certain uninhibited bacteria would damage our bodies.  Pete asked if I would take over the care of his orchard.

   Knowing the pre-existing problem and dealing with it can be an interesting dilemma.  I did not treat the diseases seriously enough and as a result some of the varieties are still suspect to damage.  Even after thinning (the process where excess or damaged small fruit is removed in late June/early July so that healthy fruit may fully develop and size up)  there still remained a fair amount of scab.  Scab is particularly bad when there is a lot of early spring rain as the fungus spreads rapidly with added moisture.
     Relatively speaking, I was pretty happy with the results, considering the magnitude of the problem.  One neighbor about 2 miles from us expects an 80% loss on his orchard due to scab infection.  With that being said, I'm suspicious when some merchants sell their fruit as "organic" yet their fruit looks every bit as nice as our sprayed fruit.  Pete's "organic" apples were unsightly and unsellable.  He could not even get the processing plants around us to take his fruit for sauce or cider.  In low stress regions or isolated environments some apple varieties can do well organically, but the vast majority of apples would not. 

     Be leery of people who claim "totally organic" and have fruit which looks like it was sold at Giant as #1 produce.  Someone is being completely disingenuous.  We are not spray maniacs, but do what is reasonable and safe in order to produce high quality fruit and maintain healthy trees.  Vegetables are far more forgiving than fruit when it comes to the organic issue.  Hopefully this essay was helpful and informative.  If you have more questions about this subject, please feel free to e-mail or even bring it up if you visit our stand at a farmers' market.