by George Looby
On Dec. 1, 2015 the Connecticut Pomological Society held its annual meeting at the Gallery Restaurant in Glastonbury, CT. Ninety members, guests and support staff met for the annual update as to what is new in orchard management and listen to fellow orchardists share their thoughts on issues of common interest. President Erica Teveris opened the meeting with words of welcome and an overview of the day’s activities
Glenn Morin of the New England Fruit Consultants, Shelburne, MA addressed the topic of Apogee use in the region and what has been learned after a decade of use in both research and commercial settings.
Andy Dulude representing OESCO, of Conway, MA gave the audience an update on two recent advances in harvesting equipment. He described two self-propelled units that are designed to make harvesting and pruning more labor efficient and when properly used, result in a crop that is superior in quality to that achieved with traditional ladder and bucket harvesting. On each side of the unit are hydraulic platforms on which the pickers stands that can be positioned to different heights to insure as complete harvesting as possible. Both units are of European origin one company is named Munckhof and the other is Revo. One advantage of these units seems to be more efficient use of labor with no time spent moving ladders or emptying buckets. It is also reported that these machines result in crews that are less fatigued at the end of a long day of harvesting.
Mark Boyer operates Ridgetop Orchards in Fishertown, PA and he shared with the audience his observations on management and sales in his 400-acre operation. The varieties grown at Ridgetop Orchards are many and varied. Meeting and satisfying ever shifting consumer preferences is an ongoing challenge. For many years Red Delicious was a favorite and today it represents a drag on the operation with far more trees in production than can be marketed profitably. MacIntosh no longer is given as much self-space in retail outlets that they once enjoyed. In the southeastern PA market where Mark has his orchard, the new star is Honey Crisp but it is not without its drawbacks. The window of opportunity for harvesting this variety is small and failure to harvest within that critical time may lead to problems such as soggy breakdown. The marketing area for this orchard covers a radius of about 100 miles but some product is exported to Central America.
Questions often arise about the difficulties growers have in controlling pear psylla. Peter Jentsch came over from the Hudson Valley Station of Cornell to address some of these questions. Peter opened his remarks by telling a story about one of his long time clients in the Hudson River Valley. The gentleman in question was 97 years of age, a life long orchardist who had survived five tractor roll-overs and arrived each spring at Peter’s office door with the same question,” what are we going to do about pear psylla?” The answer for the intrepid grower unfortunately changed little from year to year. The pear psylla overwinters in the adult stage and may produce three to four generations per season each of which goes through three stages; egg, nymph and adult.
This insect is capable, left untreated, of causing extensive damage to European pear varieties. Under the right conditions the sugar like discharge from the nymph stage acts as a substrate for sooty mold development which causes further damage to already compromised fruit. In the pre-bloom stage it is recommended that suitable oil be applied to delay the adults from laying eggs. For this initial application in addition to oil the addition of pyrethroids and piperonyl butoxide is suggested. The use of Surround, the principal ingredient of which is kaolin clay, is suggested after an application of Surround and Damoil to maintain the latter two on the tree. When adults come in contact with oil they are killed and egg so treated are unable to remain adhered to the tree. There are several combinations of insecticides, ovicides and adulticides that may be employed but based on long term observations this particular bug is one that persists at some level despite all of the efforts made to control it.
Joe Bonelli of the UConn Extension Service updated the attendees on Crop Insurance Programs.
Following lunch President Teveris presented two members with awards of Merit for their outstanding contributions to the industry. The first award went to Brian Kelliher owner of Easy Pickin’s Orchard in Enfield, CT who also serves as the Chairman of the CT Apple Marketing Board. The second award went to Mary Concklin who serves as Visiting Associate Extension Educator-Fruit IPM in the Dept. of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture at UConn. Mary came to UConn in 2012 and has done an outstanding job in her area of expertise. It was with Mary’s guidance that today’s program took shape and came into being.
Chairman Brian Kelliher and social media consultant Sue Muldoon of the Apple Marketing Board gave an update on the activities of that group. The Board received a grant from the USDA to assist in expanding the scope of the Boards activities. One of the major activities of the board has been to expand the scope of its educational programs throughout the state especially at the elementary school level. A variety of children’s programs have been developed including brochures, tote bags, passports and posters. Social media plays an ever increasing role in promotional activities. Websites have been developed with some focused on kid’s programs while others serve as resource pages for growers and teachers.
Following the Board’s update a panel composed of four growers took their places in the front of the room to summarize some of the issues, both good and bad, that affected their operations during the past season. It seems a problem that is one of growing concern to several growers with pick your own operations is an emerging pest called ‘grazers’. These are identified as often traveling in groups of varying ages with no fixed nesting spot but tend to cover the entire orchard in their search for the ideal fruit which it seems they never find leaving behind fruit that has been sampled but not purchased. It has been suggested by some operators that these predators view their excursions as outings in the country with complete disregard for the produce they have rendered worthless. Effective control methods have yet to be developed.
One of the panelists, Mark Boyer, an earlier speaker, chooses to disregard these pests and cross them off as another cost of doing business. Mark has a sizable pick your own cherry orchard and one of the issues he has confronted are varieties with different maturation dates to insure that the pickers are directed to those that are ripe for the picking at a given time. Another problem that is ongoing is parking; there are times when it can be a source of aggravation to both customers and staff.
Don Preli of Belltown Orchards, South Glastonbury operates a very diverse 50-acre operation featuring apples, cherries and raspberries which when things are right insures a good return. The staff attempts to promote good customer relations which is very successful but grazers are high on the list of dislikes along with the vagaries of the weather. Pick your own operations may have more waste which entails clean up by the farm crew to make the orchard attractive for the next round of pickers.
Sandi Rose of Roses Berry Farm in South Glastonbury was perhaps the most adamant about the grazing situation stating that on weekends they come by the vanload, spend the day, leave without purchasing anything and leave behind a trail of unsalable product. Sandi said she feels like she is in the entertainment business. Parking logistics are a problem here also, some of it related to moving customers from the parking area to the picking plots on any given day. She provides customers with bags as they enter the picking areas which are labeled according to their capacity 8 lbs.,12 lbs.,… and so on up the line. Customers then know what their cost will be at check out time.
An attendee from New Hampshire remarked that in his operation if grazers are identified they are asked to leave and the license plates are recorded in case any further action is necessary.
Don Dzen of Dzen Farms in East Windsor noted that ads in newspapers do not get the response they did due to the rapid growth of social media. He further noted that pick your own sales were in something of a dip but are now enjoying a rebound.
Candace Bartholomew serves as UConn’s Pesticide Safety Education Coordinator and she wound up the day’s presentations with an update on WPS (Workers Protection Standard) that falls under the EPA umbrella and is designed to protect workers from pesticide exposure. In addition she addressed the status of the FSMA (Food Safety Modernization Act) that will have an impact at all levels of food handling once implemented. This act falls under the FDA.
This program was a cooperative effort of the Connecticut Pomological Society, UConn Extension, the CT Dept. of Agriculture and the Risk management Agency/USDA.
The Connecticut Pomological Society meeting
by George Looby