Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Organic fruit

Since our move to Iredell County last fall we've been taking advantage of our expanded acreage to begin planting all sorts of fruit trees and vines and bushes and brambles and nut trees, too. Of course, most of these things take a number of years to begin bearing, so we haven't had any new fruit on our farmers' market stand yet, but we're wanting to slowly move in that direction. While there are presently a few other organic farmers around offering a variety of vegetables, organic fruit is a lot sparser yet. We've been able to find blueberries and muscadine grapes locally that are fairly organic, but that's about it in terms of what we've found commercially available. We've grown a small amount of strawberries and raspberries, and we've enjoyed wild-harvested blackberries and persimmons, but that still very much leaves us wanting. Conventionally, peaches, apples, pears, plums, and cherries would round out the array of local fruit, but we haven't found any halfway organic growers of these crops. So what's the local solution to organic fruit? We suspect the best answer lies largely in finding crops that don't, when grown in our part of the world, depend as much on synthetic insecticides/fungicides/etc. Friends' backyards offer some promising possibilities like mulberries, figs, and sour cherries. And although we've never eaten a locally grown pawpaw, Asian pear, or jujube, these fruits have also been recommended to us for organic management. Of course, we really like eating all the conventional fruit crops, but we also recognize that our conventional fruit eating habits are grown out of a dependence on pesticides. Following a desire for organic production will inevitably lead to changes in consumption, and we think, in terms of taste and variety, there's a lot more to be won than lost. We're eager to enjoy all sorts of new tastes that mass production and mass marketing haven't befriended. That's not to say we've given up hope in the conventional crops. We've planted a couple apple varieties, 'Liberty' and 'Enterprise,' that are supposed to be substantially more disease-resistant than the mass-market standards. Some delicious, local, heirloom varieties, like Limbertwig and Magnum Bonum, may similarly fit better in an organic system. So we're trying lots of things, getting all the rootings and seedlings we can from friends and neighbors, and reading all we can find on organic fruit production. We've planted enough of some of the more promising organic fruit crops, like blueberries, Asian pears, pawpaws, and figs, to hopefully be able to offer to you, our customers, soon. Meanwhile we're experimenting with more things than we've even mentioned here with hopes of finding many crops suitable enough to organic management to expand and offer for sale later.

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