In spring 2004, we planted over 350 fruit trees and 600 berry plants on close to four acres. Both our fruit orchard and pastures were USDA certified organic from August 2006-December 2009. We decided to forego certification due to the meager fruit production we have experienced to date, making it hard to justify the expense of certification,. Nonetheless, we manage our land using strict organic practices; we don’t use conventional fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides and we employ a variety of ecological approaches to managing pests, diseases and weeds.
We planted diverse cover crops such as grasses, clover and alfalfa as permanent cover for our orchard and berry areas, as well as patches of flowering plants to attract beneficial insects. We use biological control tools like mating disruptors and pheromone traps for the insect pests that have these tools. We scout daily for pests and diseases and apply USDA-National Organic Program allowed pesticides only when pest/disease thresholds dictate the need. We control weeds by hand weeding, cultivating and mowing. Our main soil fertility building practices include use of organic compost and cover crops. Because our prairie soils are so inherently fertile, we use only our goat manure compost to fertilizer our tree fruits and cane berries.
Gooseberries in June
Bees are an integral part of our orchard. Emil and Melvin Blobaum, our bee keepers, have been keeping and tending bee hives for over 40 years. They tend our hives and extract our farmstead honey. We offer our honey for sale starting in late July through fall at most of our farmers' markets and at our on-farm sales.