As “going green” has gained momentum in the marketplace, Prospect Hill Orchards discovers that we have been practicing sustainable farming for a long time. Over the years we have been forced by economics to reduce our inputs such as fertilizers, sprays and fuel to remain sustainable. Now it is a priority to become even greener by making more changes in how we operate! In 2016, Pam installed a large array of solar panels by her commercial farm kitchen. It supplies all of her electric needs!
Integrated Pest Management
Since the 1970’s, Researchers and farmers have sought to develop safer, more ecologically sound ways to manage pests. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) was developed to help farmers achieve this goal. IPM draws from a variety of disciplines and uses a diversity of methods, ranging from using management practices that encourage a pest’s natural enemies to disrupting a pest’s life cycle, to careful weather monitoring and scouting for pest populations. We never apply a spray unless there is a high enough pest problem to cause economic damage. IPM pest management strategies rely on biological controls, scouting, and choosing the least disruptive chemical control when insect populations exceed the economic threshold. The goal of IPM is to minimize both health risks and ecological disruptions, while producing high quality fruit.
Prospect Hill Orchards grows all of its fruits under the IPM low spray management system. We are continuously monitoring our orchards so we can make wise decisions about when steps are needed to protect our fruit from excessive insect or disease damage. The result is good quality fruit for your family.
Our IPM (Integrated Pest Management) practices have allowed us to reduce the number of trips we take through the orchard with the tractor and sprayer because we spray only when scouting reports indicate a high degree of damage can be expected if we do not control a specific disease or insect. Twenty years ago we began planting short grasses between our rows of trees. This requires significantly less mowing, again reducing trips through the orchard and saving fuel and energy. Our marketing plan encourages energy conservation too. We supply local and regional farm markets and NYC Greenmarket farmers” markets with fresh, high quality fruit sold directly from the orchard. We do not pack our fruit on a conventional packing line, saving electricity and fuel. Our apples are picked into reusable and returnable containers usually made of wood. We make a conscious effort not to use cardboard, saving trees. Most of our fruit is sold within 75 miles of the farm compared with much of the fruit which is transported from the west coast or imported from outside the USA. Our pick your own fruits are marketed primarily to Hudson Valley, Metropolitan New York and northern New Jersey residents, who have become locavores by buying foods within 100 miles of their homes. This farm business plan results in an environmentally friendly lifestyle and a relatively small carbon footprint.
In 2000, we cleared new land and planted 5 acres of organic orchard. We tried to choose apple varieties which are highly disease resistant. We are growing our organic apples in compliance with the National Organic Standards and have been certified by a third party audit. Our certifying agency is NOFA-NY Certified Organic, LLC and we have been in compliance with and certified since 2004.
In the fall of 2008, our daughter Pam suggested we investigate installing solar power on our cold storage facility. I contacted my friend Bill Jordan of Jordan Food and Energy, who was just starting to develop a solar based consulting business. A grant was available from the USDA Rural Development program. He and an associate came to evaluate the site and determined the south and east facing roofs of the storage building were excellent sites for installing solar panels. Sun Dog Solar was selected to install the panels and wiring. A contract was signed in January 2009. After several weeks of work including new metal roofing, installing 240 solar panels and connecting all the wiring, the job was finally complete. On December 10, 2009, we connected our 42 kilowatt solar array to the local utility grid! It was a big step for us as we see our carbon footprint decrease every sunny day.
We are actively working to conserve our water resources too. Fifteen years ago we installed microjet sprinklers on a large part of the orchard. This was the first step in our reduction of water use. Now, we are updating our irrigation system again and converting 25 percent of the orchard to trickle irrigation. This will significantly reduce water wasted through run off, evaporation and over watering.
The trees in our orchards contribute most to our low carbon footprint by recycling carbon dioxide into oxygen and growing flavorful fruit at the same time! Through the process of photosynthesis, the leaves of the trees absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and convert it into oxygen and fruit sugars. This is the best way to sequester carbon and take it out of the atmosphere and turn it into something useful. As the carbon dioxide levels increase in the atmosphere, the trees work even more efficiently to convert this into our flavorful local fruit.
As 7th generation farmers, our family is committed to operating a sustainable farm resulting in a cleaner and healthier environment for everyone to enjoy. It is gratifying to see so many people supporting agriculture through “buy local” programs and by participating in the “green tourism” movement. Through our local farm organization, Meet Me in Marlborough, we direct our own pick your own customers to other nearby farms, wineries, markets and restaurants so they can enjoy a full day of family pleasures without driving long distances, thus leaving a minimal carbon footprint. Keep an eye on Prospect Hill Orchards as we strive to grow from green to greener!