The most basic answer is, no, Kuhn Orchards is not certified organic. However, if you take a moment, we’ll tell you how we are environmentally conscious, use safe agricultural practices and are good stewards of the land.
Many times, the term “organic” is mistaken to mean “no spray.” Organic fruits and vegetables are still sprayed with chemicals, however the materials that organic growers use are not synthetic. The USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) oversees the National Organic Program and they state “Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony.” In a Mayo Clinic article organic and conventional production practices are compared.
|Apply chemical fertilizers to promote plant growth.||Apply natural fertilizers, such as manure or compost, to feed soil and plants.|
|Spray insecticides to reduce pests and disease.||Use beneficial insects and birds, mating disruption or traps to reduce pests and disease.|
|Use herbicides to manage weeds.||Rotate crops, till, hand weed or mulch to manage weeds.|
Kuhn Orchards falls somewhere in the middle of “conventional” and “organic” and that practice is called “IPM” or Integrated Pest Management. IPM is a pest control program designed to keep crop damage at an economically tolerable level through multiple methods, such as biological, cultural, and chemical controls.
We utilize mating disruption to help reduce populations of peach tree borers and codling moths. Plastic ties are hung in the tree canopy that release sex pheromones, making it difficult for the males to find and mate with the females. We also use sticky traps to help monitor the populations of other insects. When the population threshold reaches a threatening level, we will apply an insecticide. The materials which we use are targeted to a certain pest, therefore having a minimal effect on beneficial insects. The materials do not persist in the environment as they are biodegradable. Many of our pesticides are the same ones used by organic growers.
Fruit orchards grow for many years – some orchards are 15 or more years old! After we remove an orchard, we will take 1-2 years to re-establish the soil nutrients by planting cover crops such as corn or soybeans, and then rotate that crop into the soil which is a “green manure” or “planted compost.” When we plant the new orchard, we try to plant disease resistant varieties, such as GoldRush or many of our new pear varieties.
Every year before fertilizing, we will conduct soil and leaf tissue tests to determine nutrient deficiencies so we apply the necessary amount of fertilizer. Orchards also have thick strips of grass between rows of trees. The grass helps to retain nutrients and soil moisture, and will also reduce soil erosion and run-off in the case of heavy storms. And since fruit trees are greatly affected by drought, in the evenings we use trickle irrigation to conserve water.
In 2006, our operation was enrolled in the “Conservation Security Program,” which identifies those farmers who are meeting the highest standards of conservation and environmental management. Of the 300 acres we own, 150 acres of productive agricultural land has been permanently protected by granting development rights to the County Agricultural Land Preservation Program and the Land Conservancy of Adams County. Another 40 acres is enrolled in the “Wetlands Reserve Program,” providing for the restoration of former pasture to permanently preserved wetlands. Our home farm has vernal pools which are unique spring time pools of water which allow frogs and salamanders to breed safely without the threat of fish eating their precious eggs. We have bird houses around the perimeter forests of the farm, along with pollinator flower beds to provide habitat for native insects and pollinators.
We share many of the same concerns about the environment as our consumers. While we are not organic, we still strive to follow practices on our farm that “promote and enhance biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity.” After all; we live, work and eat in the orchard every day; why wouldn’t we want it to be safe?
USDA National Agricultural Library: “Organic Production/Organic Food: Information Access Tools.” June 2007. <http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/ofp/ofp.shtml>
The Mayo Clinic: “Organic Foods? Are they safer? More Nutritious?” December 3, 2011. <http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/organic-food/NU00255>