Cornell hosted an Organic Apple Production Workshop last week in Balliston Spa, NY, which was well attended by conventional and organic apple farmers alike. There wasn't much beyond what Michael Philips covers in his The Apple Grower book, but what was of great interest was the disconnection between organic ideology and big farming.
New Yorkers, unlike New Englanders, farm with aspirations of grandeur; they want to 'make it big.' It might also be said that New Yorkers are more competitive. But philosophically, the organic principle and the Wall Street mentality are at opposite poles: one defends nature's realities, the other mans' reality. Can the two philosophies share a common goal? My feeling in lieu of talking to the many farmers last week (mostly farmers managing farms over 50 acres,) the answer is: NO.
NY farmers are living in a reality dominated by mans' needs and they put them above the needs of the land and environment. As they see it, they are responsible for hundreds of jobs and the state supports them because of the tax revenue so they have too many external pressures to prioritize eco and human health concerns. It can be said though, if organic apples are worth big money then it would all be a different story. If it's economically feasible to switch over to organic then they would. But it won't be the farmer who forces that decision.
It's up to the consumers to demand and pay for local and organic apples. And consumers need to be organized at a higher level if NY farms are going to practice organic-only orcharding. Little farms can provide organic produce to small niche markets but if big farms are to convert to organic production then the organic markets need to be scaled up and biased to reward "local" produce. We have 100 million people within a days drive of New York, and of course some of them demand "local-organic", but are the masses ready to pay for it? Long story short: Don't expect big farmers to be leading the way, it's up to consumers to convert the local farms to organic.