Our Orchard

Our orchard is not what you think. It looks nothing like the large or medium-sized apple farms which survived the economy-of-scale and chemical century.  It looks nothing like a winery, and it doesn't look like a cider mill either.  It looks like a tiny 19th century homestead farm because that's exactly what it is. Now in 2013, I'm more interested in being like a farm from 1813!
  You might ask, "where are all your apple trees?"  We now plant our apple trees in the forest because I believe that is where they originated, that is where they belong, and that is where will be healthiest. We have a pioneering spirit and we have deliberately disregarded conventional wisdom on apple growing because I don't trust the direction they are taking us. Apples are America's most sprayed crop, but does it have to be? The experts say yes because they don't know what trees are capable of in lands like the Catskills, Vermont or Maine. They only know how trees perform in the soils they test. I have disregarded "expert" (Cornell and the like) advise because it is in direct contrast with the real life trees I pass on a daily basis. And as far as cider goes, these are the trees that produce the quality I'm looking for.
  Cider may ultimately be the apple species' escape from "experts" and from agricultural manipulation. Showing this is my number one goal and my orchard aims to prove it.    

2016 update to post:
  I have failed to grown a number of trees in locations I thought were perfect for apples based on my observations of other trees in the wild. It turns out, I am no expert either. But I know why they failed now: I have been trying to grow cloned rootstocks (m111, 26, and Gs) in locations not primed for self-sufficiant trees. These clones don't work in most locations unless the owner jacks the soil with massive amendments and water, and then perpetually upkeeps the environment. "Expert" advise, it turns out, is entirely dedicated to these cloned systems planted in locations deemed "prime agricultural." (And 90% of the land is not "prime agricultural". Just study USGS maps and your state agricultural initiatives to see if your land is of value.) The existing state of apple farming is set-up for most apple trees to fail.
   Yes, I have found-out how apple trees can grow successfully on my land but they are best started from seed and in their eventual location (not transplanted.)  That's my observation as of 2016. Chances are I'll be updating with more failures and discoveries.

1 comment:

  1. This is great insight. I've been very reluctant to lean too heavily on those rootstocks grown for very specific purposes for the same reasons you talk about in your update here. I really like the idea of planting all the seeds and picking the healthiest ones (though even that assumption may be flawed - what if the 'healthiest' trees don't make the best cider? Eliza Greenman talked about how stress can be good for apples). Do you have a strategy, once the trees come into bearing, about how you'll approach the different varieties you'll have? For instance, will you topwork to varieties you know to produce good cider, or leave them all as is and just blend everything?

    -Jeff Harner