ARE WE ORGANIC? DO WE SPRAY?
Two of the most asked questions for growers and marketers of fresh fruit and produce – to which there are two different and distinct answers. The subject is complicated and every customer should understand their food source and not be mislead by producers offering produce under broad terms such as “natural” or “low spray”. It’s also important to understand that organic does not guarantee no spray, environmental safety, better nutrition or higher quality… or price.
1. Are we Organic: Frecon Farms practices Integrated Pest Management “IPM” an environmentally sensitive growing practice that uses a variety of management controls that are natural, synthetic, and in some cases organic. Our practice is neither conventional nor organic. The IPM program is science based, prohibits broad spectrum controls used in a conventional programs and incorporates environmentally safe synthetic controls for which there are no alternatives in an organic program and are a necessity for fruit growing program on the East Coast. See below for additional information in IPM education and resources.
2. Do we Spray: Yes. All fruit and vegetable growers regardless of organic, IPM, or conventional spray to apply controls for pests (weeds, insects, mammals, birds, viruses, and funguses) and to apply valuable nutrients in environmentally friendly and economically efficient ways.
DISPELLING THE MYTHS OF GROWING…
All fruit and vegetable producers must spray whether organic, Integrated Pest Management (IPM), or conventional. Yes, it’s true that organic producers of fruits and vegetables spray pesticides, herbicides and nutrients which come in concentrated formulations that are only applied with a sprayer. Being organic does not mean no spray. It is what chemicals we spray that differentiates us by FDA standards into Certified Organic, IPM or Conventional.
SO WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE AND WHY ISN’T FRECON FARMS ORGANIC?
The difference in growing practice certifications is in the objective for pest and nutrient management and the methods applied to meet that objective. All crop growers are working to produce marketable fruits and vegetables. Invasive weeds, funguses, plant diseases, insects and nutrient deficiencies are the pests that threaten the creation of marketable fruits and vegetables.
Organic & IPM Objective:
Control the population density of pests to manageable levels that lessen the risks to our crops.
Control the pest population by eradicating the population to create a sterile growing environment.
What separates Organic, IPM, and Conventional is not who sprays and who doesn’t but what materials we spray, environmental management methods employed and if those materials and methods are part of a certified organic program, IPM program or conventional program. The FDA separates chemical classes into those approved in a Certified Organic program and those that fall outside of Certified Organic
For more information on Organic Growing visit OMRI for a comprehensive list of chemicals permissible in a Certified Organic growing Program.
For more information on IPM please visit any of the IPM resources provided below
Frecon Farms, and most other fruit growers on the East Coast, are not Certified Organic because the science behind the FDA certified organic program has not yet produced materials that will effectively and economically control the bacteria’s, funguses, viruses, and many of the invasive insects that threaten fruit production on medium to large farms. Our dense forests, humid summers and mild winters on the East Coast create the ideal host environment for orchard pests of many forms that a Certified Organic program will not control to manageable levels. The high deserts, controlled irrigation channels and isolated orchards of the West Coast provide growing environment that is much less conducive to hosting pest populations. Therefore the East Coast consumer will see much more Organic fruit from the West Coast and very little from the East Coast but at a significant environmental cost in the fossil fuels expensed to bring that produce east.
SPECIFICS OF FRECON FARMS IPM PROGRAM
(Key – “O” Organic, “IPM” Integrated Pest Management, & “C” Conventional)
Insect Control for (Aphids, Codling Moth, SWD, Stink bug, Scale Crawlers, Oriental Fruit Moth and many others)
- Scouting & Trapping (O, IPM C): We deploy insect traps throughout the orchard to capture various insects to assess the size of the pest population and calculate our control method to bring the pest back to manageable and non-threatening levels.
- Pheromone Mating Disruption (O, IPM, C): Pheromone lures are deployed throughout the orchard to lure male pests to a decoy lure thus ensuring the pest will not find a mate and thus keep populations of that pest to within manageable levels
- Insecticides (IPM): When pest populations reach threating levels IPM approved insecticides which are target specific and not broad spectrum are applied at times when beneficial predator and pollinator insects are not active in the orchard
Pollination & Predators
- Woodlands and Buffers: (O, IPM) We maintain woodlands and buffer zones to provide habitat and food source for natural predators and wild pollinators such as lacewing, ladybug/beetle, wood bees, bumble bees, butterflies, moths and many others
- Honey Bee Hives (O, IPM, C): every spring we import Honey Bees from a
certified Organic apiary to assist our natural pollinators in pollinating the orchard.
Fungus & Virus Control: (for Scab, blight, and more)
- Maintenance: Orchard Mowing and Cleaning (O, IPM, C): To reduce overwintering bacterium keep funguses and viruses in check the orchard floor is mowed, pruning’s mulched, and any un-harvested fruit composted back into the orchard floor.
- Control: Copper (O, IPM) Synthetic (IPM) fungicides and antibiotics that are part of the approved IPM program are deployed when scouting shows an infection or weather conditions (warm and wet) create the ideal conditions for a primary infection.
- Composting (O, IPM): we spread compost each spring to add organic matter back to the soil
- Soil Amendments ( O, IPM) Sulfur and Lime are used to adjust soil PH for plant nutrient ingestion
- Fertilizer (IPM) synthetic Calcium and Nitrogen are applied via foliar applications to maximize plant absorption, minimize fossil fuel consumption, and minimize runoff into water systems typical with granular fertilizer
- Deer Control: (O, IPM): Soap is hung, wire guards wrapped around, and hot pepper concentrate is sprayed on young trees to keep deer from eating them
- Birds: (O, IPM) prerecorded distress and predator calls are played throughout the berry and small fruit crops to scare birds out of the fields before they can eat the fruit.
THE FUTURE OF FRECON FARMS GROWING PRACTICES
Frecon Farms is committed to IPM growing because the program looks at the entire growing ecosystem vs. individual components. The methods used in IPM do not seek to control/sterilize the environment nor seek broad certifications that oversimplify the complexity of producing fine fruits and vegetables. IPM programs are science based and continually studied to adapt to ever evolving environments within the agricultural spectrum.
- UC Davis: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/GENERAL/whatisipm.html
- EPA: http://www.epa.gov/opp00001/factsheets/ipm.htm
- Penn State: http://extension.psu.edu/pests/ipm
- IPM Institute: http://www.ipminstitute.org
Organic Sprays & Fertilizers
- Organic Materials Research Institute: http://www.omri.org/sites/default/files/opl_pdf/complete_company.pdf
- In Organic We Trust: http://www.inorganicwetrust.org