A guest post by Jackie Merwin, co-owner of Black Diamond Orchard.

In the heart of the Finger Lakes region of New York, our small family farm in Trumansburg, Black Diamond Farm, is adjacent to the Black Diamond trail. The area has a long rich history of apple growing. Despite our small size, we’re growing some of the most exciting new varieties and many treasured ‘heritage’ apple varieties. Practicing IFP (Integrated Fruit Production), we take pride in producing high quality fruit selected for excellent and unusual tastes.

Integrated Fruit Production, the system we use, is called “ecological” fruit growing in Europe, where it’s widely practiced. IFP uses many organic strategies such as bringing in beneficial predators to control pests, pheromone trapping to disrupt pest mating activity, growing the most diverse and disease-resistant apples available, and monitoring pests and disease conditions. Some of the materials we use are approved for organic use, and other are “reduced-risk” newer materials that are safer and more effective than some traditional organic remedies.

The Finger Lakes’ northeastern climate and ecosystem are key to the frequently asked question of why we haven’t become a “certified organic” grower:

  • Rainfall and humidity are responsible for disease pressure from funguses. Most commercial organic apples are grown in Washington and California, on semi-desert land where irrigation enables them to grow marketable fruit. Our rainier climate brings huge fungal pressure on fruit crops.
  • Hundreds of years of orcharding means more pests. Abandoned orchards and native forest in the Northeast host tons of diseases and fruit-damaging pests. Western orchards don’t have this extensive complex of apple pests that we have in NY.
  • All commercial fruit growers use pesticides. Organic fruit growers in the eastern US use naturally derived pesticides that are usually less effective and require high dosage rates and frequent sprays. “Naturally derived” doesn’t guarantee that the material is not harmful to people, wildlife, and the soil. Copper, for example, is a major ingredient in organic fruit growing, but at high levels it is harmful to consumers and the environment.

How We Do It

  • We use the most environmentally compatible natural or synthetic pesticides available — only when absolutely necessary — to save our fruit or trees from serious damage.
  • We use mulches and natural fertilizers for newly planted trees. After the first year, our trees don’t need fertilizers, since our soil is very fertile.
  • We use no residual herbicides or GMO’s (genetically modified organisms).
  • We use no sprays in our orchards or vineyard after late August.

For more information about our farm, visit our website.