Field Day Recap at Grandview Orchard and Utech’s Rainbow Farm
Don Albrecht, OFGA Board Member, Albrecht’s Nursery & Orchard LLC
Another great field day is in the books for OFGA this year. High attendance and many highlights throughout the day. The field day began with insight into what Grandview Orchard has begun with, where it is now, and where it is going.
A tour of the orchard and a look at the soil structure certainly tells of some history of what has gone on and what Lisa Rettinger (our host) is doing for the future. Lisa has had her hands full to say the least, but she is getting it done. Lisa knows where she wants the orchard to be, in a place of lower inputs and higher sustainability.
The trees were out of control at one point, not managed really, and trees so high that you couldn’t spray the tops if you wanted to. Lisa now has the height management under control for the most part, she also has been doing soil improvements to the entire orchard. Managing the understory with beneficial and supporting plants has begun and looks like it will continue being a major force for building up soil. Slowly but surely life has begun to increase down below, and evidence was shown with a sample taken by shovel.
Lisa is doing a lot of replanting of trees, putting trees in their respective places for easier management, instead of being haphazardly placed any ol’place, (oops, kind of sounds like my orchard!).
At Grandview Orchard, pigs and chickens have been, and are still, involved in developing this future example of what many orchardists are trying to do in their orchards. While we were there, portable chicken coops were on the ready, and pigs were fenced off out back. Apple fed pork anyone?!
Sheep were also talked about, and we will see where that goes. Babydoll Sheep have short legs, you can see where that might come in handy. There is one orchard that I know of that has had Babydoll sheep in their orchard for many years now.
Grandview Orchard is very diverse in the finished products it produces. Aside from selling whole chickens and many different apple fed pork products, there is also Apple Cider and is famous for Apple Pie!
Nathan Harman with Advancing Eco Ag, done a presentation about soil and plant health, and dived into which minerals can affect the others capability. He had to field many questions on many nutrients and their capacities to effectively work as they were designed to.
Next stop was at Utech’s Rainbow Farm which was about 45 minutes to the west of Grandview Orchard. Jeff has about 8 acres with 8,000 Blueberry bushes. Starting 20 years ago, he has 9 varieties of blueberries in 5 different fields. Rolling hills and flat ground make up this farm.
He talked about bird scaring tactics back in the day, and what he has changed now after improvements. He has it irrigated and uses gravity to his advantage for some of the irrigation.
He showed us a blueberry sorting machine that he built, and how things operate in full swing. Pickers were there when we came and were still coming in when we left. Pails and pails of blueberries were being hauled out all day long.
You can tell Jeff loves his Blueberries when you hear him talk. It is a sizable operation and to say the least, a lot of work.