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Resources for Fruit Growers
Annie Klodd, UM Extension Educator

Farmers growing fruit organically often encounter challenges when sourcing reliable, quality information on essential topics like pest management, diseases, and soil health. This becomes especially frustrating in an area like the upper Midwest, where diseases and insect pests thrive in our temperate climate. This was one of the common challenges expressed by farmers who completed the University of Minnesota Extension’s 2019 survey of fruit and vegetable farmers.

In order to begin helping address these issues, UMN Extension’s fruit and vegetable team has acquired funding to develop a set of videos, webinars, and online content on challenging topics including organic pest management, soil health, and soil fertility for fruit growers. We would like to involve organic fruit farmers in this process, both to get input and to feature stories from organic farmers.

Why Is This Happening Now?

In brief, I am part of a newly-hired UMN Extension team focused on fruit and vegetable production. The 2019 survey I mentioned above was a needs assessment aimed at understanding the production needs and challenges of Minnesota fruit and vegetable growers in order to direct our team’s programming.

Out of over 300 Minnesota produce farmers who completed the survey, around 70% identified as organic, and named pest management and soil health as their top areas of concern (marketing was also listed as a top concern, but is beyond the scope of our team). Therefore, it is clear to us that organic management is an area that needs much more focus by Extension.

We Would Like Your Help!

As the fruit specialist on this new UMN Extension team, I will be leading this project and would like your help! Over the next few months, I will be drafting videos and new online content, striving to make sure these resources are meeting the needs of organic fruit growers in the Midwest. In order to do that, I would like your input about what specific topics are highest priority to your operation. I would also like to interview and feature farmers in these videos and online stories, who have had success with organic pest management and crop management practices.

We are currently working on editing two videos, which cover orchard soil testing and foliar nutrient testing of apples and grapes. Seven topic areas are currently planned, such as:

  • Spotted wing drosophila exclusion netting for berries

  • Organic options for fruit thinning in apples

  • Managing grapevine trunk disease in Midwestern vineyards

My questions for organic fruit growers are: What are the main production topics you feel Extension should be assisting with? What are the top insect and disease pest challenges facing organic fruit production, in your opinion?

If you are interested in providing input, or have ideas for farmer interviews, the OFGA staff can help you get in touch with me.

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