The Organic Tree Fruit Network Advanced Grower Retreat

Last Thursday and Friday, March 5-6, around 20 commercial organic apple growers met in East Lansing, MI to talk about marketing and production. Growers in attendance were from Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire. The Eco-Apple Project was able to help growers from Wisconsin and the Driftless area make the long trip around the lake by providing them with scholarships.

The main focus of the meeting was marketing. Marketing topics discussed include:

  • Trends in markets and pricing for conventionally and organically grown tree fruits
  • Pilot year results of a grower price information sharing system
  • Selling to CSAs and buying clubs
  • Consumer trends regarding local and organic products
  • Developing value-added products for organic tree fruits, and developing product labels

Growers also talked about a few hot-topic production issues, including the influence of healthy soils and Surround usage on plum curculio populations.

Finally, growers discussed forming an Organic Tree Fruit Association (OTFA). The OTFA could represent dues-paying commercial apple growers on topics that affect them, as well as find resources for and organize retreats and field days.

On Thursday evening, retreat attendees were treated to a lovely meal at the home of MSU Tree Fruit Entomologist Larry Gut. There they feasted on apple-fed pork from Al-Mar Orchard. Jim Koan of Al-Mar is working with MSU researchers to learn how using swine to eat June drops affects PC levels. For more info on this project, see the Organic Tree Fruit Network newsletter posted at: