Growing a Pear Orchard at an Organic Farm School to Increase Supply and Demand for Organic Tree Fruit in St. Louis, MO

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2014: $7,500.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:
Rachel Levi

Annual Reports

Information Products


  • Fruits: pears, general tree fruits


  • Crop Production: intercropping
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, workshop
  • Farm Business Management: market study
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture, permaculture
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities

    Proposal summary:

    With the installation of a pear orchard on EarthDance’s teaching farm, we aim to address the dearth of local, sustainably-grown fruit, particularly pears, in St. Louis.  We will develop the orchard according to advice from the project’s primary advisor, Guy Ames, a professional orchardist and ATTRA Horticultural Specialist.  Ames’ guidance will enable EarthDance staff to successfully establish the orchard, including choosing a suitable site, preparing for planting, selecting appropriate rootstock/varieties, and caring for the newly planted orchard through mulching, irrigation, pruning/training, pest management, etc. EarthDance’s Farm Manager will educate our apprentices and volunteers about techniques for maintenance of the plants.   During the grant period, EarthDance will host two workshops in order to offer growers the opportunity to learn best practices in orchard establishment from EarthDance’s teaching orchard. The first will cover site selection and preparation, necessary/useful equipment, tree spacing, and proper planting techniques.  The second will be on grafting: participants will get hands-on grafting experience, and they will learn about selecting rootstock and scion wood for tree size, climatic concerns, desired yields, disease resistance, etc.    

    Project objectives from proposal:

    We will measure the progress of the project through the completion of key activities, and by surveying the participants of our public workshops.

    The first activity we will use to measure the success of the project is the completion of a market survey of local food purveyors, chefs, and retailers.  We will send the survey to at least 50 individuals and businesses; we expect a participation rate of 50%.  Thus, we will gauge the success of the survey based on whether or not we collect responses from at least 25 individuals or businesses.

    Second, we will plant and tend a total of 62 pear trees, including 32 which we will graft ourselves.  We will gauge our success by documenting the trees’ establishment and tending by EarthDance staff, apprentices, and volunteers.  We will keep records through a daily field log, and by photographing the project at different stages.

    We will host two workshops: one on orchard establishment, and one on grafting trees.  We will measure the success of the sessions by the number of growers who participate (our goal is to have 25-50 growers at each session), and by surveying the attendees about their satisfaction with the workshop, and if the workshop increased the likelihood that they will diversify their operation by planting fruit trees.

    Finally, we will write a report on the project that will include updated budgets, planting and maintenance guide, varietal recommendations, and supply guide.  We will gauge the success of this document based on its completion and dissemination to workshop attendees and others online.  


    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.