Pennsylvania Regional Organic Fruit Industry Transition
This project was initiated by a grower mandate for organic transition that initiated November 12, 2003 when the executive board of the the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania (SHAP), developed a directive to Dr. James W. Travis and Penn State University which states, “The board of directors of SHAP has to develop a task force to further explore the ‘vision’ of transitioning our industry toward alternative pest management technologies with the ultimate objective of achieving ‘organic’ production methods for fruit in our region. This task force should include (grower) representatives from SHAP, the various fruit (science) disciplines, Ag Extension, and any other sector that you feel would be beneficial to the discussion.” With this directive, the Pennsylvania Regional Organic Fruit Industry Transition (PROFIT) was initiated, thus this project seeks to improve the sustainability and profitability of small family apple farms through the implementation of sustainable and organic production practices and by differentiating apple products as certified organic. Key components include:
• The transition to organic production of three demonstration/research orchards managed by an orchard management transition team on a grower farm utilizing the sites as case studies.
• The team, which is made up of local conventional IPM growers, experienced organic growers, the apple processor, university researchers and extension educators, will direct the transition practices utilizing seasonal pest and production results, production options, economic factors and grower discussions.
• Growers will implement an educational model for networking and information sharing among the fruit growing industry and the team.
Performance Targets: Of the 500 potential apples grower beneficiaries, 250 fresh and processing apple growers will increase their use of sustainable pest management and production methods and 30 will transition a portion or their entire farm.
• Milestone: Five hundred tree fruit growers will learn of the orchard transition project in year one.
In year one, 250 growers will inquire about sustainable and organic practices accessing multiple information delivery tools developed by the project, 150 growers will participate in on-farm case study discussions.
By year two, 150 will increase implementation of sustainable practices and 15 will begin transition to organic.
1) Outreach and Extension efforts:
Several outreach and extension activities were accomplished with 500 growers participating in Pennsylvania by undertaking the following activities:
a) Grower meetings included two field days in July 12, and September 14, 2006 held at the PSU Fruit Research and Extension Center, Biglerville, PA with 250 growers, researchers, extension educators and crop consultants participating. The July 12 field day was a full day session on organic apple production that dealt on multi-disciplinary topics on integrated pests and weed management, fruit thinning and requirements for organic certification held in cooperation with Pennsylvania Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) and Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO);
b) The team also sponsored 4 monthly grower meetings, attended the Multi-State Growers Meeting in Hershey, PA, and participated in 10 invited presentations and other educational meetings.;
c) Monthly meetings during the 2006 growing season were organized and attended by conventional growers interested in transitioning to organic production.
2) Three apple orchards were selected for case studies: a 2 acre organic demonstration orchard planted in 2004, a 10 acre orchard of disease resistant apple varieties to be planted in 2007, and a 30 acre mature bearing orchard of scab susceptible cultivars which is in year 2 of transitioning to organic production.
3) Growers learned about the project PROFIT in a) PSU website where the activities of the PROFIT project was posted at http://fpath.cas.psu.edu/EXTENSION, 2) web publications by the Rodale Institute (New Farm) and the Upper Midwest Organic Tree Fruit Network through the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service.
In 2007, the project will also emphasize fresh market production where potential market outlets in neighboring cities are available for locally grown organic fruit.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Outcomes for 2006 as they relate to the Performance Targets: During the first 6 months of the project in 2006, we conducted organic production field days, meetings and orchard visits to educate growers about our project PROFIT and extended technical and consultative services in organic fruit production practices to growers that were interested to establish a new organic orchard or transition a conventional orchard to organic production.
Associate Professor of Pomology
Penn State University Fruit Research and Extension
290 University Drive
P. O. Box 330
Biglerville , PA 17307
Office Phone: 71767761167
Plant Pathology Research Associate
Penn State University Fruit Research & Extension
Biglerville, PA 17325
Office Phone: 7176776116
Penn State University Extension
670 Old Harrisburg Rd., Suite 204
Gettysburg, PA 17325