Pennsylvania Regional Organic Fruit Industry Transition
This project was initiated by a grower mandate for organic transition that was initiated on November 12, 2003 where 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 orchard management transition team that 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 orchard management transition team.
Performance Target: 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.
Milestones: 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.
2007 Accomplishments Made Towards Milestones:
1) Outreach and Extension Efforts: Several outreach and extension activities were accomplished with over 500 growers participating in Pennsylvania by undertaking the following activities:
a) Grower discussions, grower education which included two field days in July 12, September 14, 2007, held at the PSU Fruit Research and Extension Center, Biglerville, PA with 250 growers, researchers, extension educators and crop consultants participating. The July 12 grower field day and Sept 14 crop protection field day were two full-day sessions on insect, disease and weed management, training and fruit thinning. The team also conducted four monthly grower meetings with discussions on organic apple production.
b) Growers from four mid-Atlantic states were also introduced to organic apple production at a conference held in Hershey, PA in January of 2007 and New England growers heard about the organic apple project goals and accomplishments at an IPM conference in New Hampshire in December 2007. Team members participated in an additional 12 invited presentations and other educational meetings throughout the year.
c) Monthly discussion meetings were held during the 2007 growing season to assist growers in-transition and planning for organic apple production.
2) Organic apple orchards for case studies:
a) Organic apple demonstration orchard (2 A) planted in 2004 with two resistant scab cultivars ‘GoldRush’ and ’Enterprise.’
b) Commercial organic apple orchard (5 A) in Lancaster county, PA planted in 2005. In 2007 the orchard is in its second year transition to organic production (scheduled expansion of additional five acres in 2008).
c) A mature apple orchard (30 A) in Adams county, PA of scab susceptible cultivars which is in year two of transitioning to organic production.
3) Growers learned about the project PROFIT in
a) PSU website where the activities of the PROFIT project were posted at http://fpath.cas.psu.edu/EXTENSION, 2) Penn State Sustainable Ag Working Group website at http://sawg.cas.psu.edu/Projects.html;
In 2007, the management team directed the project expanded to also emphasize fresh organic apple production for local market outlets in nearby urban areas where the demand for locally grown organic fruit is high but the supply is limited.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
During the first year of the project, we coordinated organic production discussion sessions, field days, orchard visits, and extended technical and consultative services in organic pest management and cultural practices, certification process, and marketing organic fruit to growers who were interested in establishing a new organic orchard or transition a conventional orchard to organic production.
Future of PROFIT task force and initiative:
a. Nov. 2007, letter of support from SHAP Exec Board complimenting the success of PROFIT and advising the project to continue to develop organic apple production for the region.
b. PROFIT Task Force met on Dec. 18, 2007 to discuss accomplishments and future direction. There was agreement to focus on advancing new organic practices, marketing, economics, long-term orchard sustainability, continue support of grower transition to organic.
c. The first 50 A of new PA grower organic apple orchards will be certified organic in 2008.
d. Approximately 100 A are in transition or being planned which will assist the project in meeting its performance goals by the completion of the project.
e. The number of growers considering organic is increasing each year and IPM growers continue to increase the implementation of organic practices.
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