Midwest Apple Producers Receive Season-long Mentoring Via Conference Calls


The Apple Grower Hour

Coordinator: Lisa DiPietro, The Wisconsin Eco Apple Project, University of Wisconsin Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems
Stakeholders: Eastern U.S. and in particular Upper Midwest organic apple producers

Due to their susceptibility to an astonishing number of pests, apples are considered by many to be one of the "final frontiers" of organic agriculture. Most university research and Extension personnel contend that it is nearly impossible to profitably grow organic apples east of the Rockies.

While growing organic apples for market in the Upper Midwest is challenging, organic agriculturalists need to counteract the general supposition that it is not even worth trying. Organic apple growers need more help to succeed and conventional growers need more proof to be convinced that growing apples organically can be a winning game. In this project, a mentoring opportunity was provided to Upper Midwest apple producers to help accomplish this aim.

In the summer of 2008, OFRF sponsored The Apple Grower Hour, a series of free regional community conference calls with expert organic apple grower Michael Phillips with adjunct consultation from Wisconsin apple IPM specialist John Aue. Calls were targeted to commercial apple growers in the Upper Midwest with intermediate to advanced orchard management skills and were scheduled weekly from April 24 through August 28.

Michael Phillips is a well known and respected authority on organic apple production, emphasizing a holistic approach to orchard management. He is author of the book The Apple Grower: A Guide for the Organic Orchardist (1998, Chelsea Green). Many topics were discussed, including but not limited to vertebrate predator control, insect and disease management, soil fertility balancing, desirable fruit varieties, and weather.

A great feature of this series is that all 17 weekly call summaries and recordings are still available online in The Apple Grower Hour archive.

On the archive page visitors can browse the summaries and select calls to listen to. Instructions are available on the web page. Or, to bypass your computer and dial the Apple Grower Hour archives direct, call (641) 715-3800, then enter the access code: 95226. From there, a menu allows you to select calls by the week.