Organic apple production in Washington State: A 1994 survey of growers

Organic apple production in Washington State has been steadily increasing since 1991. Acreage took a dramatic jump in 1980 in response to the Alar crisis, but most of those farms only remained in organic production for one season. This was largely due to the difficulty of controlling codling moth (Cydia pomenella), the primary direct pest in the region, and also in response to the collapse of market prices for organic fruit due to the huge increase in supply. For organic farming to succeed, growers need to reduce risk, both on the production side (by having more options to deal with problems) and on the market side (minimizing the need for a price premium by cutting production costs). In order to increase the chances for growers to succeed at organic apple production, a survey of selected organic producers was undertaken in 1994 to draw on the experiential knowledge in the field at that time. Interest in this type of information was expressed by growers as well as by agricultural support personnel.

Grower experience in organic practices ranged from a couple of years to over two decades. Farm size ranged from one acre to 200 acre plantings of apples. We asked the growers to share the evolution of their cultural practices and identify both their triumphs and their tribulations. Questions included queries on farm history, fertility management, and any labor or economic considerations that altered pest control practices. Growers were also asked to identify where they obtained information about farming practices and what needs were left unfulfilled.