Plainville, MA – Sixteen Northeast orchards representing 1439 acres of fruit have been successfully certified Eco Apple® for 2017. A network of farmers dedicated to the most ecological way to grow fruit in the Northeast, the certified orchards grow and market just-picked local Eco Apple® fruit grown with the support of non-profit food hub, Red Tomato.
The Eco Apple program, the result of over ten years of collaboration between growers and science advisors, is a rigorous, ecology-based farming and 3rd party certification program that supports and rewards farmers who use the most eco-sensitive, minimally treated, natural methods possible to grow their fruit. Eco Apple® orchards are certified by the IPM Institute of North America, a non-profit based in Madison, WI.
Eco Apple practices reduce risk for humans, pollinators, and environment
This year the IPM Institute analyzed records for orchards that have participated in the program consistently over the past 10 years. Practices were analyzed using Pesticide Risk Tool (PRT), www.pesticiderisk.org, a sophisticated risk assessment tool that measures high, moderate and low risk of pest management treatments in four categories: Environmental; Farm Worker; Consumer Dietary (including chronic and cancer-causing health effects); and Pollinators.
The results indicate use of high-risk chemicals among Eco-certified orchards has decreased 59% since 2004, the year before the program began, and has continued to drop18% since 2010. Growers and scientists review practices annually based on current research, and have steadily replaced more high-risk approaches with biological and lower-risk methods as they become available. All practices and substances allowed in the Eco protocol are screened to minimize risk to pollinators, human health, and wildlife, and the most toxic treatments on fruit are prohibited entirely.
“The pressure from pests and disease in an orchard can vary from year to year due to weather and other conditions, but the goal of the Eco program is to steadily reduce overall risk over time. We are encouraged to see the data indicate that is happening,” noted Dr. Thomas Green, entomologist and President of the IPM Institute.
Eco-certified orchards have also participated in a study of wild pollinators by Professor of Entomology Dr. Bryan Danforth at Cornell University. “We surveyed bees in conventional and Eco Apple® orchards and found a striking difference between the two in terms of wild bee species richness and abundance. The Eco Apple orchards host many more species and many more individual wild bees,” reports Danforth. “The Eco Apple protocol does a very good job of protecting the beneficial insects, including pollinators.”
Partnership supports local growers
The Eco Apple program is a partnership between farmers and scientific advisors to advance the most progressive and environmentally responsible growing practices in the northeast region. Farmers manage damaging pests with biological methods such as natural predators, mating disruption, and trapping as their first line of defense. They use science-based practices to promote soil and tree health, nurture pollinators, and protect biodiversity – ultimately ensuring balanced ecosystems and safer working conditions while producing the highest quality fruit.
Apple growers in the eastern US face more than sixty species of damaging insects, and twice as many diseases compared to growers in the drier climates of the Pacific Northwest. Over 93% of certified organic apples grown in the US come from eastern Washington. Eco-Apple offers a both growers and consumers a way to support sustainably grown local fruit in the Northeast.
“We are especially proud that the program addresses specific farming challenges for this region. It is reviewed every year, and continually adapted to deliver better standards and better fruit – season by season, crop by crop, orchard by orchard,” says Susan Futrell, the program’s director.
Red Tomato launched the innovative Eco Apple® program in 2005, partnering with six orchards on 400 acres. Today, 16 orchards and over 1400 acres are involved. Eco orchards in the Northeast expect to have a good crop this year of varieties like Honeycrisp, and Gala, as well as popular—and sometimes harder-to-find — regional specialties like McIntosh, Macoun, Cortland, and Empire. Heirloom varieties, all with unique history, shapes, colors and flavors, are also available.
2017 certified Eco Apple® producers are:
- Blue Hills Orchards, Wallingford, CT
- Lyman Orchards, Middlefield, CT
- Rogers Orchards, Southington, CT
- Fishkill Farms, Hopewell Junction, NY
- Indian Ladder Farms, Altamont, NY
- Kleins Kill Fruit Farm, Germantown, NY
- Mead Orchards, Tivoli, NY
- Orbaker’s Fruit Farm, Williamson, NY
- Sullivan Orchards, Peru, NY
- Champlain Orchards, Shoreham, VT
- Scott Farm, Dummerston, VT
- Sunrise Orchards, Cornwall, VT
- Clark Brothers Orchard, Ashfield, MA
- Davidian Brothers Farm, Northborough, MA
- Phoenix Fruit Farm, Belchertown, MA
- Schlegel Fruit Farm, Dalmatia, PA
About Red Tomato
Red Tomato is a non-profit on a mission to change the food system for the better. Working with trusted farmers, distributors and grocers, they coordinate logistics, sales and marketing to bring the freshest locally and regionally grown fruits and vegetables to people where they shop and eat everyday. For more information, visit http://www.redtomato.org/eco
Source: Red Tomato