This time of year is a busy one for farmers across the country. It is also one of the most exciting times of year because this is when we get to make big decisions that effect the rest of the year, or in the case of tree fruit, the next couple decades. Right now we are preparing the land by doing things like tilling, spreading manure, laying out rows of plastic mulch to plant in, and making sure the irrigation is working efficiently. Then we are taking the plants, like the tomatoes and peppers, that we started growing from seed in the greenhouse about a month ago, and are transplanting them into the fields outside. Some other crops, like corn and pumpkins, are planted by seeding straight into the soil rather than starting them in the greenhouse. On top of all the things we do yearly, we as farmers are always making an effort to keep learning. Each year we try new things such as planting a new crop or trying a new method of growing. The goal is to maximize quality, sustainability and yield on the least amount of acres.
This year one of the new things we are trying is putting a shade cloth over 9 acres of apples at our Grandview farm. Shade cloth is a big white piece of mesh that we stretch out 15 feet above our orchard. This should keep our apples safe from hail, greatly reduce sunburn on the fruit, keep the apples slightly cooler on hot days and warmer on cold nights, and help improve the overall quality. We are also experimenting with another type of shade cloth called a drape net at the main farm. You will be able to see this on our farm tours. Instead of stretching the cloth out like a roof over the apples, we are draping the net over individual rows of apples to accomplish the same results.
Another new method that we are trying this year is blossom thinning. Each year after the apples start to grow, we thin the fruit out by taking off about 60%-80% of the apples by hand. Apples usually grow in clumps of 5 which is too many apples in a small amount of space. We typically take off 3 or 4 of the 5. If the fruit was not thinned out in the summer, come fall the apples would be tiny and poor quality and the tree would be stressed trying to bear such a heavy load. Apple trees are, by nature, biennial bearers, which means every other year they produce a large crop. This year the blossoms are unbelievable! The trees are laden with flowers, promising a large crop of apples! That is why we are trying blossom thinning before fruit thinning this year. What that means is a farmer is going through the orchard now and clipping off blossoms rather than waiting for the blossoms to turn into apples before we begin reducing the crop. Hopefully this will ease the stress of the trees so that they are happy to produce a crop again next year.
No matter what you do, it is important to keep learning. I’ve highlighted just a couple of the things we are trying out this season. Sometimes these new ideas are a great success and are things we keep doing for many many years. Other times they don’t turn out so well. Regardless of the outcome, it is worth it for us to be farmers who are always learning.
Here’s to a good year,
Rachel Davison – 4th generation
It's rhubarb season! Watch our latest recipe video with Rachel as she bakes a rhubarb cake. Come by the farm and grab a bundle of fresh rhubarb and try this delicious Davison family recipe for dessert tonight.