Bee-Friendly Local Apples Help Protect Pollinators

Thanks to a farmer-scientist partnership unique to the Northeast, consumers who want to take advantage of apple season can buy Eco Apple fruit that has been grown to minimize pesticide impact on bees and other beloved beneficial pollinators.

Fifteen Northeast orchards are certified Eco Apple for 2013, the result of a breakthrough program developed by non-profit produce group Red Tomato, in partnership with a regional network of farmers and scientists.

“Our Eco Apple program is a groundbreaking collaboration between our region’s finest family farmers and scientists,” says Michael Rozyne, executive director for Red Tomato. “Together they have developed truly sustainable methods for growing delicious wholesale fruit.”

Red Tomato’s Eco Fruit program is based on advanced Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which relies primarily on the least-toxic and natural growing methods, such as biological controls, along with extensive monitoring of trees, pests and environmental conditions. The orchards are certified by the IPM Institute of North America, a non-profit based in Madison, Wis.

“Pollinators are exceptionally dedicated workers that orchardists depend on for their livelihood,” says Dr. Thomas Green, entomologist and President of the IPM Institute.  “Pollinators include managed honey bees as well as wild native bees that need to visit each blossom before it can become an apple.  Our Eco Apple growers carefully monitor pests so that pesticides are used only when absolutely necessary, and time applications selectively to avoid exposing pollinators.”

Red Tomato launched the innovative Eco Apple model in 2005 with six orchards on slightly over 400 acres. Today, the program has grown to 20 orchards on over 1000 acres; 15 orchards are certified for 2013. In 2010 the program was expanded to include stone fruit like plums, nectarines and apricots; a network of scientists and growers are now working on a similar program for berries.

Eco orchards in the Northeast have an abundant crop this year, of varieties like Gala and Honeycrisp, as well as popular – and sometimes harder-to-find – regional specialties such as McIntosh, Macoun, Cortland and Empire. Several farms also grow heirloom varieties with their unique history, shapes, colors and flavors.

The producers are: Alyson’s Orchard, Walpole, N.H.; Champlain Orchards, Shoreham, Vt.; Clark Brothers Orchard, Ashfield, Mass.; Connecticut Valley Orchard, Westminster Station, Vt.; Davidian Brothers Farm, Northborough, Mass.; Fishkill Farms, Hopewell Junction, N.Y.; Hope Orchards, Hope, Maine; Indian Ladder Orchards, Altamont, N.Y.; K. Schlegel Fruit Farm, Dalmatia, Pa.; Lyman Orchards, Middlefield, Ct.; Orbaker’s Fruit Farm, Williamson, N.Y.; Rogers Orchards, Southington, Ct.; Scott Farm, Dummerston, Vt.; Truncali Farms, Marlboro, N.Y.; Sunrise Orchards, Cornwall, Vt. 

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