ORGANICS ARE PART OF OUR MISSION
We’ve made lasting changes to our growing operations with the goal of preserving the environment for generations to come. We have been in the apple business for over 120 years and we hope to continue for centuries more.
WHOLESOME TO THE CORE
For us, Wholesome to the Core isn’t just a mission – it’s how we live. It’s always been how we live.
As early as the 1940’s some of the first farmers were cultivating organics and by the 1970’s organics was creating a niche for eco farmers. By the 1990’s we could see that changing agriculture production and eager consumers wanted more food choices, so around 1998 we decided to give organics a go. Just like our earliest generations had left the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and headed west in search of opportunity, four generations later we knew that our legacy still depended on that same pioneer spirit and our new frontier was organics.
The early days were not easy, especially as the industry and government worked together to not only define organics, but set rules and regulations and it wasn’t until 2002 that the National Organic Standards were adopted.
WHAT DO THOSE STANDARDS MEAN?
TIME TO CERTIFY
Any land used for organic production must have no prohibited substances applied to it for three years before you can harvest an organic crop from it. That doesn’t mean you don’t use the land. The land can still grow fruit or vegetables and you can harvest them, but you need to follow organic farming practices and you can’t sell the harvested products as organic during this time.
The inputs for your crops must be organic in nature and managed through a variety of management practices like conservation tillage, crop rotations, cover crops, biological or mechanical controls and more. There is a short list of approved organic controls and a very long list of stuff not to do or use.
LABELED WITH A SEAL
Each of our organic products is clearly labeled with the USDA Organic seal which verifies we are following all of the laws and regulations of organic production and are regularly audited to certify our compliance. You can learn more about the USDA Organic program here.
BUT THE DO’S AND DON’TS DID NOT DETER US.
THE EARLY YEARS WERE HARD. WE SUCCEEDED, WE FAILED AND WE TRIED AGAIN. WE RESEARCHED, WE ASKED QUESTIONS, WE EXPERIMENTED, AND GRADUALLY WE LEARNED. AND MORE IMPORTANTLY, DAY BY DAY WE BEGAN REAPING THE BENEFITS OF THAT BIG LEAP.
The sales tell us you are buying more and more and your kind words when you try our organic fruits prove to us we are doing the right thing.
Just like it’s a choice for you to buy organics, it’s a choice for us to grow organics. It’s about our values system…our fundamental belief that we should be wholesome to the core. It’s this single statement that reminds us to focus on healthy lifestyles that support our consumers and the environment we love.
From thriving honeybee populations thanks to our wildflower plantings, to ladybugs, owls and more, we are nurturing more nature and reaping the rewards with healthier ecosystems everywhere we turn. And healthy changes to our growing operations didn’t just occur in our organic production. We’ve applied many of our organic growing techniques and learnings to our conventional production that allow us to continue to make sustainable leaps in all of our orchards and throughout our business.
HERE’S A FEW OF OUR SUCCESS STORIES
Nothing gets thrown away – we recycle everything, even our cull fruit. It goes to juice, processing, livestock feed or is composted to be reused. The same applies to food waste in store. Because our organic process requires the use of organic inputs like organic fertilizers we partnered with WISErg on a unique process that collects outdated food and food waste from stores and converts them into an all-natural liquid fertilizer that we reapply in our orchards. This is a truly full circle use and not only does it keep food waste out of our landfills it also allows for cost savings over traditional fertilizers.
We have also worked to move from low volume traditional orchards to high density plantings and our own in-house nursery. Traditional low volume orchards have 112-245 trees on one acre and high volume orchards have 700-3000 trees on one acre. These types of orchards have many sustainability features including saving labor, reducing total land use, improving water efficiency and making for easier and safer harvest and pruning for employees.
Our in-house nursery allows us to maximize overall affordability and control of our operations and sustainability by avoiding transporting trees and rootstock bundles from different areas reducing freight and related carbon emissions.
Water is one of the most valuable resources all over the world. The fact that we farm in the high desert and rely on irrigation makes water even more important. We’ve worked to reduce our per acre water usage each year. One of the most important water savings is upgrading to micro and drip irrigation practices. Traditional irrigation methods used as much as 140 gallons/acre/minute. Drip irrigation only uses 13 gallons/acre/minute is direct to each tree and its root ball avoiding overwatering the whole area. Additionally, our irrigation is monitored using sensor technology that shows us what is going on in each area.
We have technology systems called Semios that monitor weather and allow for wireless integrated pest management that disrupt pest mating behavior and provide automated pest trap camera information that allows us to use non-chemical interventions. Our horticulturalists and entomologists monitor changing conditions from in the field and from their phones or computers via a highly evolved system of technology including drones. Thanks to our organic practices and integrated pest management systems that have reduced the use of pesticides – we’ve seen the reemergence of beneficial insects that had been gone for 30 years.
Other non-chemical interventions include our work to reestablish native plants and wildflowers to enhance beneficial insects and pollinator populations. We plan rows of pollinator plants like clover between the trees. It acts as cover crops reducing runoff, helps to manage weeds, improves soil structure and increases moisture retention – along with providing critical habitat for beneficial insects like bees, ladybugs and dragonflies. Learn more about our partnership with Xerces Society here.