Like it or not, it's September, and for me, one of the great joys of fall is apple picking. I love to load up on crisp, sweet-tart apples for snacking and baking. But what's a pesticide-avoiding mama to do? Apples rank number 2 in the EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pecticides, with a 93/100 score for pesticide load. Every year so far, I've thrown caution to the wind and gone to an orchard that uses conventional pest management practices (Honey Pot Hill in Stowe is my favorite, but more for the doughnuts than anything!).
I decided that this year, we need to get serious and find a place that uses low-spray or organic practices in its orchards, and let me tell you, they're tough to find. It's difficult and expensive to grow organic orchard fruit - apples are beset by many pests and diseases. Your only choice for certified organic, pick-your-own apples around here is the Old Frog Pond Farm in Harvard.
Far more farms in the area use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) systems. What's IPM? IPM has been used by growers and researchers for over 25 years in New England orchards. It's a "best practices" approach that primarily relies on cultural practices to maintain tree health, and the action of beneficial organisms to manage pests. IPM growers seek to use the lowest possible dosage of the least disruptive pesticide, only when pest populations exceed economic threshold levels and alternative methods are ineffective. As with organic farming, IPM emphasizes plant health and cultural practices as the first line of defense against pests. But unlike organic farming, which allows only the use of pesticides derived from natural sources, IPM does allow the use of synthetic pesticides.
There are 10 choices for IPM pick-your-own in the Greater Boston area:
- Shelburne Farms in Stowe
- Bolton Spring Farm in Bolton
- Nicewicz Family Farm in Bolton
- Autumn Hills Orchard in Groton
- Clearview Farm in Sterling
- Connor's Farm in Danvers
- Ashby Apples in Ashby
- Russell's Orchard in Ipswitch
- Kimball's Fruit Farm in Pepperell
- Cider Hill Farms in Amesbury
If you know of others, add them in the comments, please! And do yourself a favor and call the orchard before you pack up the car and head out - find out what they're picking on any particular day so you're not disappointed.