We get asked all the time. “What do you do all winter?”
Actually I am glad that people ask. It’s nice to welcome all our customers to our farm when we are open during our harvest, but, in reality, most of the growing work gets done at other times of the season. Winter is no exception.
Winter at the orchard is for learning. We attend training seminars and trade shows sponsored by grower organizations. The latest technology and equipment is always interesting and new information is vital to keeping our orchard productive and financially viable. Hot topics this winter have been: food safety on the farm, use of weather stations for reducing pesticide use, new rootstocks and tree training systems.
Winter is also for evaluating what worked well and what did not during the past year. This touches all aspects of the orchard. We look at our marketing, customer service training, event planning and our retail sales mix. We also spend time on the selection of seeds and plant materials for the coming year. We constantly update our mix of pumpkin varieties, trial new strawberry varieties, and try out new apple rootstocks for grafting or order new apple trees to replace old ones.
Winter is for maintenance. Our equipment and buildings suffer a lot of wear and tear in the course of a growing season. Maintenance is a never-ending task but we try to get our stuff ready for the new growing year before we actually need it again.
Winter is for pruning. Each winter every tree in the orchard needs to be pruned. Opening up the trees for good sunlight and air penetration is probably the most important cultural practice we do. It ensures that we have the potential to grow the healthiest and most nutritious fruit possible in the coming year. Pruning typically starts the end of January and continues until spring bud break.
We do try to work at a slower pace, catch our breath and to be ready to charge back into the growing season when spring rolls around!
We hope you are enjoying your winter and we look forward to seeing you again at the orchard!