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May 30, 2016
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Going organic: Roger Hill helps O’Neill’s Orchard make the transition

Kelly O’Neill, left, and her mother, Dolores, stand among the blossoms in the orchard that grows on property that has been in their family since 1842. The orchard was planted by Dolores’s late husband, Jim, as a hobby and contains 320 trees featuring nine varieties of apples.

The treatment involves applying a beneficial probiotic spray and rebuilding the soil food web that has been damaged. “We’re trying to restore an environment that the trees can thrive in. Glyphosate kills a lot of the beneficial fungi in the root zone, so we’re going to try running the orchard prunings through a chopper to make compost that will serve as a fungal inoculant around the trees,” said Hill. He is also considering growing red clover under the trees to attract beneficial insects.

Hill is establishing an Integrated Pest Management program to address diseases and pests using lures containing pheromones that confuse pests like coddling moths and allow for timely application of organically approved treatments such as Bacillus thuringiensis or Bt.

Participants also learned what is needed to obtain organic certification along with strategies for marketing organic apples and capitalizing on niche markets.

O’Neill sees the transition as a gift to the future. “The trees are here,” she said. “I didn’t want to neglect them, but I can’t do it by myself. I want to be able to pass this on to the next several generations.”

About PASA

Since 1992, PASA has brought farmers together to learn from each other, and to build relationships between farmers and consumers looking for fresh, wholesome, locally and sustainably produced food. PASA works to improve the economic viability, environmental soundness and social responsibility of food and farming systems. The organization grew out of the need for an educational and support system for farmers-both experienced and beginning-interested in non-traditional agricultural practices, such as organic, biodynamic and grass-based farming, as well as the desire to create local markets for such sustainably produced food. PASA holds farm-based education programs throughout the state, offering insight into real-life agricultural operations and giving farmers a chance to learn from other farmers who themselves have learned through experience. Learn more at Contact for information on the local PASA chapter.