"For eight years now we have been conducting certified organic apple research here at the farm," said Terry Bradshaw, a research specialist for the UVM Apple Team.
Those years of research have resulted in an organic apple orchard. The trees were planted just two years ago. It is called a tall spindle system. The trees are grown close together on a wire support system. The trees don't have to grow big trunks to hold them up, so they can put all their energy into producing fruit.
"Organic production is a very, very small part of not just Vermont orchards but really anything east of the Mississippi certainly less than one percent of the acreage and total value of the crop," Bradshaw said. "And there is always interest in it but it is tricky to do."
The UVM orchard was planted with eight varieties of fruit that are all naturally resistant to apple scab. They carry a gene from crab apples that makes them naturally resistant, so they don't have to be sprayed for that common disease. And without apple scab, they don't need to spray for some of the other pests that come along with that. But some other techniques are used to manage other pests present in the orchard.
By all accounts, Bradshaw says 2013 is a very successful year.
"But I expect a tree with this much fruit planted in the density that they are in this orchard, we probably have about 300 bushels per acre in here. The statewide average for a mature orchard is 375 and these are only two years old, so the production capacity of this orchard is just tremendous," he said.
Bradshaw says this work being done at the Hort farm will translate into systems that growers can use and be economically successful in growing organic apples. While people who grow apples of course are very interested in the work that Bradshaw and his crew are doing, there is another business that is extremely interested in the organic apple crop. The expanding hard cider market is interested in this type of growing system, not necessarily because it is organic, but because of the reduced production costs. These trees are much easier to pick, saving producers time and money.
"I know there is significant demand for hundreds of thousands of gallons of Vermont juice just to fill that market this year," Bradshaw said. "And these types of orchards can help meet that demand."
In the meantime, volunteers will help pick the apples so researchers can study the fruit and make plans for improving the crop for next year.
Saturday, December 7 2013 9:24 AM EST2013-12-07 14:24:20 GMT
"St. Johnsbury has enough to offer that you don't get too bored," says resident Riley Barter. She has a new appreciation for the place she calls home. "I guess I never realized how unique St. JohnsburyMore >>
Hundreds of St. Johnsbury Academy seniors take risks with their Capstone projects.More >>
Saturday, December 7 2013 9:12 AM EST2013-12-07 14:12:35 GMT
In Burlington's Old North End there are still hints of what used to be -- a bustling Little Jerusalem years go. But one symbol of the area's past is not so obvious."It's priceless, it literally is oneMore >>
In Burlington's Old North End there are still hints of what used to be -- a bustling Little Jerusalem years go. But one symbol of the area's past is not so obvious.More >>
Saturday, December 7 2013 8:32 AM EST2013-12-07 13:32:27 GMT
If you're lucky, you may have seen a snowy owl in Vermont. Researchers say the birds are traveling even farther south than usual -- some even as far south as North Carolina. We spotted one Friday afternoonMore >>
Researchers say snowy owls are traveling even farther south than usual, and that means more sightings here in Vermont.More >>
Saturday, December 7 2013 7:51 AM EST2013-12-07 12:51:22 GMT
South Burlington police say a shoplifter tried to hide her drugs by swallowing them at the police station. Police arrested Diana Matt Friday night at the University Mall Kohl's for allegedly stealingMore >>
South Burlington police say a shoplifter tried to hide her drugs by swallowing them at the police station.More >>
Saturday, December 7 2013 7:49 AM EST2013-12-07 12:49:56 GMT
Police in Brattleboro are looking for the driver of a car that hit and killed a pedestrian Friday night. Police say, just after 7 p.m., the car struck the man at Western Avenue and Union Street and thenMore >>
Police in Brattleboro are looking for the driver of a car that hit and killed a pedestrian Friday night.More >>
Friday, December 6 2013 11:16 PM EST2013-12-07 04:16:55 GMT
A Connecticut man is charged with DUI after police say he admitted to overdosing on prescribed Ritalin when he was pulled over. The incident happened on Route 105 in Berkshire late Friday afternoon. AuthoritiesMore >>
A Connecticut man is charged with DUI after police say he admitted to overdosing on prescribed Ritalin when he was pulled over.More >>
Friday, December 6 2013 10:03 PM EST2013-12-07 03:03:22 GMT
In Dorset, a car crashed into a bank and there was no drive-through lane.The car jumped the curb in front of the Berkshire Bank Friday morning, taking out a railing and getting hung up on the front steps.More >>
In Dorset, a car crashed into a bank -- and there was no drive-through lane. More >>
Friday, December 6 2013 10:01 PM EST2013-12-07 03:01:17 GMT
The longtime bookkeeper at Cold Hollow Cider Mill is expected to plead guilty to embezzling from the business and a local youth hockey program.Cold Hollow in Waterbury is one of Vermont's top tourist attractions.More >>
The longtime bookkeeper at Cold Hollow Cider Mill is expected to plead guilty to embezzling from the business and a local youth hockey program.More >>