Two of the largest wholesale operations on the International Fruit Tree Association tour in New York were Crist Brothers Orchards at Walden and Porpiglia Farms at Marlboro. Both have large acreages of fruit, mainly apples, and are vertically integrated operations that grow, pack, and distribute their own fruit. They typically grow 10 to 20 varieties.
Jeff Crist is well known in the apple industry, having served as a leader in apple organizations such as the U.S. Apple Association. The Crists built their operation on a base laid by Jeff’s father and uncle—the original Crist Brothers. He and his wife, Joy, have expanded it —and laid an even better foundation for their three children. Daughter Jennifer is very active in the Hudson Valley Young Growers, who were primary organizers of the tour.
Joy runs the large, modern packing operation, which has a three-year-old Greefa Geosort packing line with a flow-through water dumper and electronic sorters that sort by color, size, and defects, both external and internal.
Jeff runs the orchards, delegating work to orchard managers at the many orchard locations. The operation is still expanding and has more than 800 acres of apples. Jeff is buying orchard lands as they become available and renovating orchards—keeping up with new varieties—including NY 1 and NY 2—and following the lead of people like Dr. Terence Robinson at Geneva and Dr. Steve Hoying at the Hudson Lab. They say the next step beyond tall spindle is closer row spacing of —12 feet—and more trees—3 x 12 and an in-row tree spacing of 3 feet spacing—and hedgerow pruning to maintain fruiting walls two feet thick at the bottom and a foot thick at the top.
Crist has a new large planting, on 3- by 14-foot spacing, being used experimentally by Hoying and Robinson to develop this fruiting wall scheme. Robinson had explained it during the IFTA conference in Boston.
Crist also cooperates with Cornell in hosting an NC-140 cherry systems trial that has four planting systems, three rootstocks, and two varieties and is covered by a two-bay Haygrove high tunnel.
Porpiglia Farms was built by the current generation over the last 33 years by brothers Anthony and Joe, now joined by Anthony Jr., Joe Jr., and Jesse. The farm is vertically integrated, growing, packing, and distributing fruit grown on 550 acres. They grow about 20 varieties of apples and market 300,000 bushels of apples, pears, peaches, nectarines, and plums.
The farm has several planting densities and systems, but recent efforts have been toward tall spindle for apples and perpendicular V for peaches.
Another wholesale operation is called Yonder Farms, run by Peter and John Chiaro near Hudson. They have modern plantings and produce about 500,000 bushels of apples a year, including one that Cornell’s Dr. Terence Robinson has a keen interest in. Now in its seventh leaf, the planting is Red Delicious in high density on a wide variety of rootstocks.
Some of the trees are triple axis. “If you want to grow Red Delicious, this is the way to do it,” Robinson said. “It contains the vigor of the tree, and it’s a way to grow a lot of apples. We’ve had this idea in our back pocket for seven years now, and we’ve very enthusiastic about it.”