The word of the day Tuesday, Day 4 of the IFTA conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was brrr.
Third-generation grower and parttime rock musician Gunnar Nyblad discusses some of his orchard blocks Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, during the IFTA conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Describing a Honeycrisp pruning experiment: “It will blow your mind.” (Ross Courtney/Good Fruit Grower)
With temperatures in the mid-20s and sideways snow flurries, about 385 attendees loaded onto seven busses for eight stops at orchards and facilities around the Grand Rapids area.
Orchard managers, owners and researchers showed off a variety of orchard systems. They talked about training, irrigation and mechanical hedging — a common topic at the 2016 conference.
Standing out among the stops was the Rasch Family Orchards orchard, where the tour-goers hopped into hay-ride-style trailers to reach the top of “The Ridge,” to check out two-year-old peach and apricot blocks. Organizers feared the busses wouldn’t handle the dirt roads, which weren’t completely frozen.
The most entertaining orchard host was Gunnar Nyblad, a third-generation grower who couldn’t wait to show off his Honeycrisp pruning experiment. “It will blow your mind,” he said.
When he’s not farming, he plays in a rock band named Gunnar and the Grizzly Boys. All visitors received a free CD.
On tap for today (Wednesday), with a high forecasted for 21 degrees, are conference presentations … inside.
Ross Courtney is an associate editor for Good Fruit Grower, writing articles and taking photos for the print magazine and website. He has a degree from Pacific Lutheran University. -- Follow the author -- Contact: 509-930-8798 or email.