The IFTA tour will visit orchards in Adams County, Pennsylvania. Courtesy Tara Baugher, Penn State
The International Fruit Tree Association’s summer tour this year has the intriguing title, Heritage and Innovation. The study tour is July 16-17 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
The heritage aspect focuses on the Battle of Gettysburg, a turning point in the American Civil War, fought 150 years ago, July 1-3, 1863. It was fought on farmland, and the Sherfy Peach Orchard and other farms are now part of the Gettysburg National Battlefield. It was dedicated as a war memorial in President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
Smithsonian magazine ranked the city of Gettysburg first among the top 20 “most intriguing small towns to enjoy arts and smarts” in its April issue.
The innovation part focuses on the fruit industry of Adams County. Dr. Tara Baugher, Penn State extension tree fruit educator, has organized a tour eight orchards that are leaders in new orchard designs and varieties, mechanization, and direct marketing.
The tour will also go to Adams County Nursery. It will take in the Penn State Research and Extension Center’s annual field day at Biglerville. Many of Penn State’s top horticultural researchers are located there.
Research presentations and demonstrations will include a look at how the behavior of brown marmorated stink bug dictated development of new pest management programs, the science of dormant pruning in high density apple plantings, labor-efficient technologies for apple and peach production systems, managing pesticide resistance for tree fruit diseases, and spotted wing drosophila and brown marmorated stink bug effects on IPM and the potential for biological control.
Officially, the study tour starts on July 15, with an evening reception and an introduction to the Adams County fruit industry, hosted by the Adams County Fruit Growers’ Association.
The next day starts on a bus at 7:30 a.m. for visits to:
Three Springs Fruit Farm: The Wenk family is in its seventh generation, a partnership of Dave, John, and Ben Wenk, chairperson of the Young Grower Alliance. Their farm was featured in the Good Fruit Grower‘s February 15, 2012 issue.
Bear Mountain Orchards: This 1,000-acre orchard was involved in the earliest trials with mechanical thinning, and Bear Mountain now thins 75 acres of peaches with their own thinners. Orchard manager Joy Cline will present on planting system transitions and production innovations. Owner John Lott will discuss the many changes in the packing industry, including new partnerships to serve growers. In the packing house, a single-lane Compac line was installed in June last year.
Kuhn Orchards: Dave and Mary Margaret Kuhn recently transitioned the business to their daughter, Sidney Kuhn, who is also a sparkplug in the Young Grower Alliance. Their move to grow for retail rather than for processing was featured in Good Fruit Grower magazine February 15, 2012.
Twin Springs Orchards: Since 1980, Twin Springs has been developing farmers’ market opportunities in the Washington, D.C., area, currently running 17 markets a week. Owners Eddie Rankin and Tom Childs will present their new Biomass Burner, a woodchip boiler to heat their greenhouses. Biofuel will reduce their carbon footprint and save on fuel costs. Arturo Diaz will showcase their peach blossom string thinner, and area growers with experience in mechanical thinning will discuss optimizing the thinning response.
Knouse Fruitlands, Inc.: Knouse Fruitlands, Inc is a third and fourth generation family business with more than 80 years in the fruit growing industry. The family grows a diversified offering of fruits and vegetables on over 625 acres. The Historic Round Barn, constructed in 1914 for the housing of animals, was converted to a farm market in 1993. Brian Knouse will present his GPS-guided planting system and discuss the growth habits of various cultivars on the tall spindle system.
The Historic Round Barn: Dinner and a sampling of early peach varieties and interspecific hybrids with “Mr. Peach”—Jerry Frecon, recently retired from Rutgers University and now working for Adams County Nursery. Dinner is hosted by the State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania.
Wednesday, July 17, bus leaves at 7:30 a.m.
Hollabaugh Bros., Inc.: Hollabaugh Bros. is owned and operated by eight second and third generation growers. As one of the first fruit growers in the area to establish true dwarf, pedestrian apple plantings in the 70’s and 80’s, the farm has gone through a steady progression of change. In the last 10 years, it has been taking a more aggressive approach to its orchard turnover and renovation as well as its direct marketing. The old market was torn down and a new one built last year. Bruce Hollabaugh will present NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant- and Specialty Crop Research Initiative-inspired technologies for conservation and automation. The story of their farm market operation was featured in the April 1, 2012, issue of Good Fruit Grower.
McCleaf’s Orchard: Corey and Vicky McCleaf are first generation growers. They have 52 acres, and are not afraid to diversify—planting anything from arugula to hardy kiwis. Growers from other regions will join Corey in sharing experiences with growing sweet cherries under high tunnels and successful training and pruning strategies for peaches. The McCleafs installed solar panels to offset energy costs for their cold storage.
Adams County Nursery: Run by the fourth and fifth generations of the Baugher family, Adams County Nursery ships approximately 900,000 trees a year to nearly 3,000 customers. They grow apple, pear, peach, nectarine, plum, apricot and cherry trees on farms in Delaware and Pennsylvania and manage 300 acres of orchards. An automated tree grading system uses visioning technology to separate trees by caliper and number of feathers. New solar panels installed on roofs offset tree storage energy costs throughout the winter months.
Pennsylvania Dutch lunch at Biglerville Firehall
Penn State Fruit Research and Extension Center Field Day
IFTA tours are seldom limited to their advertised dates, and this is no exception. There is a pre-tour and a post-tour.
On July 15, at 2:30 p.m. Ridgetop Orchards and Boyer Orchards in Bedford County are opening their farmers for tours. They grow Honeycrisp and sweet cherries and have innovative trellising.
There is no tour fee and growers must provide their own transportation, so might as well visit in the nearby Flight 93 Memorial site. Lodging recommendation the night before is the Bedford Springs Hotel.
Contact State Horticultural Association of Pennsylvania executive director Maureen Irvin for more information: (717) 677-4184.
The post-tour is also no-fee, no transportation, but an opportunity to see Knouse Foods Cooperative’s Peach Glen Plant just north of Biglerville at 8 a.m. on Friday, July 18. This grower-owned fruit processor is the largest in the nation, making processed apple and other fruit products. It has a huge sun-powered solar array covering 19 acres at the Peach Glen facility, which was described in the May 1, 2011, issue of Good Fruit Grower.
Then, from 10 to noon, Bob Black and his family open their Catoctin Mountain Orchard at Thurmont, Maryland. It’s 30 minutes south of Gettysburg. Contact Bob Black for information: (240) 409-7491. They need a head count for the tour.
The Young Grower Alliance, a group of young Mid-Atlantic States’ young growers, will arrange house stays for young growers from other areas. Contact Catherine Lara, Penn State Extension Young Grower Alliance coordinator.
If there’s time left in your itinerary, you’re not far from the nation’s captital or the large eastern cities like Baltimore.
There is also the Gettysburg Wine and Fruit Trail, made up of wineries, farm markets, and pick-your-own farms along the Pennsylvania fruit belt.
For registration information, go to www.ifruittree.org. Online registration is open until July 5. Registration is $250 before June 7, $300 after. Only IFTA members may attend. Membership costs $125 for the year.
After growing up on a Michigan dairy farm, Richard Lehnert began writing about farming in 1962, while still a junior studying journalism at Michigan State University. He worked at newspapers for a year before joining the staff of Michigan Farmer, where he spent 26 years, the last 15 as chief editor. He was a member of the staff of Good Fruit Grower from 2010 until 2015.
Read his stories: Story Index