Concord “Ag” Day and Apple Update

August was feeling like September, but September has rocked us back to July. Just a reminder that summer crops are still abundant! We’ve got tomatoes pouring in from the fields, and winter squash is starting to make its voice heard in the farmstand. We also want to remind everyone about Concord Ag Day on Saturday, September 13th when Main St. is closed and downtown Concord is transformed into a one-day farmer’s market. Most of the numerous farms located in town will have stands set up at the market which will run from 10AM until 2PM. As a result, we will not be attending the Somerville Union Square Farmers’ Market- our apologies to our Somerville customers! We’ll be back the following week. Ag Day also kicks of Concord’s second annual Farm and Garden Fair, highlighting events like the Ag Day farmer’s market, the Stone Soup dinner at Verrill Farm, and a wide variety of farm and garden tours, restaurant specials, and other events. Hutchins will be hosting two tours in the afternoon on Sunday the 14th-one at 1:30 PM, and another at 3:30. (no need to sign up in advance this year) For further details on the Farm and Garden Fair, check out www.concordfood.ning.com.

            For those who have been contacting us about bulk purchases of storage crops, keep an eye out for another e-mail in early October. Supplies of carrots and potatoes look good. Winter squash also looks abundant for a change, but about the apples – well, that’s a different story. Here is a note from John about apples:

Scarce and perplexing sums up our 2014 apple crop prospects. With the limits of organic practices we had expected a lighter crop this year after a bountiful crop like that of 2013. An inability to thin significantly in the short time period after early June fruit set in one year reduces the prospects of a strong return bloom the following Spring. The chemical thinning materials that would make that possible are not permitted in organic orchards. Still we can usually expect and indeed had at least a light bloom this May. The set however was terrible almost throughout our different orchard blocks.

     We do have a crop of Macoun, Gala and Senshu in the orchard just below the farm stand. Though a little spotty we will harvest a near normal crop in that area. These trees represent about 10 percent of the farm’s potential crop.Our organic disease and insect controls proved their usual effectiveness.

     Virtually nothing anywhere else. Why? Alternate ‘off’ year for many varieties after last year’s big crop; we also think three other factors may also be involved:

1) Until this past one recent winters have been mild. Dramatic temperature drops as in the 2013-2014 winter reduce the viability of fruit buds. Trees may appear to bloom, but their reproductive elements – pollen, stamens, pistils – may be damaged. Our orchards are mostly in the valley. The planting below the farm stand is the only one with even a hint of elevation and it has a crop. Most commercial orchards are on hillsides, slopes where there is air movement. Our orchard is at the bottom of a hill where the cold settles.

2) Pollinating insects were late due to the cool spring. The different wild bee/pollinators were almost invisible during bloom. Andy and Nick’s honey bees arrived only just as the apples were blooming.

3) Finally this year’s Spring was cool and slow. Winter moth is a challenging new pest, populations building only in the last three or four years. The organic materials – BT, spinosad, and our light horticultural oil – we can direct at winter moth eggs and larvae have short effective lives, and have no persistence and no effect on any larvae inside buds.   Where the winter moth emergence in a warm Spring was fast and concentrated, our schedule of control was adequately effective in our apples – and blueberries. With emergence drawn out over the slow, cool Spring our organic material defenses are not enough. The orchard block below the farm stand is not as much in the lee of overarching oaks from which winter moth larvae can float as the other orchard blocks with absent fruit set. Once inside the fruit bud the larvae destroy it though from a distance the emerging flower appears to bloom. Conventionally sprayed orchards are not affected by winter moth.

So we will have a few apples. The pressure to produce will probably put more imperfections on the table. More apples would mean more perfect ones. Fortunately the autumn vegetable harvest looks awesome. Please tolerate our meager apple crop this year and hope for another stellar crop in 2015.   Oh, no Honeycrisp at all.

Thank you for your support,

         John, Brian, and all of us at Hutchins

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