April 9 Michigan Organic Listserv Prt II

Fruit Production


Frost threatening local crops after mild winter

Blossoms showing up five weeks ahead of schedule

by Chris Gray




Wind machines, straw and irrigation may protect crops from frost damage, but local farmers and growers like Paul Blake of Blake's Orchard are turning to one other method: Keeping their fingers crossed. "We'd be happy with half a crop, that's what we're hoping for," Blake said.


Pit fruits like cherries, plums andpeaches are blossoming five weeks ahead of schedule, causing growers to worry that Michigan's fickle weather will damage delicate blooms with a frost or freeze and destroy their crops. However, if the temperatures stay warm by May, thearea could see a great harvest this year.


Bob Tritten has been the fruit educator for Michigan State University Extension for 33 growing seasons, studying the state's fruit crops and conditions. He said this was the third or fourth mildest winter in state history, causing fruit crops to bloom around five weeks earlier. However, this means they're susceptible to cold temperatures, such as the frost experienced on March 26 and 27.


"(The frost) possibly could've thinned out or killed flower buds on peaches and sweet cherries, and maybe impacted us a little on apples," Tritten said. He said it's too early to predict if the harvest will be thin this year, but added if the area can get to the second week in May without temperatures hitting around 29 degrees, the crops should be fine. "Last summer and fall was a favorable growing season, and late fall helped produce flower buds for us," he said. "If we don't get frosted out, we have the potential for a nice crop right now."


Protecting produce

Orchards use multiple ways of guarding their crops from frost, sometimes all at once.

For instance, Blake's Orchard uses wind machines to generate breezes, but Blake said it only covers about five acres of orchard. He said he keeps praying that the cold has ended, as his pit fruits begun blossoming four weeks early. "There has never been a year like this since my brother and I ran this," he said. "Aside from the frost and freezing, though, we'll take a crop anytime we can get it."


Other growers, like Bill Verellen of Verellen Orchards, agree they've never experienced a season like this, but heard stories about a similar season the year World War II ended.

"My dad said in 1945 it bloomed early and they lost everything that year," Verellen said.

His orchard uses wind machines as well as burning brush to create warm air to circulate through the orchard. "If it stays on the cool side it can always catch up to a normal harvest," he said. "We'll probably finish earlier because of the weather." Verellen was hopeful, though, saying as long as it doesn't dip to 20 degrees his crops should be fine. "We're totally loaded with blooms, so we can lose some," he said.


At Westview Orchards, co-owner Katrina Schumacher said she spotted bees already pollinating blossoms, meaning the harvest will likely begin early. "We're already pushing three weeks ahead of our normal springtime schedule," she said. "We're optimistic but cautious<if there's damage, hopefully it's minimal." Like Verellen, Westview uses controlled fires to generate smoke and heat and keep straw on strawberries to retain some heat. "We'll turn on sprinklers and irrigation systems and it will literally freeze the plants," she said. "As the frozen water melts, it creates a temperature difference, so that's a way of protecting the blossoms." Schumacher said aside from preventative measures, the best the orchards can do is hope for cloudy nights and a breeze to keep the frost from forming.


No fruit, but freezing problems

George VanHoutte of the Northern Farm Market said he doesn't have fruit trees to worry about, but is wondering how the season will affect upcoming plantings for vegetables like corn and tomatoes. "We'll try not to get the tomatoes out until the 10th or 15th of May, because if you get a frost on it you lose them all," VanHoutte said. He said the season reminds him of a time in the `30s when his grandfather lost an entire field of corn on the Fourth of July in Ohio. "That's a late frost, so anything can happen," he said. "I've never seen two years that were the same, and I've been farming all my life with my dad."


In addition, he said the weather will affect insect populations, which could mean more spraying for farmers. However, like the other growers, he is remaining hopeful. "The best thing for us to do now is get fertilizer down, get the equipment ready," he said.


Tart Cherry Crop Damage

by Christina Burkhart


Cool morning lows in the 20's on March 26th combined with windy conditions caused many tart cherry trees to becomedamaged.



We spoke with Cherry Bay, Friske, and King Orchards and also the MSU Extension Center regarding this damage. ErinLizotte of the Extension Center stated, "We saw upwards of about 70% damage in the initial survey that we've done looking at flower buds in the area. We've heard lower and higher reports from growers just depending on their location, and where they were at in terms of crop development."


Normally, the majority of orchards in Northern Michigan use large fans to continually mix the air- preventing thecold air from pooling in low areas of the orchards. Not many orchards in this area overhead irrigate crops like you may see in other fruit orchards out west, say in Washington. Here, most places don't have the infrastructure to use water as a protectant, and with the very cold temperatures we can have here it doesn't help as much as it would in a milder climate. Therefore, if we do have windy, cold nights, unfortunately there's not a lot that can be done to protect the fruit and it's a waiting game to assess damage.


With the recent warm weather we've had, the growing season has kicked off to an early start-beginning about 5 weeksahead of schedule. Tart cherries normally bloom and ripen early in the year and are already susceptible to early frosts (this is avoided in annual crops bydelaying planting). However, the MSU extension office stated that while risk is something growers have every year, with such an early warm up the risk window has been prolonged from 4-6 weeks to 10+ weeks of concern.


Richard Friske, of Friske Orchards,explained that the tart cherries were in the waterbud stage- the bud is tight, but the moisture in it can freeze, and that coldness can transfer to the fruit at the base of the bud, possibly killing it. Of the few he's looked at, he hasn't found a good, healthy bud yet. Friske, along with Don of Cherry Bay Orchards and Jim King of King Orchards, know there's damage- it's just not completely clear how much.


King has had bees trucked in from Florida about 4 weeks ahead of schedule to try and help with pollination. But now that we're back in chillier weather, the bees are moving limitedly- and he's notsure it's even warm enough for the pollen to move down the tube and fertilize the flower. Regarding other fruit crops, King said that his peach, apricot,sweet cherry, and apple trees are doing ok for now, but with more cold nights ahead he's not sure how they'll fare. Friske agreed, saying the sweet cherries aren't damaged yet, but are in a vulnerable stage.


The National Weather Service has issued a freeze warning for tonight for every county in the L.P. in our viewing area, and sub-freezing temperatures are expected for the next several nights. Lows are expected to be in the low 20s inland and the mid and upper 20s along the lakes.


Lizotte made sure to add that we won't have a definite idea of what this year's crop size looks like for weeks to come, but that the industry has a safety net in place. Tart cherries have been stored from previous years to make sure markets stay full of products and tart cherry lovers can still find them on the shelf at grocery stores.


Michigan cherry producers approve continuation referendum

Michigan’s cherry producers have approved a referendum to continue the Michigan Cherry Promotion and Development Program.

Friday, March 30



Established in May 1972, the Michigan Cherry Promotion and Development Program was created to improve the economic position of the state’s cherry producers by identifying additional marketing opportunities for Michigan cherries.


It will continue for an additional five years beginning July 1. The current program assessment is $10 per ton for sweet or tart cherries; and $5 per ton for cherries sold for juice.  


A total of 130 valid ballots were cast in the referendum. Of those, 114 producers voted yes (88 percent) representing 99 million pounds of cherries (91 percent of the production volume represented) and 16 producers voted no (12 percent) representing 8 million pounds (12 percent).


For renewal of the program and its activities, more than 50 percent of the voting producers, representing morethan 50 percent of the pounds sold by those voting, must vote to approve.


Apples: How to know what to plant

If you’re not planting and replanting your orchards on a continual basis, you’re setting yourself up for trouble.

April 2012



 Terence Robinson, a professor at Cornell University, recommended a high-density planting system at the Mid-Atlantic Fruit & Vegetable Convention in Hershey, Pa.


“Our team has determined that the most economical way to go is planting between 900 to 1,300 trees per acre in a tall-spindle, trellised system,” said Robinson, a professor in the Department of Horticulture at Cornell University. “If you want to get the most money per acre from your farm, that is what we suggest.”


He also said that for maximum viability and sustainability, growers want to be in a constant state of replanting. Aminimum of 4 to 5 percent of your acreage should be replanted annually, withless than 15 percent of the land being non-bearing at any time, he said. This would result in your entire farm being completely replanted over the course of 20 to 25 years.


“This ensures that your orchards aren’t tied up completely with older varieties and that you’re maximizing the potential of your property,” Robinson said.


Now, what to plant


Selecting varieties is a critical step in the success of your orchard, Robinson said. The best way to ensure the longevity of your farm is to make new plantings a mix of the tried and true, and the new. Half of any new planting should be in a variety that is well established and has a successful record in your area, Robinson said. For most, that would include Gala, Macintosh, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Empire, Cortland and others that have a strong following in the consumer market.


“These varieties have a solid history of selling well and are a staple of the industry,” he said. “Consumers know them and you know how to grow them. It is a safe bet.”


The next 40 percent should be a newvariety that perhaps you don’t have much experience with or is relatively new to the consumers in your area, Robinson said. These varieties may also be alittle more labor intensive to grow – think Honeycrisp, Jonagold, Golden Supreme, Fuji and others.


“Honeycrisp is a great apple, but it can be a challenge to grow,” he said. “It is better to hedge your bets and plant slightly less of these varieties, especially since the consumer is willing to pay a premium price for them in your market.”


As for the final 10 percent, take agamble. “Go with something new,” Robinson said. “This would be a good time to look at a club variety like Sweetango, or a variety that just came out on the market such as Zestar! or Blondee.”


Selecting the right variety depends on your market, location and availability of trees. It can be easy to make a mistake, said Paul Wooley, a tree sales specialist from Greenwich, N.Y. Wooley sells trees and owns Honeysp.com, a tree and apples sales business.


“When the Honeycrisp apple started to take off, we told everyone to plant them,” Wooley said. “We learned very quickly, however, that that was not the right call. The apple is pretty finicky about the zone, climate and soil type it will succeed in.” Work with your local Extension and tree sales person to make the right call on variety, Robinsonsaid.


Picking the right rootstock is alsovital to success, Robinson said. Questions here include: How well will the rootstock support the scion, will it have the proper vigor to grow fruit at an optimum level and will the rootstock work for your climate and soil type? “You have to take into account the vigor of the scion when picking the rootstock,” Robinson said.


Disease resistance is also a factor. In some areas, fire blight is a major concern. There are some fire blight-resistant rootstocks, but will they provide the proper amount of vigor for the scion? Irrigation and fertigation choices are also important, as are training techniques. These decisions directly relate to the varieties you choose to plant, Robinson said. All of them together have a direct impact on your economic success.


Vegetable Production


A good corn crop starts with a good stand

Attention to detail before and after you get to the field pays in the long run. Better stands lead to better yields. Planter performance, planting depth and soil conditions are three key factors that contribute to a good corn stand.

Marilyn L. Thelen, Michigan State University Extension

Published April 3, 2012



Now is the time to put the finishing touches on corn planter maintenance and repair. Taking the time to service and repair planter units will improve performance and limit downtime. Test planter performance before planting to see that all units are operating correctly.


Field corn planting depth varies bysoil type and planting conditions. Typically 1.5 to 2 inches is recommended.Earlier planted corn can be planted more shallow, but not less than 1.5 inches. Corn planted in sandy soils may be planted as deep as 3 inches. Sandy soil typically will not crust and deeper placement may be necessary to place seeds in uniform soil moisture. Check placement while you are planting and adjust for conditions. Look for seeds to be placed in the bottom of the planting “V” in loose, moist soil. Planting in uniform moisture at the appropriate depth for conditions will lead to more uniform emergence.


Avoid compaction by planting into soil conditions that are dry enough to prevent sidewall compaction and allow forgood seed coverage. A shiny appearance to the sidewall of the planting “V” and difficulty closing the trench both contribute to uneven emergence. In addition, sidewall compaction will inhibit good root development.


Investing in good seed placement and planting in optimal soil conditions will give the seed a better chance of germination as well as fast and uniform emergence.


Field Crop Production


8 tips for preparing a planter for fieldwork

Source: Kinze Manufacturing

Apr. 4, 2012

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Proper planter maintenance is critical for correctly placing expensive seed into the ground when planting begins. Farmers need to take care of the maintenance now before the planting windowopens. An expert in planter maintenance, service manager Phil Jennings withKinze Manufacturing offers eight tips for proper planter maintenance:


1. Inspect soil-engaging components. “Consistent planter performance starts with a planter that is in goodmechanical condition,” Jennings says. “Make a close inspection of the soil-engaging components on the row units. Badly worn parts must be replaced or planter efficiency will be impaired.”


2. Check disc opener blades. Farmers should check the wear on disc blades and replace 15-inch blades when they are worn to 14.5 inches in diameter. Inspect the disc blade contact, too. “Optimal disc blade contact is 1 to 1.5 inches to form the seed trench,” Jennings says.


3. Inspect inner scraper. The innerscraper should protect the seed tube. “This prevents soil buildup between the opener blades,” he adds. “Replace scrapers when they are worn to five-eighths inch or less.”


4. Check gauge wheels. Look at the gauge wheels for light contact of the tire to blade in the operating position, Jennings says. He also recommends looking over the arm and bushings. Different field conditions can affect the depth adjustment of the planter. “Be sure to check and adjust the depth when field conditions change,” he says.


5. Assess closing wheel performance. Closing wheels must be centered over the seed trench. “Apply only enough down pressure to maintain good seed-to-soil contact,” Jennings says. Closing wheels may be offset slightly for better residue flow, he adds. If the closing wheel plugs with crop residue, the seed trench won’t close properly. An optional closing wheel shield might be needed to help prevent stalks from lodging in the closing wheel arm.


6. Adjust hitch. “Hitch adjustment is another important factor of consistent seed depth, spacing and seed-to-soilcontact,” he says. “Adjust the hitch height so the tongue runs parallel to the ground when the planter is in planting position.” The parallel arms of the row unit should be approximately level when the toolbar is 20 to 22 inches above the planting surface. On the planter’s parallel arms, check the bolts, bushings, down-pressure springs and the drive chains to be sure all the parts are performing optimally.


7. Inspect other planter attachments. Inspecting no-till planter parts also is critical to optimizing planter efficiency. No-till coulters should be set at a depth slightly above the disc-opener blades. Residue wheels are intended to move obstacles in the path of the row unit. Residue wheels should be adjusted to just skim the planting surface and may not turn 100% of the time.


8. Conduct full field check. Alwaysconfirm what you “think” is happening with a full field check. It is not enough to just dig a few seeds up behind the planter. Jennings strongly recommends a full 1/1,000-acre field check when any settings or adjustments are made. For 30-inch rows, that is a 17.5-foot-row length. Tie up a set of closing wheels and drive ahead at planting speed. “Take the time to prove it to yourself that the job is getting done right,” Jennings says. “The extra 15 minutes is an inexpensive insurance policy. Dirt is the real test.” Farmers then can visibly see all of the critical factors for success, including consistent seed depth, seed spacing, and seed-to-soil contact.


Educational Opportunities


Attention fellow denizens of Mother Gaia

In honor of Earth Day, April 22, 2012, mycologist/microbial ecologist Chris Wright of Michigan State University and Easygrow Mushrooms and Composting LLC will be presenting a free lecture on ³The Importance of Fungi in Sustaining the Earth!²  Chris will talk about the importance of fungi to various aspects of our biome, and discuss how the actions of people-kind are impacting the biosphere. This 50 minute, free presentation will directly precede a 3 hour, hands-on workshop on ³Growing Gourmet Mushrooms on Logs.² This workshop will provide hands-on instruction on how to inoculate and cultivate mushrooms on logs. Each participant will inoculate their own log with the mushroom of their choice and will bring the log home with them at the completion of the workshop. All materials and complete instruction (with handouts) on how to produce gourmet mushrooms on logs are included in the price of

tuition ($60 per participant).  Anyone who is considering to integrate mushroom cultivation into their farm or cropping system is strongly encouraged to attend. Chris has been growing mushrooms and presenting workshops on mushroom cultivation for over 25 years, and is ready to share his experience with you. The cost of the workshop is $60. Class size is limited, and pre-registration is required. To register call Colasanti's Produce and Plants @ 248-887-0012, extension 0. Colasanti¹s Market, 468 S. Milford Road Highland, MI 48357.  www.colasantis.com.


Please note that it is not necessary to enroll in the mushroom cultivation workshop to attend the free Earth Day presentation. If you would like to access previous postings to the Mich-Organic listserv you can copy and paste the following URL into your browser address bar http://list.msu.edu/archives/mich-organic.html



Grants and other financial opportunities


Announcing the 2012-2013 Michigan Farm to School Grant Program!

Food service directors must often work through numerous challenges to start or expand farm to school programs. The goal of the MI Farm to School Grant Program is to help overcome some of these challenges, and initiate and expand farm to school programs across the state.


With funding from the WK Kellogg Foundation, the MI Farm to School Grant Program was able to award EIGHT Michigan K-12 schools/districts with funds to plan for or implement farm toschool programs in 2011. The second grant program year is September 1, 201-June 1, 2013, early childcare programs are eligible to apply for planning grants. The MI Farm to School Planning Grant will help schools and early childcare programs plan for integrating fresh, local foods into cafeterias AND ultimately develop a Farm to School Action Plan to implement a farm to school program after the grant year.


The MI Farm to School Implementation Grant will help schools put existing farm to school plans into action AND ultimately develop a Farm to School Sustainability Plan to keep a farm to school program going and growing in future years.


Eligibility: A goal of this program is to help vulnerable children find more healthy and local food choices in school meals programs. K-12 school food service programs must have at least 50% free and reduced-price meal enrollment and at least 50% of early childcare program participants must be eligible to receive Tier I reimbursement rates at the time this application is completed.


Only school food service/nutrition directors can apply for their school district(s) or school(s). Food servicedirectors from a school district may choose to focus on a few school buildings or an entire school districts food service program, but the district must have 50% free and reduced price meal enrollment. Private or charter schools may apply as an individual school.


Only one application for either theplanning or implementation grant (not both) is allowed per district or private/charter school per grant year. You can also find the application materials and sample grant applications on our website at http://www.mifarmtoschool.msu.edu/index.php?id=48.

To be reviewed, complete applications must be received by 5 pm EST on Friday, May 4th, 2012. Email completed application as an attachment to Jekeia Murphy at [log in to unmask].


Funding Research for Organic Produce

February 13, 2012



Organic growers in Oregon may be growing sweeter corn, while their counterparts in North Carolina will be testing new varieties of broccoli, thanks to grants awarded by the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) Board of Directors. Additional grants will fund projects designed to help organic growers increase their yields while decreasing their expenses. The OFRF Board approved four grants totally $50,640 to help grow the industry’s organic knowledge. Here are some details about the grants:


   —Researchers from Washington State University will receive a $14,996 grant to conduct field tests at eight organic farms in western Washington to help match the requirements of a variety of crops with the amount of natural fertilizer needed for maximum productivity. The overall goal of the project is for farmers to reduce the use of fertilizers, saving money and preventing unused nutrients from washing into nearby streams or rivers.


   —Farmers who produce organic seeds will benefit from a $12,500 grant awarded to the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Preservation. As there has been concern recently that pollinating bees may contaminate organic plants with pollen from non-organic crops, the project will identify native bee species that are drawn to specific crops.


   —The OFRF teamed up with the Cliff Bar Family Foundation to award two additional grants to researchers in Oregon creating new varieties of sweet corn and broccoli best suited for organic farmers in North Carolina. The $8,410 grant awarded to Jonathan Spero of Lupine Knoll Farm in Williams, OR, continues sweet corn research started last year. Jeanine Davis of the North Caroline State University Mountain Research Station will use the $14,734 grant to develop and test new varieties of broccoli for the western part of the state.


This information for this article was provided by

the Organic Farming Research Foundation;



Attention Organic Vegetable Producers!

If you are interested in selling your produce to Safeway in Chicago, please contact Dave Keating contact info listed below:


Good Morning,

I am the Safeway buyer for Organic Veg and would like some information on any local organic produce vendors that could support our Local Organic Produce Drive at our Dominicks stores in Chicago. My number is 623-869-4102

Thanks for your assistance.

Dave Keating

Commodity Buyer

Safeway Corporate Produce


FarmAbility II


Contributing Writer

Program helps farmers conserve land, improve skills and transition to the next generation



LAKE LEELANAU – The second application round for Leelanau County’s FarmAbility Program will begin this month. Eligible Leelanau County applicants will be considered on a “first-come-first-served” basis.


All who are interested in applying can do so in person from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. beginning April 2 at the Leelanau Conservation District offices, 112 W. Philip St., in Lake Leelanau, Thereafter, drop-in hours will be from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays at the Conservation District offices, and from 1:30 to 4 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursdays at the Leelanau Conservancy (105 N. First St.) in Leland. Drop-inhours will continue until 5,000 acres are enrolled in the program.


“Based on how well folks took to the program three years ago, FarmAbility applications may fill up even faster this time around,” said Leelanau Conservancy Director of Farm Programs, Tom Nelson.


FarmAbility’s four partneringorganizations: the Leelanau Conservancy, the Leelanau Conservation District,MSU Extension, and the NW Michigan Horticultural Research Center, are excited about the response that the program has seen, and the Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy, the Grand Traverse Conservation District, and others are slated to begin offering the FarmAbility Program in several strongly agricultural townships in Grand Traverse and Antrim counties later this year.


FarmAbility is the first such program in the nation – a privately-funded effort that pays farming families annually to conserve their farms for 10 years and provides cost-sharing for agricultural workshops and seminars, as well as estate planning to help farmers transition their farms into the hands of the next generation of growers. Private dollars, including a grant from Rotary Charities of Traverse City, take care of all the necessary funding.


When Nelson and Leelanau Conservation District Executive Director Buzz Long opened the first program in March 2009, they weren’t sure what response it would receive, especially as their meeting with the public at the Leelanau Conservation District offices in Lake Leelanau was scheduled for a Monday morning after a snowstorm. “I remember standing there with Buzz and a cup of coffee, staring at all that snow outside and wondering if anyone would show up,” said Nelson






DPS is hiring for two exciting employment opportunities:


Job Title: School Garden Manager - Program Associate II

Salary Range: $41,709 - $66,661 (annually)

Deadline: April 12

Description: Responsible for the coordination and implementation of school gardens. Manage production garden and hoop house operation in support of the District's education program and the OFS health meals initiative.

Education: A Bachelor's degree in horticultural science or an associate's degree in horticultural science andproof of completion of agricultural training or internship program

More information found here: http://detroitk12.org/employment/job/1959/


Job Title: Garden Program Manager -Program Supervisor

Salary Range: $74,699 - $92,527 (annually)

Deadline: April 12

Description: The Detroit Public Schools Office of Food Services is seeking an experienced gardener with classroom experience teaching math and science to administer program functions and supervise staff as part of the Office of Food Services Farm2School initiative.

Education: A Master's degree in Agriculture, Education or Business is required. Must possess and provide evidence of a valid State of Michigan Driver's License at time of hire


More in formation found here: http://detroitk12.org/employment/job/1962/





Vicki Morrone
Outreach Specialist for Organic Vegetable and Field Crops
480 Wilson Rd Room 303
East Lansing, MI 48824
517-353-3542/517-282-3557 (cell)
If you would like to access a searchable archive of the all the previous Mich-Organic listserv postings copy this URL and paste in your browser address field http://list.msu.edu/archives/mich-organic.html