Vt. organic apple culture comes to UVM horticulture

Apples, pumpkins and scarecrows of all sizes are not surprising to see around the University of Vermont campus during the month of October. What is surprising is the small percentage of organic apples that are grown in the region each Fall, when so many can be picked, bobbed for or just plain eaten.Each week, students and community members visit the University’s Horticultural Farm to purchase some of the Apple Team’s organic apples. “The University of Vermont Horticultural Research Farm is part of the Organic A Project and is one of the few organic orchards in the Northeast,” Terrence Bradshaw, manager of apple sales and research technician, said.Lorraine P. Berkett coordinates the multi-disciplinary, multi-state Organic A Project. This project aims to change New England’s lack of organic apple production, according to the project’s Web site. This is a “very big project,” Bradshaw said, explaining the large government grant that the farm receives to conduct research on organic growth. The project has multiple faculty members and a few dedicated undergraduate and graduate students working on the expansion of organic growth, Bradshaw said.Students can also get involved with The Friends of the Horticultural Farm, a volunteer association that holds workshops and training sessions for the student-run Common Ground club, Bradshaw said. Both of these organizations are extremely helpful and beneficial to the farm, Bradshaw said when asked how students could get involved.For those who are rather unfamiliar with organic cultivation and its benefits, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is developing an Organic Fruit Production course, taught by faculty members involved with the farm, explained Bradshaw.Organic apples that are grown on the Research Farm’s orchard are separated from the non-organic trees to ensure all natural growth. The long-term goal of the OrganicA Project is adoption of organic cultivation across New England, as explained on the Web site.The orchard grows more than 40 varieties of apples. There are so many different varieties, in fact, that according to Bradshaw, some do not even have names, only numbers. The different experimental varieties help boost resistance to diseases and pests that commonly prevent successful organic orchards. This will help to allow more organic orchards to succeed in New England, according to the project’s Web site. Students can enjoy the benefits of this project through its organic apples that are sold on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. All of the excess apples from the orchard’s research are on sale, according to Bradshaw. In his excitement he says, “We have a lot of new experimental varieties,” and “some have adopted quite a local following.”