Jun 29, 2007
Not Much Fruit to See on Illinois Hort Tour

“It’s going to be a tough show to do. There’s not a whole lot to look at.”

That was Larry Flamm’s assessment the week before the Illinois State Horticulture Society annual field day tour was to start at Flamm Orchards, near Cobden at the southern tip of Illinois.

Like many fruit and vegetable growers in the lower Midwest and the upper South, Flamm Orchards was hit hard by the freezes in early April.

“We have no peaches and very few apples,” Larry said. “We were able to save our strawberries and we increased our vegetable acreage a little to try to offset it.”

To reduce costs to match reduced income, “we’re not spraying the peaches at all,” he said. “We are using a minimal spray program on the blocks where there are a few apples and not spraying the rest.”

The farm market, normally open from May to November, opened for strawberries as usual, but will close in June and reopen in July with vegetables. The schedule for fall has not been decided. The market exists mostly to sell part of the farm’s fruits and vegetables in-season, but offers only a short line of products like jams and jellies and some tomatoes they buy for resale.

The bulk of their fruit and vegetable production is sold wholesale.

“We’ll have some Jonathans, Goldens and Galas, but there are no Red Delicious,” Larry said.

The strawberries, grown on plastic, were in bloom when the freezes came, but a combination of irrigation and row covers came to the rescue.

“The strawberries are just finished,” he said in early June. “We had a good crop.”

Flamm Orchards, started in 1888, is a family farm operated by three cousins and five of their children. Larry and his second cousins are the fifth generation. The first cousins are Leonard, Bill and Edwin, and they farm with Edwin’s sons Larry and Alan, Leonard’s sons Jeff and Mike, and Bill’s daughter Karen.

The farm includes 300 acres of apples, 150 acres of peaches, 5 acres of strawberries and about 200 acres of vegetables – peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, zucchini and summer squash.

Strawberries enjoy both trickle and overhead irrigation, but irrigation is not generally used for other crops.

“Good wells in our area aren’t easy to come by,” Larry said. “You need a lake or pond to irrigate, and we don’t have those.”

The hill country of southern Illinois provides some good orchard sites with good air drainage, Larry said, and used to be good peach country, although peach acreage has been declining. They are, of course, vulnerable to spring freezes, but this year’s was the worst in a long time.

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