Jerry Mills at Mills Apple Farm

Jun 17, 2020
Jerry Mills: Ponder new operational approaches with COVID-19

Spraying fruit trees. Well, here we are at the most critical time of the year for spraying our apples and peaches and it keeps raining. I am using an extra sticker this year in hopes of getting more mileage from the sprays.

Even so, if it is not sprayed it cannot stick. Same thing happened last year but we lucked out and had clean apples. Fingers crossed.

Shelter in place! What a great time to be a farmer. Most of our national population live in towns, in houses, apartments, condominiums and even on the streets. I suppose when most hear the word place, they think of where they live and sleep. Work is somewhere else. All true. However, we farmers have a better option. Our place is our farm, where we live, sleep, eat and work.

I think the COVID-19 virus will pose a threat for the rest of our lives, even if we develop vaccines. Case in point: Measles. This disease could have been eradicated worldwide long ago, but there are still a few people, who for one reason or another, refuse to accept immunizations. The same will probably be true of COVID-19.

Jerry Mills holds grafted rootstocks
Jerry Mills holds grafted rootstocks ready to plant at Mills Apple Farm, Marine, Illinois. Scions are dipped in warm beeswax. Photo: Jerry Mills

It is difficult for me to understand such thought processes when so much is at stake for the world at large. There comes a time when selfish personal prerogatives have to yield for higher causes.

New do-it-ourselves orchard. A couple of months ago I wrote about developing a heritage orchard composed of the surviving apple varieties that we planted back in 1973. The list is not complete. Some were not suitable and disappeared. We grafted 25 scions, when available, of each variety. There are 400 grafted rootstocks, plus 100 extras.

Dealing with virus and farmers’ markets. The local farmers’ market in Edwardsville will open late with a different footprint. The organization will facilitate keeping personal distances. It will be curious to see how well it works.

Different challenges for on-farm markets. It looks as if we will have to make changes to how we operate our pick-your-own farm. The traditional wagon ride to the picking area may have to change to drive yourself. The ever-popular three-story maze may have to close and perhaps the swings too.

We might develop a sideline business. Require everyone to have a mask and sell them our homemade masks if they don’t have one. To go even further, print our name and logo on them and label them as renewable when laundered.

Found one smart reader. A lady reader reports that she not only ordered and read my book, but she cuts out succeeding columns and adds them to the book, so it is always up-to-date. That is about the ultimate compliment for a column writer. I’d like to send her a bouquet of roses but we both might get in trouble. Thank you, missus.

Job opportunity! Today a recruiter sent an email asking if I was interested in being a facility/plant manager for a co-op in another state. The job comes with all the privileges of lower management, moving expenses paid, personal truck, home office and communications equipment, 40 hours per week plus weekends as needed, medical insurance, 401(k), etc.

I replied that I was tempted, but at my advanced age, might have trouble remembering new procedures, and besides, I just lost my glasses.

What do I do if they offer to pay for a new pair?

Jerry Mills, Mills Apple Farm


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