Feb 27, 2019
IFTA tour highlights innovative orchardists

The International Fruit Tree Association (IFTA) annual conference and tours hit the road Tuesday, Feb. 26 to learn from growers near Rochester, New York who have been trying new things in their orchards.

The group braved chilling winds and temperatures below 20° F for an interesting and even enjoyable day among friends and trees. A second round of tours is scheduled for Thursday.

Here are stops from that first trip:

 Zingler Farms

Zingler Farms was established in 1991 by Mike Zingler when he was 24 years old, and today he his joined in owning and operation by his son, Jimmy Zingler. They have 350 acres in apples and eight in freestone peaches in addition to strawberries and raspberries. Jimmy recently was allowed to take his own lead in planting a new orchard, which is the one the tour visited.

Mike Zingler exhorted other owners to “give up some of your control. … You’ve got to let these young guys in.”

Kast Farms

Kast farms was established in 1884 and the fifth generation of the family is working on it today, including owner Dave Kast, general manager Gary Davy, orchard manager Brett Kast and field crops specialist John Kast.

Gennaro Fazio of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service gave a presentation on a rootstocks trial, where 40 different rootstocks were grafted to Red Delicious, and the resulting tree’s yields, and other factors were tracked. The G.935 rootstock had the highest cumulative yields so far.

Lamont Fruit Farm

At Lamont Fruit Farm, IFTA president Rod Farrow and his partners Jose Iniguez and Jason Woodworth gave a tour of their precision orcharding planning and techniques. The farm has 600 acres of apples and 30 nursery acres.

The farm counts buds on its trees and thins accordingly. They have recently been able to increase the number of apples per tree with help from Poliana Francescatto, formally of Cornell. Jose gave some demonstrations of his pruning techniques.

Sandy Knoll Farms

Sandy Knoll Farms has 300 acres of fruit and a 10-acre Nursery. Owners and key personnel include Patrick Woodworth, Nelson Woodworth, Rachel Woodworth, Luis and Marlene Garza, James Olinger and Todd Klatt.

At Sandy Knoll, Cornell’s Terrence Robinson highlighted how Luis and Patrick had worked to bring new life to an older orchard that had become somewhat overgrown. After substantial pruning, the Galas are still fruiting well and the orchard rows are wide enough and in good enough order that Robinson said it was friendly for automatic harvesting.

Orchard Dale Fruit Company

Orchard Dale Fruit Company has 300 acres in apples as well as significant acreage in strawberries and blueberries. The family farm began in 1804 and the eighth generation is now managing the farm.

The innovation at Orchard Dale was a rare grafting technique, “Beaver grafting,” used to put SweeTango scions into a wedge cuts of what had been Jonagold trees.

Excelsior Farms

The farm was purchased in 1958 by LeRoy and Doris Banister and the first high-density orchard was planted in 1987. Today, Excelsior Farms is owned by Roger Bannister, Christine Bannister and Christine Bannister. They grow 65 acres of apples and 4 acres of freestone peaches. In 2015, the family started growing multi-leader trees.

Roger and Cornell Extension’s Mario Miranda Sazo admitted to some difficulty in growing what was a very innovative system, and discussed what they would do differently if they were to try the project again. They asked Washington State University’s Stefano Musacchi for some input, and after saying, “You did a good job,” Musacchi suggested the canopy could be pruned less heavily.

Here is a video by Roger Bannister about the project:

Social event: ArtisanWorks

At a social event in the evening, IFTA attendees networked and discussed over dinner at ArtisanWorks, a Rochester venue filled with provocative art instillations.

IFTA President Rod Farrow was presented with a gift in recognition of his many labors as the organization’s chief volunteer.

– Stephen Kloosterman, FGN Associate Editor


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