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Lost Nation Orchard: growing organic apples with Apple Grower author Michael Phillips

Apple Growing at Heartsong Farm!

The 2014 apple harvest will be slim pickings, we're sorry to say. Spotty bloom this spring has given growers in New England a small crop, at best. Be sure to get signed up for our harvest emails to hear what to expect each weekend. We expect to sell out quickly on Saturdays. It is what it is . . . but like any optimistic farmer . . . we look for "barn floors full" in 2015!
Michael Phillips picking organic apples at Lost Nation Orchard at Heartsong Farm -- photo: Frank Siteman
Michael Phillips
picks organic apples at
Lost Nation Orchard.
(photo: Frank Siteman)

Sharing what we know about fruit trees in order to produce a successful organic crop is one of Michael's passions. Check out Grow Organic Apples for insights about growing fruit for your own family and how you can support the community orchard movement. For those who would like a resource you can hold in your hands, check out Michael's latest book: The Holistic Orchard: Growing Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way. Now we invite you to learn more about our orchard here in the mountains of northern New Hampshire. . .

Lost Nation Orchard

Trees grow relatively slow in this North Country of ours. The hillside orchard here in Lost Nation consists of 120 or so trees, mostly planted on MM.111 rootstock just eight years ago. These trees have finally begun to contribute to our harvest in a substantial way, joining with the seedling trees planted in the early 90s now in full production. We have planted a new block of approximately 180 trees in a field recently reclaimed from encroaching forest. This block consists of Bud.118 and a wide range of dwarf test varieties, so fruit will start sooner rather than later . . . yeah!

Michael Phillips, organic orchardist -- click for more on Organic Orcharding
more from Michael Phillips:
Organic Orcharding

We're expecting a generous harvest of fruit as all these trees come into bearing. Perhaps as many as 800 bushels a year. Which, as we sing in the traditional wassail song, will literally be a barn floor full. That will be a day when we can do a brisk trade in organic apples and cider. Our post'n'beam barn was designed with a small addition in mind to provide cold storage below and a cider press on the ground floor. Investment for any community orchard equally requires a patience measured in years.

Finding a Way Together

Communities give far too little heed these days to the cultural side of agriculture. Experts say soon most American orchards will be bankrupt and we'll be getting our fruit from China. A community orchard represents a perfect opportunity to come together with mutual intent to live rightly on the land. Small farmers don't have all the answers. But we suspect that people who desire healthy food, great apple varieties, and rich cider can see this thing through.

The Apple Grower: A Guide for the Organic Orchardist by Michael Phillips -- click for book summary The Apple Grower: A Guide for the Organic Orchardist

A Context That Works

An acre of orchard that makes a decent living for organic growers needs to produce a modest 400 bushels of fruit annually, a select 70% of which can be sold at fifty dollars a bushel to appreciative and understanding customers. The other 30% of the crop needs to average twenty dollars a bushel, whether as cider, utility fruit, or value-added products. That amounts to $16,000 gross per acre minimum, which in my mind makes a diversified farm effort that includes a small community orchard feasible. I also would add that no one grower go much beyond 3 acres or so of fruit, particularly here in the East. These numbers should certainly be bandied about by us all, and yet here are the benchmarks for making organic orcharding economically feasible.

Michael Phillips and friends pressing cider from organic apples at Lost Nation Orchard at Heartsong Farm -- photo: Frank Siteman
Michael Phillips and friends pressing cider from
organic apples at Lost Nation Orchard.
(photo: Frank Siteman)

Local people who enjoy fresh, local apples need to take the above goals to heart. Paying a farmer $1.50 to $2.00 a pound for select organic apples is a healthy bargain. The true future of sustainable agriculture lies in the hands of people willing to invest in local skill and resources. Small is beautiful indeed!


Local Apples for Local Folk

The words explosively crisp jump immediately to mind when biting into a Honeycrisp apple. -- photo: Michael Phillips
The words explosively crisp jump immediately to mind when biting into a Honeycrisp apple.

Local people share in the fruits of our orchard by coming to the farm on announced harvest days. We are not a pick-your-own orchard but rather make tree-ripened fruit available for sale when varieties come ready. We invite customers at appointed times on fall weekends rather than having open hours every day. You get on our preferred customer list by simply letting Michael know of your love for especially tasty apples. Our variety selection will surely get those apple-loving juices flowing! Please understand that we are not set up to ship organic apples at this time.

Sign up today to be notified when local apples are available for sale at the farm.
The Holistic Orchard: Growing Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way by Michael Phillips -- click for book summary The Holistic Orchard: Growing Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way
Now on DVD!
DVD: Holistic Orcharding with Michael Phillips -- click for dvd description and video Holistic Orcharding with Michael Phillips

Cider Mill Prospectus

We are getting closer to squeezing fresh cider and making such available on a shareholder basis. The trees are now producing sufficient quantities of apples for cider making purpose. Community investment to set up a commercial cider press comes next. Please check out the latest thinking on Cider Shares and get involved in the long-term health of our orchard. You can bet we'll give a holler when Lost Nation "Nectar of the Gods" is available in the North Country once again!

Take a Walk in The Holistic Orchard

Michael Phillips completely changed the conversation about healthy orcharding with his first bestselling book, The Apple Grower, and now he takes that dialogue even further, drawing connections between home orcharding and permaculture; the importance of native pollinators and beneficial allies; the world of understory plantings with shade-tolerant berry bushes; detailed information on cover crops and biodiversity; varietal rundowns of all the major tree fruits, and the newest research on safe, locally-inspired solutions to pest and disease challenges.

"Michael Phillips's Holistic Orchard is a seminal work, to be compared with Sir Albert Howard and J.I. Rodale's classic books on soil and organic gardening. This is deep horticulture at its best, showing just how and what we must do to orchard sustainably and ecologically."
Bill MacKentley,
St. Lawrence Nurseries

Organic Apple Intensive

We are big believers in apple lovers learning how to grow their own fruit! Michael offers an "organic apple everything" weekend at the farm just after bloom time to inspire people to pursue their own orchard dreams. Come gain the practical insights needed to establish your own fruit planting based on the biological systems approach used here at Lost Nation Orchard. Details about this yearly orcharding class can be found by clicking that blue link!

echinacea purpurea cluster at Heartsong Farm -- click for information about the Earth Medicine Share from Heartsong Farm
Families love to opt into our Earth Medicine Share for year-round healing purpose.

The Apple Grower Speaks

The Agricultural Innovations podcast ranges far and wide in offering interviews with cutting edge thinkers across the sustainable farming spectrum. Episode #95 finds Michael discussing the apple as the final frontier of organics, the use of neem oil and kaolin clay to control insect pests and diseases in the orchard, the role of observation in orcharding, and the community orchard as a new model for locally produced fruit.

The Betsy Lydon Ark Award

Betsy Lydon devoted herself to sustaining small-scale food producers by encouraging local, seasonal eating and an appreciation for diversified farming. In celebration of the life and work of this wonderful woman and mother, the first annual Betsy Lydon Ark Award was presented to Michael Phillips in recognition of his lifelong journey with the organic apple. "The real question in all this," said Michael in accepting the 2005 award at a Slow Food USA ceremony in New York City, "is how community-based orchards can succeed everywhere. Betsy would be pleased to know that because of the consciousness she helped spark, the fruits of small growers using ecological methods are being sought out. Artisanal ciders and freshly-picked apples that reflect regional heritage have become niche local markets, and to that I can only lift up my cup high and give three cheers!"


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