Midwest apple growers adopt new environmental growing practices

The Produce News
Sept. 20, 2016

Fred Wescott, president of Honeybear Brands and owner of Wescott Orchards.

Fred Wescott, president of Honeybear Brands and
owner of Wescott Orchards.

Midwest apple lovers will soon enjoy locally grown, sustainable fruit that brings even more peace of mind with every bite. Eleven leading orchards across Minnesota and Wisconsin have committed to TruEarth™, a new grower protocol and certification program designed to safeguard the land, protect biodiversity in orchards and create a sustainable and local farming economy for Midwest apple growers.

Created in conjunction with the Integrated Pest Management Institute of North America, an independent non-profit organization, TruEarth is the brainchild of Fred Wescott of Honeybear Brands, the Elgin, MN-based regional grower, packer and marketer of premium apple varieties throughout the Midwest. In development for seven years, this year TruEarth reached 100 percent grower participation including leading orchards inTruearth Minnesota and Wisconsin.

This commitment from growers comes as the state also focuses attention on the issue of protective measures for Minnesota’s honeybee population with Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton’s issuing of an executive order to limit the use of certain pesticides in state agriculture in an effort to help protect the endangered honeybee population.

Growers committed to TruEarth include all members of the Mississippi Valley Fruit Company — a group of 11 locally owned apple orchards throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.

“As growers and apple producers we’ve had a decades-long tradition of doing the right thing when it comes to our land, produce and farming communities,” said Fred Wescott, president Honeybear Brands and owner of Wescott Orchards. “TruEarth and the commitment of our growing partners is a continuation of this environmental focus and we hope it will help to play one small part in Minnesota’s efforts to reduce pesticide use across the agricultural sector.”

“TruEarth goes far beyond protecting just our native wild bees and honeybees,” he added. “It’s intended as a roadmap and a grower community commitment to producing the best possible fruit to put on grocery store shelves with the most care and the least impact on our environment.”

The TruEarth protocol helps orchardists adopt the most advanced sustainable-farming farming practices:
o Comprehensive monitoring protocols help identify pests and time specific treatments only when they exceed research-based thresholds
o Identify strategies to manage pests without the use of highly toxic pesticides
o Bee pollinator surveys conducted annually at each growing location to assess bee health and identify actions items to improve native bee habitat
o Prohibition of the most highly toxicity pesticides used in apple production
o Protection of biodiversity including beneficial insects and wildlife
o Cleaner water by reducing soil erosion
o Apples free of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)
o Energy and water conservation in orchards and packing facilities
o Ongoing recycling of waste

Participating TruEarth growers complete a comprehensive-farming assessment to determine areas of potential improvement and to identify sustainable practices used to manage pests. Land management practices are also reviewed and enhanced to protect pollinators and wildlife. Annual audits ensure compliance with the TruEarth protocol and all growers participate in an annual meeting to share information on new advances in sustainable farming practices and to learn from other TruEarth certified growers.

“This is a true leadership initiative making a real difference,” said Dr. Tom Green, President of the IPM Institute. “We’re delighted to collaborate with Honeybear Brands to help create a meaningful program which protects our resources for future generations by using advanced practices for fruit production which benefit consumers, farmworkers and the environment.”
For more information about TruEarth visit www.truearth.net

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