Organic Pioneers Share the Fruits of their Labor with the National Organic Program (NOP)

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Organic Pioneers Share the Fruits of their Labor with the National Organic Program (NOP)

Organic Tree Fruit Farm Tours

Miles McEvoy, NOP Deputy Administrator and Marisol Oviedo, Northwest Horticultural Association with Organic Tree Fruit Pioneers: Harold Austin, Zirkle Fruit Company and former National Organic Standards Board member; Dain Craver, Crave Organic; Kyle Mathison, Stemilt Growers; Harold Ostenson, International Organic Tree Fruit Consultant; and Joe Gabriel, Gilbert Orchards. In background - fire blight affected pear tree.


Organic Tree Fruit Industry

Accounting for over 21 percent of the total organic acreage in Washington State, and more than $463 million in crop sales, organic tree fruit has seen tremendous growth over the past 20 years. Today, more than 90 percent of organic apples and 80 percent of organic pears produced in the United States are grown in Washington. This growth is a sharp contrast to 1988, when the state had only 4 organic apple orchards with less than 100 acres in organic production. Much of this success can be attributed to a few organic tree fruit pioneers who developed weed and pest management strategies to produce quality organic fruit.


Industry Pioneers Share Insight

In late July, National Organic Program (NOP) Deputy Administrator Miles McEvoy traveled to Washington State to tour several organic tree fruit operations, hear from farmers regarding challenges, and to learn about improvements that led to advancements in the industry. While there, Mr. McEvoy joined organic tree fruit pioneers --- with over 100 years of organic farming experience combined --- to tour organic apple, pear, apricot, and cherry farms, as well as an organic blueberry packing facility.

During the tours, the experts shared ideas on a wide range of topics, including:

  • the importance of micronutrients on fruit quality;
  • the value of spiders for organic pest control;
  • insect pest challenges in organic versus non-organic orchards;
  • weed management strategies;
  • fire blight control; and
  • the importance of rigorous audits by qualified inspectors to protect organic integrity.

Farm tours are valuable because they provide key insight into organic production processes and challenges, which helps us develop clear standards and certification procedures for organic agriculture. Learn more about NOP’s activities across the organic community at: