Good Fruit Grower

September 2013

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 26 of 47

photo by richard lehnert Galas were planted on a 4- by 13-foot spacing on M.9 rootstock. Visitors couldn't believe the size and growth of the trees. Pennsylvania growers in general are having some trouble using the tall spindle system that was developed in New York and is spreading to other areas, especially Michigan. In Pennsylvania, a combination of strong soils, 36 to 48 inches of annual rainfall, and a long growing season has made it hard to contain trees in small spaces. Add to that the need to install trellis on mountainous terrain. Seth described the "unusual" gravel loam soil in his namesake orchard. "It has both good drainage and good water-holding capacity," he said. "We never irrigate—never have to—and the top is covered with a gravel mulch." The soil needs potash, but never needs more than 30 pounds per acre of nitrogen, he said. Boyer Orchards Matt, who is 56, and Bruce, 53, have worked together on the farm since childhood and bought Boyer Orchards from their parents in 1989. It now has more than 250 acres in production, mostly of apples but also three varieties of peaches and two of pears. Of the five adult men involved in Boyer Orchards, Matt, Wesley, and Bruce are most involved in orchard production work, while Sam and Ben work with crews of migrant workers. Both of them speak Spanish. Men of the Boyer family pose atop Chestnut Ridge. From left, they are Ben, Bruce, Sam, Wesley, Matt, Dan, Seth, and Mark. About 10 percent of their production is sold through their farm market, which is run by Matt's wife, Ellen, and Bruce's wife, Janet. Unlike Ridgetop, Boyer Orchards packs no fruit. All of it is sold at harvest to Hess Brothers Fruit in Lancaster County. Last year, Boyer Orchards made some big decisions on how to transfer the farm to the next generation. "We divided our business in two," Matt said. He and Bruce own a new entity called Boyer Lands LLC, which owns all the orchard land and nothing else. Boyer Orchards owns equipment, and each year the three sons—Wesley, Sam, and Ben—will gain 2 percent ownership in Boyer Orchards. "It will take them eight or nine years to get half interest," Matt said. By then, Bruce and Matt will begin selling shares in Boyer Lands to their sons. "That my and Bruce's retirement plan," Matt said. One incentive to do it was provided by Pennsylvania law, which allows for family farm real estate transfers without paying the 2 percent transfer tax. Otherwise, shifting the property deeds to Boyer Lands would have been an expensive proposition. • penn state supporters A ll the Boyer men were educated at Pennsylvania State University. They are great supporters of Penn State and its horticultural research and extension programs. "We collaborate a lot with Penn State," Matt said. But the Boyers also like the fruit schools Cornell University holds each year, and Matt thinks Cornell's NEWA program "is just the nicest thing that ever helped a fruit grower." NEWA is short for Network for Environmental and Weather Applications. Weather data from local weather stations is used in predictive models to tell growers about insect development and disease conditions. "It takes the guesswork out of when to spray, and it works in our food safety assurance program," Matt said. "It's proof of why we did what we did." Boyer Orchards paid $1,500 this year to buy a weather station and put it near Sam's home. "We were the first in Pennsylvania to have it," Matt said. The station is connected to the network by wireless communication. At Ridgetop, Mark Boyer also uses the information to make spray decisions, accessing it on smartphone in the orchard. Of course, the information is also available on desktop computer. To participate in the program, either individual growers—or the state they live in—must pay Cornell $5,000 a year. Pennsylvania chose to do that for its growers. Cornell will only allow growers to participate if they have data loggers that are calibrated to provide accurate weather data. —R. Lehnert Good Fruit Grower SEPTEMBER 2013 27

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Good Fruit Grower - September 2013