Good Fruit Grower

January 2014

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PHOTOS BY GERALDINE WARNER Kole Tonnemaker grows 63 acres of organic apples, pears, and cherries, which are marketed by his brother, Kurt. Organic Bosc pears for sale at Tonnemaker Family Farms, Royal City, Washington. Seattle magazine and, in November, they were named Farmers of the "You have to be on top of things and anticipate the problems, rather Year by Washington Tilth. than waiting until they get out of hand," he said. "There are definitely Kole said when he took over the farm in the 1980s, he used a conthings that are extremely challenging, and I really believe this is a very ventional pest control program, but worried that it consisted of a spray humbling way to make a living." for whatever ailed you, and pests were developing Kole and Sonia's elder son, Luke, 24, has joined resistance to insecticides. the business and is learning about production "We really needed to look for a better way to while developing ideas about how to enhance the do it," he said. direct marketing. He adopted mating disruption for codling Kole said he and his wife felt they could conmoth as soon as it became available in the early tinue to make a living doing what they were doing, 1990s and shifted to other softer pest controls. but if they wanted to enhance the business, they Their operation has been certified organic since needed to have someone they felt comfortable 1997. representing them to take charge. Having young "For a number of years we used IPM (intepeople, like Luke and their assistant Amanda grated pest management) practices, but the averSmith, involved gives them more options in terms age consumer didn't really understand that," he of what they can potentially do. said. "That's a hard thing to explain, but people "I value others' opinions and their vision of understand organic." what we need to do," Kole said. "When you have At least, they think they do. Kole said he gets one person, you're really limited by the imaginalots of questions, a common one being, "Are you tion that one person has. It's too narrow." organic, or do you spray?" to which he responds Luke said he wasn't sure when he went to colthat pests don't leave growers alone just because lege that he wanted to go back to the farm, but —Kole Tonnemaker they're organic. when he graduated from the University of Idaho Fertility is an important factor in growing with degrees in nutrition and psychology, he good-tasting produce, he said. Using organic ferdecided it was the thing to do. It was an opportutilizers, such as composted chicken manure, it's more difficult to overdo nity that not many young people have to carry on the farming tradition. the fertility than with synthetic fertilizers. The challenge is to maintain Kole said they have that opportunity because of the foresight of good vigor in the trees. Orland and his wife, Pearl, who selected a good site for the orchard with Weed control is achieved through tilling and flaming. The emphasis light soil and good air drainage—a site that produces good-tasting fruit. of disease control must be prevention by pruning to open up the canopy "I think we might be the only place on the Royal Slope where the famand applying products such as sulfur and potassium bicarbonate every ily makes their living off one farm unit any more," he said. "I think it's a week. There's no organic product that will control diseases after they tribute to my grandparents' vision. They're the foundation of everything take hold. that's happened here." "It makes you feel you're doing something that's worthwhile. And sometimes that's more important than making a huge amount of money." • GOOD FRUIT GROWER JANUARY 1, 2014 27

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