The Environmental Impact of Organic Fruit Farming

Bill and I with my parents circa 1983

What’s the environmental impact of organic fruit farming? We’re passionate about its positive impact on our planet since we’ve been farming organically for the past thirty-three years. As newlyweds, we began as ambitious backyard organic potato farmers, as shown in the photo with my parents.

Michael Pollan’s quote, “Organic farming isn’t just about growing crops; it’s about cultivating a way of life that values sustainability, health, and harmony with nature,” resonates with us deeply. We’re committed to nurturing the earth, preserving biodiversity, and promoting healthier ecosystems through organic farming. I want to share insights into the environmental benefits of organic fruit farming from the perspective of someone who lives and breathes sustainable agriculture daily.

Reducing Chemical Inputs:

Mom & baby Upick Sweetangos

Organic fruit farming prioritizes natural pest and disease control methods, minimizing synthetic chemicals, pesticides, or petroleum-based fertilizers. We use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) as a comprehensive approach to pest management that emphasizes preventive measures, monitoring, and multiple strategies to control pests effectively while minimizing reliance on chemical inputs. This approach protects beneficial insects and wildlife and prevents chemical runoff into soil and waterways, preserving water quality and biodiversity. We call the monitoring process scouting, and it often involves a quad, a cell phone for notes and photos, and a field glass as a portable and lightweight magnifying tool.

Soil Health and Conservation:

Composting for beginners
Evaluating the soil’s texture.

Organic farming practices like crop rotation, cover cropping, and composting enhance soil health by sequestering carbon, improving water retention, and fostering diverse microbial communities. This approach prioritizes sustainability and resilience against climate change, with regular soil testing and adding organic amendments like compost, manure, and biochar to replenish nutrients.

In contrast, conventional amendments, often synthetic or mineral-based, lack the same positive impact on soil structure. Soil structure is crucial for plant growth, nutrient cycling, water management, and ecosystem resilience, making it vital for sustainable agriculture and environmental conservation. For example at Chelan Ranch, we use organic crab meal to promote soil health, microbial activity, and root health, creating a favorable environment for blueberry bushes and supporting water infiltration and root penetration.

Preserving Ecosystems:

By avoiding synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, organic fruit farming creates safer habitats for pollinators, birds, and other wildlife. Healthy ecosystems within and around the farm promote natural pest control, biodiversity, and ecological balance, fostering a harmonious relationship between agriculture and nature.

We enjoy hawks and kestrels cruising above the ranch on warm, sunny days in their terrestrial ecosystem. Our orchards and blueberry fields provide predatory opportunities for these impressive birds, benefiting us equally as they provide organic rodent control for our growing fruit. Everything is kumbaya as long as they focus on the robins, moles, and mice. When they attack my chickens, they lose my love! The red-tail hawk in the photo above had just attacked one of my laying hens that were out free grazing. Preserving ecosystems isn’t a perfect arrangement.

Water Conservation:

Orchard with irrigation

Organic farming techniques and best agriculture practices such as mulching, drip irrigation, and water-efficient monitoring practices help conserve water resources. For example, the landscape cloth we apply to our blueberries suppresses weeds and mitigates moisture loss in the soil during hot summers. We drip irrigate under the landscape cloth and use the overhead sprinklers sparingly to keep the grass green between the rows. Our organic fruit farming reduces pressure on local water supplies by minimizing water usage and runoff. It supports sustainable water management in our agricultural region.

In addition, Chelan Ranch Organics has Salmon-Safe certification. The Salmon-Safe program evaluates and certifies farms, vineyards, urban landscapes, and other land uses based on specific criteria related to water quality, habitat conservation, and ecosystem protection. The goal is to encourage landowners and managers to adopt practices that minimize negative impacts on salmon habitats and waterways, promote biodiversity, and improve overall environmental sustainability.

Climate Resilience:

Sustainable farming, like our organic fruit farming at Chelan Ranch, helps make our food systems stronger against climate changes. Organic farmers use smart methods that capture carbon, reduce greenhouse gases, and adjust to new climate patterns.

Like other fruit trees, our apple and cherry trees take in carbon dioxide when they make food through photosynthesis. They use sunlight, water, and CO2 to grow, storing some carbon in their trunks, branches, leaves, and roots. As the trees get bigger, they store even more carbon. Plus, they give off oxygen as a bonus!

The roots of our organic fruit trees also help store carbon in the soil by making it healthier. They add organic material and improve how soil sticks together, making a stable home for stored carbon. This all helps our farm and the environment stay healthier for everyone.

Supporting Biodiversity:

Organic fruit farms like Chelan Ranch Organics are vibrant ecosystems supporting various plant and animal species. Biodiversity enhances natural pest control, soil fertility, and ecosystem services, creating a harmonious environment where plants, wildlife, and people coexist. We had to work towards this goal when we purchased a conventional cherry block twenty years ago. While transitioning it to organic, we had to purchase five-gallon jars of ladybugs to eat the aphids in that cherry orchard. After years of organic farming, biodiversity naturally exists with plenty of beneficial insects such as ladybugs, and we don’t have to purchase jars of bugs.

CRO Staff Photo 2023

The organic fruit farming we do at Chelan Ranch Organics is more than a method of production; it’s a holistic approach to agriculture that prioritizes environmental stewardship, biodiversity conservation, and sustainable food systems. As an organic ranch, our team takes pride in nurturing the land, promoting biodiversity, and producing healthy, delicious fruits while positively impacting our planet for future generations.