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grower profile:

The Apple Farm

Philo, California

Tim Bates

Tim Bates
Tell us about your growing philosophy.

Organic all 28 years, Bio-dynamic practices 20 years. We make our own compost since forever. Now have goats, sheep, horses, chickens, and occasional pigs (and a milk cow--yum). Trying to get to self sustaining system--have removed some apple trees to grow more vegetables--using the horses for more and more cultivation and plowing as we get the hang of it. Been working with compost teas for several years in hopes of overcoming scab and improving overall health--not sure it is doing that much good. Will begin a full-on neem and fish hydrolysate (with compost tea as booster) program this next season as soon as the rain stops!

Tell us about your place on Earth.

We have roughly 1,500 fruit trees on 14+ acres--aged 1-102 years. 1350 are apples (80 varieties) 125 are pears (9 varieties) and some peaches, persimmons, plums, and quince (5 varieties). The whole ranch is 34 acres with nearly 2/5ths in riparian zone. We are in Northern California (Mendocino County) 2 1/2 hours drive north of San Francisco. Off the top of my head I don't remember what growing zone we are in (5?  8?). The last time we looked we got a few different opinions on that!

What draws you to growing fruit?

WELL, I don't like eating fruit much (doesn't go good with beer...or even cider...right, Michael?) But I love growing it and turning fruit eating/loving people on to flavors they never imagined could come from an apple or a pear. I simply love being out in the trees. Returning from being away for awhile to the farm always makes clear where my real energy comes from.

What holistic innovation keeps your trees rarin' to grow?

I score pretty well on the holistic checklist!

What might you change if you could do one thing over again in your orchard?

I would take a lot more care of my new plantings. Over half of my 1500 trees have been replanted. I have been carefree and hurried in the past. That worked in my flood plain area with lots of minerals, but in the upper regions not having as much luck just sticking them in the ground and adding some compost. Am being more careful in the last couple of years and am having better results---except for the flat-headed borer (always something).

How do you go about marketing the good fruit?

Our fruit stand has been open for 26 years and we have been doing the SF Market for 15 or so years. Can't sell it all in those 2 places (30%). We wholesale around 40% and direct sale to restaurants (SF and Napa Co.) and retail stores in our county around 30%. Around 40% of the entire crop goes to juice, hard cider, syrup, dried, and vinegar.

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