Tell us about your growing philosophy
Be a good investigator and listen to the questions of the natural world. There are no secrets.
Take your time and pay attention to details.Try to feel the never ending questions. Trial by error and altering Best Management Practices will help hybridize your site into a system that functions as its own unique organism.
Once you see what your site will allow, work with the progression. Things that fail do so for a reason. Pay attention to failures and difficulties as much as successes.
Tell us about your place on Earth.
We are in Truchas, NM which is in northern New Mexico in the Sangre de Cristo mountains at about 8000 ft. We are in USDA Zone 5B. Our farm is on a northfacing slope with about 10 acres in production. We sell trees and shrubs and have anywhere from 4000 to 8000 plants available for sale as well as roughly 600 permanently planted fruit trees. We have the room to plant roughly another 600. We have a good diversity in the orchard. We have about 200 different apple varieties,and a good representation of plums, tart cherries, apricots, pears, sweet cherries. Our diversity is focused on growing good food and habitat and maintaining a gene bank of old varieties that do well in our area. We have top bar hives, bird houses, bat houses and will add kestral housing this winter.
What draws you to growing fruit?
This keeps evolving. As a youngster I was always seeking out food. Hunting for glass and steel along the Santa Fe Trail, we would come across abandoned homesteads, remnants of old orchards and the rogue pioneer fruit that keeps reseeding itself, if it can beat the odds of a difficult environment. We’ve been able to improve the chances of reproduction of forgotten fruit through grafting. The infectious draw to go further with propagation still pulls me hard.
My enthusiasm for growing good fruit compels me to encourage all the people who visit and buy trees from us to associate trees with food, habitat and diversity. Well being can be fueled by the act of caring for plants.
innovation most rocks your boat?
Yes. The emphasis on practicality and minimizing our impact radius helps to cultivate good stewardship in our minds and land. Holistic orcharding becomes a life style. We know that after every crop harvested, the positive results that follow are mind boggling. Why use chemicals when there is so much energy and potential good that is the return?
What might you change if you could do one thing over again in your orchard?
We added varieties of trees in a fairly random manner as we learned about more varieties we wanted to try. We also find that some varieties don’t do well for us and have to be replaced. As a result we have apricots, pears etc. scattered all over the farm and it is sometimes hard to keep track of where fruits are ripe. We also don’t have our apples arranged by early, mid and late ripening. We don’t have enough fruit yet to have to worry too much about efficient harvesting but it could be a problem in the future. With our new plantings we are doing better though. It’s hard to lay out an orchard that takes you 20 years to plant.
How do you go about marketing the good fruit?
We sell lots of fruit trees and when fruit is ripe we offer it to anyone who visits the farm to try. We have not sold a lot of fruit yet but the opportunity to try many different varieties is a good sales tool. We have sold some fruit directly to a small local restaurant. We offer workshops every year on orcharding, pruning and grafting that are always well attended. Gordon also speaks and gives workshops at various annual local conferences. We also work with native communities and Pueblos that are rebuilding their agricultural lands.