Sep 20, 2018
Funding set for research on impacts of sustainable fruit production
Gary Pullano

Red Tomato has been awarded a $2,000 grant from the Farm Credit Northeast AgEnhancement program. These funds will support Red Tomato’s ongoing efforts to research the impacts of sustainable fruit production on 18 Northeast orchards.

Apple growers in the Eastern U.S. face more than 60 species of damaging insects, and twice as many diseases compared to the drier climates of the Pacific Northwest. Over 93 percent of certified organic apples grown in the U.S. come from eastern Washington, where organic-approved production is a good fit for conditions there.  Eastern Growers often need other approaches to succeed.

Red Tomato, in partnership with several Northeast orchards and the IPM Institute of North America, has developed a third-party certification, growing protocol and marketing program to support and reward farmers who use the most eco-sensitive, minimally treated, natural methods possible to grow their fruit. Started with six orchards on 400 acres in 2004, today there are 17 orchards and over 1,700 acres enrolled.

Analysis conducted last year shows use of high-risk chemicals among five Eco-certified orchards (those participating in the program the longest), has decreased 59 percent since 2004, the year before the program began, and has continued to drop 18 percent since 2010. Support from the AgEnhancements Program will allow Red Tomato and the IPM Institute of North America to expand the analysis to additional orchards in the program. Both organizations are excited to continue the analysis, and expect new results by the end of 2018 .

“We are especially proud that the program addresses specific farming challenges for this region, and helps these farms to remain vibrant and sustainable. Continuing to understand the impact of the Eco program on the orchard environment allows us to better communicate the importance of production practices that are appropriate for our region rather than a global standard.” said Susan Futrell, the EcoApple program’s director.

Since 1996, Red Tomato, a non-profit organization, has connected farmers and consumers through the sales and marketing of more than $45 million of local, sustainably grown, and farm-identified produce to supermarkets, distributors and institutions. On a mission to change the food system for the better, Red Tomato ensures that the voice of mid-sized wholesale growers and good food at scale are represented in our movement’s efforts to create resilient, regional food systems. Members of our team serve in leadership roles in regional and national networks and facilitate collaborations between growers and scientists in almost every state in our Northeast region.

– Red Tomato

Photo at top: Zeke Goodband of Scott Farm in Dummerston, Vermont.


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