We wanted to take a moment to address the pink elephant in the room, if you will. Here at Quarry Hill our goal is to ensure our products not only taste good and look good, but also are a safe and healthy choice for you and your family. Ben & Bill have their hands in every aspect of crop maintenance, harvest and packing to ensure this philosophy is upheld.
Quarry Hill leans on a platform of whole farm sustainability. As such, we address environmental, horticultural, and perhaps most importantly, economic factors in making decisions on the farm. Through continuing education and a network of contacts as horticultural universities, talking to people folks far smarter than us, we are able to tap into the most progressive practices possible in that framework of overall sustainability.
For that reason, we’ve done away with using insecticides like Glyphosate and Lorsban, and instead have put in place more targeted and effective products, often with a higher price tag. We have a regime of cover cropping ahead of new plantings and applying natural and organic fertilizers. Additionally, we apply biological controls and plant growth regulators (PGRs) in our integrated pest management (IPM) program to build a healthier orchard ecosystem. All of these practices must be grounded in the context of a shrinking global supply chain that pits Quarry Hill fruit against price-driven-commodity-growers. Here at Quarry Hill, the framework of our farming value system prioritizes safety, sustainability, and the opportunity for a 4th generation to keep our legacy alive. We feel we have taken every step feasible within the business model of a small family-owned operation.
Along with many other Ohio fruit growers, we have partnered with California-based Primus Labs to assist in our food health and safety monitoring. The farm goes through lengthy annual inspections that address the orchards, our crew and our pack house to meet national industry standards for produce handling. Each employee must be trained on proper food safety procedures annually. Ben keeps up a rigorous “Good Agricultural Practices Manual” at the requirement of Primus to document our standard procedures and logs for various in-house inspections throughout the year. We also work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Erie County Health Department to address water quality levels in our wells, clean and safe living conditions in our guest worker accommodations and overall farm hygiene.
We are occasionally asked about organic produce at the orchard. Unfortunately, we are not currently set up to provide organic produce, but we are constantly taking steps to minimize the chemical applications we make to our crops. The Ohio State University, via our local Erie County Extension Agent has been working with Quarry Hill to continually modify our Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Program based on new research happening at the university. It is our understanding that a completely organic fruit farm located in a humid environment like north-central Ohio is not at present economically feasible. But we are always making strides to deliver a wholesome, natural product with minimal impact on our land. When possible, we do swing to the “organic” side of the pendulum. We farm using the best of science and nature to product the best quality fruit.
Before taking a stand, we encourage you to walk a mile in our moccasins. There are plenty of folks out there with backyard organic tree fruit production, but there are few if any in the mid-west that have the acreage we do in organic tree fruit production at an economically viable level for the fresh fruit market. The main stumbling points to being completely organic are spring diseases called Apple Scab and Fireblight. But let’s not dwell on the negative. We are encouraged that within Ben’s lifetime, tools and chemistries will become available such that we can combat certain pests, fungi and bacteria with organic, environmentally sustainable products. And in the meantime, we may just try our hand on a few acres to see how it goes.
Feel free to ask any one of us questions regarding food safety, organic practices or any hot-button issue of the day next time you stop at the market. If we don’t have an answer for you, we’ll be happy to track it down.