What is Integrated Pest Management (IPM)?

Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is an approach to solving pest problems by intelligently applying our knowledge of pests to prevent them from damaging crops. Often, directly killing a pest with chemicals is not necessary. Practicing IPM means responding to pest problems with the most effective, least-risk option. It considers the entire agroecosystem holistically rather than treating one problem as an individual symptom.

Under IPM principles, actions are taken to control pests only when their numbers are likely to exceed acceptable levels (you can read more about what these might be at Penn State Extension) . Any action taken is designed to target the troublesome pest and limit the impact on other organisms and the environment. – IPM Institute (learn more at https://ipminstitute.org/what-is-integrated-pest-management/)

What does this mean for Green’s Fruit Farm? It means that we only spray what we need, when we need to. We use strategies such as insect trapping, insect mating disruption, weather predictive models for disease threats, effective tree pruning, scouting, and more before employing pesticide measures. When pesticides are needed, only the gentlest, safest products are chosen. Sometimes, we just accept a certain level of non-critical damage rather than risk an imbalance in our agroecosystem. “Pristine, immaculate,” and “sterile” are not words that are always synonymous with “sustainable.”

A focal point of our agricultural studies at Penn State, sustainability is really important to both of us (Bobby and Sara). While IPM practices are – by themselves – a path toward sustainability, they are a gradient. One can be low, medium, or high-level IPM depending on the amount of effort invested in the pest-control decision making process. To use IPM methods is not necessarily to exemplify the best of sustainable practices. Consequently, we began looking for a certification program to demonstrate just what we try to do here on our farm. This brought us to the Eco Program...

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Eco Certified in a nutshell:

Eco Certification is the only certification program we’ve found which exemplifies high level IPM practices. It is a holistic set of criteria which addresses all three pillars of sustainability: economic, environmental, and social. The demanding requirements require ongoing education and improvement to maintain certification. This ensures that a farm always employs the latest advancements in intelligent pest management.

More Details:

Eco is a rigorous, ecology-based farming, certification, and marketing program for Northeast tree fruit growers that supports both local and ecologically grown principles.

Eco practices are based on creating an orchard ecosystem that supports pollinators, keeps damaging insects in balance with biological and preventive methods, and promotes soil and tree health.

A partnership among local farmers, scientific advisors, the IPM Institute of North America and Red Tomato; Eco delivers the freshest, best-tasting locally grown fruit while supporting and rewarding progressive, environmentally responsible growing practices specific for the northeastern region.

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Soooo.....is it organic?

It’s nearly impossible to grow organic, commercially viable tree fruit in our region on a scale of more than a few acres; you’ll notice you virtually never see locally grown organic apples at the grocery store. Eco is very similar to organic standards in that it’s also a growing protocol designed to protect the environment, but it’s designed specifically for our climate. Eco is one of the most sustainable locally grown choices you can make.

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Going deeper...

1. Eco supports region-based ecological farming practices

Growers in the Northeast are longtime leaders in adopting and promoting eco-friendly growing practices and have worked hard to find practices that work best in our climate and growing conditions. The most ecological and effective practices aren’t the same for every locale. Eco supports both local farms and environmentally sound practices.

The Eco program brings the expertise of scientists and farmers throughout the region together to develop a rigorous growing protocol based on the most environmentally friendly practices possible in our region. Eco-certified practices protect pollinators, promote soil and tree health, and treat orchards as holistic ecosystems.

An organic protocol works well for growing tree fruit in the arid regional climate of western Washington. Even though the Northeast grows some of the best apples in the world, over 93% of certified organic apples sold in the U.S. come from western Washington. The climate in the Eastern U.S. is very different – much more rain; twice as many diseases; more than 60 species of damaging insects – and the national organic standards do not always offer the most sustainable treatments for those conditions.

For responsible growers and conscientious eaters in the eastern U.S., EcoCertified™ offers the best combination of Local + Ecologically grown fruit.

2. Eco certification offers transparency and integrity

To qualify for Eco certification, growers meet a rigorous production protocol that has been developed to ensure that consistent, environmentally responsible, and transparent practices are behind every piece of fruit.

The Eco Protocol is revised annually to reflect the most progressive growing practices and new research. Growers meet regularly, together with Red Tomato staff, scientists, and international experts. The Eco Core Protocol is extensive, and covers seven areas of farm practices:

  •  Operations and Management

  •  Ecosystem, Soil and Water Conservation

  •  Pesticide Risk Reduction

  •  Pollinator Protection

  •  Pest Monitoring and Management

  •  Food Safety and Product Quality

  •  Energy and Waste Management

The IPM Institute of North America, a nonprofit organization, administers the growing protocol and conducts annual audits. Every three years, each orchard is also inspected by an independent third-party organization, Apple Leaf.

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3. Eco-certified orchards combine centuries of experience with new energy and innovation.

The orchards in the Eco program are a powerful, resilient force in our region’s food system, combining deep family roots and experience with new, young energy and innovation. They represent some of the oldest farms in the region, with family roots that go back centuries, as well as the newest generation of fruit growers.

Eco growers blend decades of stewardship and knowledge of their land and trees with the latest science and innovative practices. They bring both skill and experience to the many complex challenges involved in growing healthy, great-tasting fruit and carefully bringing it from tree to table. – Red Tomato (learn more about the program at https://redtomato.org/eco/)

Now, as of 2022, we are proudly
Eco-certified and happy to share all of our hard work and delicious, local fruit with you!!
– Bobby and Sara Hricko