Official Press Release: Providence, RI – August 18, 2020 –
A network of farmers dedicated to growing the most ecological, top quality fruit in the Northeast are marking 15 years of the Eco Apple® program, a nonprofit initiative to provide just-picked fruit that combines the best of local with the most environmentally progressive production methods for the region.
Twelve orchards have earned Eco Apple® certification for the 2020 season; six are also certified for Stone Fruit, including peaches and cherries. They represent a diverse group of farms in six states. Some, like Lyman Orchards in CT and Clark Brothers Orchards in western MA, helped found the program and have been certified all fifteen years. Cooper Farms in W. Paris, ME, the largest orchard in the state, is certified for the first time this year.
Eco-certified orchards use bio-intensive practices that support pollinator health, minimize risk to humans and wildlife, and nurture a healthy environment. The IPM Institute of North America, which along with non-profit Red Tomato helped launched the Eco program in 2005, reviews audit records and verifies Eco-certification each year.
In addition to having fruit available in grocery stores throughout the region, popular orchards like Fishkill Farms and Indian Ladder Farms in the Hudson Valley and Scott Farm in Vermont attract thousands of pick-your-own visitors each weekend during harvest. Although the Covid-19 pandemic has meant new challenges, orchards report strong interest in buying local. They’ve seen an increase in demand for their fruit, and with careful safety protocols in place, can offer a much-needed opportunity to connect with the outdoors.
Along with the pandemic, regional orchards face volatile weather, intense competition, and increasing uncertainty in their markets. The Eco program partners have an ambitious vision to expand the impact of the program. They want to reach more growers across the eastern US, including other products beyond apples and peaches. They want to increase the emphasis on soil health, climate resilience and biodiversity. And they are working to enlist eaters, customers, citizens to help spread the Eco story more widely.
“These orchards are a powerful, resilient force in our region’s food system, combining deep roots and generations of experience with new, young energy and innovation,” says Angel Mendez, executive Director of Red Tomato. “We’re proud to work with them, and grateful for their commitment to raising delicious fruit that we can feel good about.”
The opportunity to collaborate with like-minded growers, and the certification and marketing support that helps educate customers about their growing methods, are reasons growers value the program, but the sustainable approach to growing fruit is something they do because they believe in it.
“We have a loyal, enthusiastic community that looks forward to our fruit every year,” notes Joe Nuciforo of Mead Orchards in Tivoli, NY. “They want local farms to thrive, and we want them to know we are looking out for their well-being as well as the soil, water and wildlife around us.”
Early varieties like Paula Red and Ginger Gold are available now, and Honeycrisp, Gala, and popular regional specialties like McIntosh, Macoun, Cortland, Empire, and many heirloom varieties on the way. Look for Eco-certified fruit in grocery stores and check with individual orchards for harvest dates, varieties, and pick your own options.
Participating orchards, along with Red Tomato, offer many ways to connect apple lovers with Eco-certified farms near them. To follow Eco Apple on social media, visit Red Tomato’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/RedTomatoProduce and Instagram at @redtomatoproduce.
2020 Certified Eco Apple® orchards:
Blue Hills Orchard – Wallingford, CT *
Lyman Orchards – Middlefield, CT *
Rogers Orchard – Southington, CT *
Clark Brothers Orchard – Ashfield, MA
Champlain Orchards – Shoreham, VT *
Scott Farm – Dummerston, VT
Fishkill Farms, Hopewell Junction, NY*
Indian Ladder Farms – Altamont, NY
Mead Orchards – Tivoli, NY *
Schlegel Fruit Farm – Dalmatia, PA
Ricker Hill Orchards – Turner, ME
Cooper Farms – West Paris, ME
* Also certified for Eco Stone Fruit™ in 2020.
About Eco Apple® and Eco Stone Fruit™
The Eco Apple® and Eco Stone Fruit™ program is a third party growing and certification program, a partnership between farmers and science advisors to advance the most progressive and environmentally responsible growing practices for tree fruit in the Northeast. Orchards are certified annually by the IPM Institute of North America, based on a rigorous protocol that is updated each year to incorporate current research and best practices. Begun with six orchards on 400 acres, the program has certified 30 orchards and sold over $25 million in certified fruit since 2005.
About Red Tomato
Red Tomato is a nonprofit on a mission to change the food system for the better. They work with farmers, distributors and grocers to bring the freshest locally and regionally grown fruits and vegetables to people where they shop and eat every day. Based in Rhode Island, Red Tomato develops marketing, education, programs and partnerships to build a more sustainable food system and a better future for the Northeast region.