In the two and a half acre (roughly one hectare) orchard, Bryan explained that it takes about five years for the trees to begin producing fruit, so it's important to use research and math to estimate the expected yields so that you can plan your business and cash flow. Bryan plans for an estimated five to ten percent of the trees dying off in the first few years of planting. While disease and insect pests pose a threat to trees, Hildebrand Farms also has to protect trees from hungry mice and deer. Plastic covers on each of the tree trunks are put in place each fall to prevent mice from destroying trees over the winter, and a solar powered electric fence protects the 600 trees from deer.
Hildebrand Farms plans to have a pick-your-own option for raspberries and blueberries, providing a local organic option for families from Cornwall. Bryan explained they are also considering a pick-your-own option for the fruit trees, but that pick-your-own operations in orchards require a bit more supervision by the farmer in order to insure customers know how to pick the fruit without damaging the trees.
|Students learned about black raspberries, and were intrigued by the fact that when the raspberry canes grow tall enough, they flop over and root in the soil.|
One of the aspects Bryan highlighted was the degree to which he uses experimentation to expand the business. For example, the blueberries have done well, so they are now expanding that aspect of the farm. On the other hand, in a planting of 36 heartnut trees (students were intrigued to learn that this walnut relative is actually heart shaped!) only three have survived. Bryan explained that he will likely wait until the surviving trees are bigger, and propagate them, in the hopes that the surviving trees are better adapted to local conditions.
In the blueberry field, students took cuttings from the existing plants and helped prepare them for rooting in containers of sand. The completed containers will spend the winter in a cold storage facility (at about refrigerator temperature) and be planted in the spring to increase the size of the blueberry patch.
|Students helped select cuttings from the blueberry patch and prepared them to root over the winter. With a little luck, in the spring the cuttings will have developed roots and be planted out in the blueberry field.|