CFAC hosted its third Farmer Field Day of the season last week at Forbidden Fruit Orchard. Participants got the chance to connect with other Western Montana farmers and learn several techniques important for successful orchard management.
Forbidden Fruit Orchard grows “sinfully delicious” fruits near Paradise, MT. Owners Tom and Lynn McCamant sell their fresh fruit at Missoula and Clark Fork River Markets, as well as through the Western Montana Growers Coop. They grow a wide variety of fruit including peaches, cherries, apricots, and nectarines.
Tom and Lynn started their orchard back in 2000, with the purchase of 20 acres of bare ground. Over the years Tom and Lynn have experienced many successes and challenges while growing fruit trees in Western Montana, and have tried different varieties to find ones that work well for their climate. As part of this field day, Tom shared what he has learned over the years and key factors to consider when managing fruit trees in Montana.
The field day started with Tom showing attendees several tree training and pruning techniques. Tom mentioned when deciding on your main training and pruning systems the type of fruit tree and your method of harvesting are both important factors to consider.
Tree training techniques such as open vase, central leader, or multiple leader all have different benefits and limitations. Tom discussed how the open vase method can provide a lower tree canopy, making picking fruit easier. A central leader training technique works with the way the tree wants to grow naturally, making for less time-intensive pruning.
Tom and Lynn have switched part of their orchard to organic practices, and this has changed their floor management techniques. Tom talked about the challenges and benefits of switching from conventional to organic practices in orchard management, and key things to consider when making decisions around floor management.
At the end of the field day participants munched on fresh peaches and gathered for a potluck before taking a dip in the Clark Fork and Flathead River’s that pass right by Tom and Lynn’s property
Our next Farmer Field Day will be on September 18th at Lifeline Produce in Victor. Farmers Steve Elliot and Luci Brieger will discuss what it takes to minimize your farm’s carbon footprint.
Our field days are geared toward people who are just at the beginning of their farm exploration—farmhands, interns, folks thinking about starting a farm in the near future, and those who are currently in the startup process. Of course, established farmers and ranchers are welcome too!