University of Vermont

UVM Fruit

Tree Fruit: Organic Basics

Organic Apple Production In New England

Lorraine P. Berkett and Terence L. Bradshaw

Although there is interest in organic apple production in New England, there are very few certified organic orchards in the region. This is partly because of the many native and introduced arthropod pests that have been difficult to manage using organically-accepted methods and tools and because of horticultural challenges such as thinning the apple crop in an economically viable, organic way (i.e., finding a reliable alternative to hand-thinning). In addition, the usually wet weather in the spring and during the growing season in New England and the predominant apple cultivar grown (i.e., ‘McIntosh’) have provided significant challenges in disease management, particularly of apple scab. However, recent shifts in consumer preference for ‘newer’ cultivars have led to the planting of different apple cultivars which have different disease susceptibility and research has identified potential alternatives to insect and horticultural obstacles to organic apple production in the region. New England apple growers interested in organic apple production may want to re-examine the challenges and opportunities of organic production given the shift in cultivars and the new research-generated information that is available. If you are considering organic apple production, it is important to thoroughly know the regulations and process of organic certification right from the beginning. The following is a quick overview:

What is organic agriculture?

In 1995, the USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) defined organic agriculture as "an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles, and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain, or enhance ecological harmony…The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals and people." Before a product can be labeled "organic," a Government-approved certifier must inspect the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet the USDA organic standards. Detailed records are required and reviewed by the certifier. It takes three years of organic management before a farm product can be “certified” as organic. Please note that the labels "natural" and "eco-friendly" which have been used to describe agricultural products may imply that some organic methods were used in the production of the product, but this labeling does not guarantee complete adherence to organic practices as defined by law.

General Information on organic production can be found on the following websites:
Federally accredited certifying agencies for the New England states include:

MOFGA Certification Services, LLC
294 Crosby Brook Rd.
P.O. Box 170
Unity, ME 04988-0170
Contact: Mary Yurlina
Scope: crop, livestock, wild crop, handling

Connecticut and Massachussetts

Baystate Organic Certifiers
683 River St.
Winchendon, MA 01475
Contact: Don Franczyk
Scope: crop, livestock, wild crop, handling

New Hampshire

New Hampshire Dept. of Agriculture,
Markets, & Food
25 Capitol St.
P.O. Box 2042
Concord, NH 03302-2042
Contact: Victoria M. Smith
Scope: crop, livestock, wild crop, handling

Rhode Island

Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management
Division of Agricultural and Resource Marketing
235 Promenade St.
Providence, RI 02908
Contact: Matt Green
Scope: crop and handling


Vermont Organic Farmers, LLC
NOFA Vermont
P.O. Box 697
Richmond, VT 05477
Contact: Nicole Dehne
Scope: crop, livestock, wild crop, handling

Last modified March 31 2014 02:04 PM