Recently we’ve had a lot of friends of the farm looking for organic strawberries, having read about the ‘Dirty Dozen’ - fruits and vegetables that have been found to have higher traces of chemicals. We feel that this research is lacking because it doesn’t look into traces of natural pesticides found on organic fruits and vegetables. In organic production copper spray may be used up to ten times a season to control mold. With IPM, we would never use it on strawberries, only on apple trees early on and never more than once a year and at a very low dose, as it is a heavy metal and can be detrimental to useful insects and soil quality. Of course it doesn't mean every organic farm uses it, nor does it mean every farmer using IPM is respecting the once a year rule...best bet is always to get to know your farmer, to ask questions and to inform yourself.
In short, we look at pesticides like antibiotics, not something we want to use all the time, but in order to avoid death...certainly a necessity.
Some of our standard practices with IPM:
- We work closely with an agronome who monitors all pests (insects, fungus, disease, weeds) and helps us control these in the best way possible.
- Raspberries, blueberries and strawberries may be susceptible to fungus, but usually in years where there is a lot of rain, so we will only use fungicides then and only targeted at specific fungus. We also make sure it is applied at the right time so that we can use a much less harsh product,
- Apples are harder to grow and we do have to use pesticides, although we try to use as little as possible and to intervene as early as possible to avoid having to use a lot. We know we have been successful at this, because even though the cost of pesticides has gone up, our total expenses have gone down drastically.
- We do have to use a little bit of insecticide on the corn for the corn bore. Another way to treat for it, is to introduce a particular parasitic wasp, which we will be experimenting with this year in an attempt to reduce our insecticide use.
But as always, we believe all of our fruit and vegetables are safe to eat - we eat them everyday raw in the field (a little mid-morning snack as we're picking) and our children (Lil’ Farmer Keith and Lil’ Farmer Alex) do the same!