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Orchard Ridge Farms

Rockton, Illinois

John Zydowicz

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Orchard Ridge Farms
John Zydowicz
Tell us about your growing philosophy

We'd like to be a part of steering our food system away from the precipice.  We understand the harm industrial agriculture has done, not only to the environment and farm workers, but to the economies of local communities.  That said, positive change is on the horizon, and my philosophy is to try my best to be part of the solution.  To me, this involves understanding that what we spray on our trees will eventually flow down through the soil and into our rivers and lakes, or perhaps into that glass of water I pour when I'm thirsty on a hot July day.  And so promoting biology and diversity in all aspects of the orchard ecosystem is what I'm striving toward.  An orchard is not a sterilized laboratory in which to grow fruit.  It is a living, breathing thing.  So are our communities, and we must try to reconnect the two. There's plenty of learning to do before we can realize these goals, but in short, everything we do in the orchard tries to be conscious of this.  

Tell us about your place on Earth.

Our orchard is in far northern Illinois, about 1 mile from Wisconsin.  We're in a continental climate, so (relatively) cold winters and hot summers.  We have ten acres of trees on rolling hills, planted in 2009 and 2010 on dwarf rootstocks (M9 and Bud 9) spanning 12 varieties.  Sandy soils make water a concern, and our long term goal is to build organic matter.

What draws you to growing fruit?

I love being outside, plain and simple.  To me, the outdoors feels like the "real world."  I also find it fascinating that all the choices you make in growing apples, along with the weather throughout the season can profoundly affect the taste of the apple, and the cider made from it.  

I am continuously fascinated by the infinite amount of things to learn about growing fruit, and I hope I never lose this fascination.

What holistic innovation most rocks your boat?

Absolutely, and I couldn't agree more.  I'm trying to absorb as much information as I can to understand the complexity of the processes going on in the orchard.

What might you change if you could do one thing over again in your orchard?

Plant more scab-immune cultivars.  I fear in rainy years, stopping primary infection may prove difficult./p>

How do you go about marketing the good fruit?

We're just starting to receive substantial harvests, but the plan is to sell at farmers' markets, at a roadside stand, and in fruit shares distributed through local CSAs.  On the horizon, we'd like to have a retail store on the farm where we can produce cider and hard cider.  We also might do a yearly pressing event for home cidermakers.

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