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Choosing an Orchard Mentor

Nature insists on teaching lessons every growing season. Getting advice from an experienced orchardist about the challenges at hand can be critical, especially in those early years. Discussing site design and marketing plans before the trees get planted with someone who knows can save untold angst. Keeping this fun is essential.

Organic's  Final Frontier

Tree fruits are challenging to grow. The season from bud break to harvest is long, providing plenty of opportunities for pests and disease to take hold. Answers lie in emphasizing system health orchard-wide, from diverse biology and plant metabolism to the giving trees themselves and the tasty fruit that nourishes our families. 

Our holistic orchard consultants can help accelerate any grower's learning curve.


Mike Biltonen

Mike Biltonen

I’ve been growing apples for nearly 40 years. And in those nearly 40 years, I won’t say I’ve seen it all, but I’ve seen a lot. I started in the commercial tree fruit business working for a large - as in 1500 acres large - orchard in central Virginia. And what became quickly apparent to me is how devoid of anything alive the orchards really were. It took almost ten years, but the early 90s not only was the path forward becoming clearer, but the public was clamoring for more organic and well-grown food - even if they didn’t understand what that really meant. They still don’t. Over the past 20 years, I have been a a consultant to many tree fruit growers in the northeast and what I’ve learned is that no matter how much we truly want to grow fruit holistically, it ain’t easy. Not impossible, just not easy. My own orchard, Apostrophe Orchard, is a testing ground for finding the biological edges and working out the nuances of growing fruit in a biodynamic and holistic manner. I am committed to shifting the paradigm away from what’s easily possible to what’s needed for the integrity and safety of our food, ourselves, and the planet. My focus these days is on biodynamics, soil fertility and plant health, IPM (its not what you think it is), organic and holistic pest management, and the basics of starting and operating an orchard. I consult widely, teach a seasonal webinar series, conduct workshops and seminars, and assist growers in making a transition from wherever they are today to a more conscious, holistic way of farming. You can reach me at or 845-674-5124. Or take a look at my website,

Chris Negronida

Chris Negronida


I am a farmer, orchardist and cider maker in the Finger Lakes region of New York. My wife Alexis and I own Perry City Orchard and Nursery where we propagate heirloom, European cider and native wild apple varieties as well as a number of small fruits and shrubs. We also have a small organically managed orchard with over 100 varieties of apples and perry pears and grow a variety of other fruits including hardy figs, blueberries and honey berries.  I have over 20 years experience in orchards and more than a decade’s experience in organic and holistic orchard management.

Planting a new orchard or expanding an existing one is incredibly exciting and fulfilling, but can also be a little daunting and certainly a lot of work. There are many things to consider whether you are planting a small hobby orchard, cider orchard or a large commercial planting. Making the right choices during the planning stages and early years of an orchard can save you a lot of work down the road. This is why I offer a variety of consulting services for those seeking advice in the establishment or expansion of their orchard. My areas of expertise include (but are not limited to): site evaluation, variety and rootstock selection, orchard design and establishment, organic and holistic pest management and pruning of mature and new orchards.

In addition, I provide consulting services for those looking to delve into the realm of orchard-based cider making. Whether you want to start from scratch or diversify an existing operation, I can guide you through the design of your cidery, helping you make choices about scale, equipment, production methods and marketing.

Creating and managing low-input orchards for niche processing outlets has been my focus for over a decade. Along the way, I visited the genetic homeland of many temperate fruits in Central Asia to learn about how the wild fruit forests in Kyrgyzstan had been managed with livestock for centuries to produce meat/milk and fruit/nuts. The idea of having livestock integrated into the orchard design (aka fruit silvopasture) to supply an early and annual source of income was very attractive. HogTree came to be to further develop my own concepts for designing diverse fruit and nut orchards that feed livestock while simultaneously producing high value niche products – like cider and charcuterie – while also having the livestock do much of the work.

I do commercial, home and site evaluations for orchards of all types, only I usually add in another layer (livestock) into the mix because that gets me more into the farmer realm and less out of the recent retiree seeking romantic orchard realm. That's not to say I won't consult with romantic retirees, but I prefer farmers. My services are offered through my company Fruit and Fodder, be it for consulting in season or orchard/silvopasture/land design and implementation. If interested in learning more, check out this youtube video with Steven Edholm and myself talking about silvopasture, rare genetics, value-added goods and apples . . . of course! Our mutual mission will be to create, plant and graft meaningful tree cropping systems.


Eliza Greenman

Eliza Greenman

Todd Parlo

My educational approach is a hands on no nonsense approach to growing. You will be hiring an experienced, hands dirty farmer to help you succeed. After spending a decade getting my feet wet in the plant science world I opened Walden Heights Nursery and Orchard in Northeast Vermont. 25 years later we are growing thousands of varieties of tree fruits, along with countless berries and vines. The farm is certified organic. Our apple arboretum contains 600 distinct varieties. We have a cider pressing operation (mostly for hard cider), cold storage facilities, and have a farm store and CSA. We are also a propagation nursery, which produces tens of thousands of plants each year. I have been involved in educating folks for over 30 years (starting with a teaching degree in 1990). Over the last 20 years I have been mentoring farmers, running classes, doing public speaking engagements and doing exactly this- consulting for would be orchardists.

My growing philosophy is straight up sustainability. That means an emphasis on organic agriculture, creating an earth friendly ecosystem in the orchard, and generally not wasting money. A central tenet to my mentoring is to work personally with a grower, partnership or family and strategize good planning. How many hours can you afford? What’s your budget? Homesteading, selling at the farmers’ market or running a commercial cidery? Want to grow heirlooms? Learn to graft or prune? Set up a cheap walk-in cooler? Need help navigating organic certification? Health and safety laws? Or maybe just growing a few trees and bushes so the kids can experience the plant world. The whole endeavor will be tailored to you.

I am a grower of tree fruit in western Massachusetts.  Brook Farm Orchard apples, pears, peaches, plums and Asian pears are grown using Biodynamic farming practices. Our orchard has 125 trees on 2 acres producing roughly (and some years it IS rough) 400 bushels annually. This fruit has soul, you can taste it! My farming partner and I sell this fruit at a local farmers market and a few harvest festivals. 

I have been consulting and teaching for 15 years using my orchard as a classroom. I consult with commercial growers and offer classes for homeowners with only a few fruit trees. You can learn all aspects of growing fruit and enjoying your fruit with family and friends (and customers). Variety selection, site layout, planting, grafting, pruning, annual care of the soil, and picking are all part of the consult. Phone consults are available as well as site visits. Contact: 413 625 9615 Instagram: @BrookFarm Orchard

Cider Chat Podcaster Ria Windcaller interviews Michael's good friend, orchardist Alan Surprenant, about who Michael was as a person, as a friend and as a fellow orchardist. Their conversation also goes deep into what's involved in growing apples holistically, both for the commercial grower and the home orchardist.

Alan Surprenant

Michael Phillips

The founder of the Holistic Orchard Network left the earthly orchard in late February, 2022, and is sorely missed.

You can still walk through an entire growing season with him in his lovely, well thought-out, approachable books,  The Holistic Orchard and The Apple Grower, always aimed at improving your understanding of what it takes to produce a successful fruit crop.

The consultants listed above carry Michael's work forward with consultations in the 'Phillipsian Method' and their distinct regional variants. Contact them directly by clicking the buttons below their pictures, or appeal directly to the consultants' table to find the best consultant match, and filling up the form the resulting form. The more information given, the quicker the consultant will be able to respond to your needs or the better we'll be able to find the right consultant for you.


Michael Phillips



Consultant prospectus

Network members may request to be listed as a holistic orchard consultants. Please contact us to talk through your qualifications and perspective. Promoting one's professional services in this space  requires a sponsor-type commitment to the network in return. We are in particular need of consultants for the western US.

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