In 1997, after talking with various agriculturists and attending courses at the agricultural institute in La Pocatière, we decided to turn to organic agriculture. This does not mean a hands-off approach in the orchard, but rather that we use products that are biodegradable, such as Bordeaux mixture and lime sulphur. We also using trapping and encourage natural predators to make the orchard their home.
In observing our apple trees, we noticed that some varieties were more damaged than others. So we decided to take out all the trees that bore summer apples, such as the Vista Bella apple, and to keep the autumn varieties such as Spartan, Cortland, and Empire; these are both sweeter and more resistant to insects and scab.
Now that we have found the answers to these questions, we have since replanted with tree varieties that are more resistant to scab, such as Liberty, which have given us very rewarding results.
The year’s work in the orchard starts around February or March with pruning. In May, the orchard is sprayed and mowed for the first time, and the pruning of the trees is completed. Spring also sees the arrival of our first predators—the swallows that nest in the orchard. Next there will be a few more sprayings until the trees flower. The flowers will be pollinated by the bees that come from the hives in the orchard.
At the end of August or beginning of September, we assess the sugar content of the apples. After that, the apples are picked with the help of our farm workers.