Seminar set for budding fruit growers

The Grand Valley is known for growing tremendous fruit, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that more and more people are considering the commercial possibilities of spreading the region’s sweetness, and hopefully make a buck at the same time.

To help bridge the knowledge gap people often confront in starting small commercial fruit growing operations, a full-day education seminar is planned for later this month.

“A lot of people are interested, but the start-up costs can really be significant — between land, the trees and the equipment,” said Bob Hammon, one of the speakers set to present at the event Jan. 14 at the Western Colorado Research Center on Orchard Mesa. That group is partnering with CSU Extension to put on the day-long program, which costs $50, due by Thursday, Jan. 10.

Experts are set to speak on basic tree structures, principles of fruit thinning and pruning, water management, nutrition and fertilization, pest and weed management, along with budgeting and marketing a small business.

Hammon said the series of topics is geared to small commercial growing operations — it’s not really intended for the backyard gardener.

He said proper pruning will be one focus. “If you start from the day you plant it, and do it correctly from the very beginning, it’s not so bad,” Hammon said. “The longer they’ve gotten away from you, the more difficult it is.”

Thinning — or removing up to 80 percent of the fruit that buds on the branches over time — is key to successful growing for sale. If growers don’t thin correctly, the result is often small and misshapen fruit.

“It’s a time-consuming and expensive part of the growing process, but it’s one of the reasons that Palisade has such a great reputation with peaches,” Hammon said. “It’s because they are thinned properly, and you get such good size on them.”

These days, organic options and practices are always part of the discussion, and it will be no different in this educational program. Hammon said all of the topics will be covered from a traditional as well as organic growing perspective.

Expert speakers will focus on peaches, cherries and apples — even though grape-growing in the Grand Valley has become quite popular. Hammon called growing grapes “a whole different story,” but added that local grape specialist Horst Caspari is scheduled to be a part of the program. Caspari will speak on the topics of water management and marketing, Hammon said.

The day begins at 8:30 a.m. in the research center’s conference center. There will be an hourlong lunch break, with box lunch, which will be a chance for folks to ask specific questions of the speakers.

Some of the pruning session is scheduled to be held outside, so Hammon suggests people bring a jacket.

More information can be had at 970-434-3264, ext. 201.


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