(Follow along as I write about what’s happening on my family’s farm, Johnson Farms, and what my brothers, Dean and Ward, are up to each week. Read previous reports here. -jb)
Things are kicking into high gear on Old Mission Peninsula farms as we hurtle towards cherry season like an out-of-control Case tractor on a non-terraced hillside. Ever since I was a kid working on our farm, this time of year literally seems like it shifts into fast-forward.
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Frost and Bees
At this writing, it doesn’t appear that frost is an issue. However, the bees like warmer weather to buzz around the orchards and do their pollinating, and aside from a few warm days early on, the weather has been somewhat cool this spring. Still, there appears to be a good showing of cherries and apples so far.
Once the cherries are pollinated, the bees are then moved to apple orchards, where the blossoms are a bit later. Below are a few pics of the hives from Sleeping Bear Farms on a parcel of land we call “The Forty” at the corner of Kroupa Road and Peninsula Drive.
As you can see, the hives were pretty “hot” that day, so I did not get out of the car, and instead took pics through the car window! This is the same land where a swarm happened a couple of years ago – which is fascinating to watch (through the car window).
Spraying and Integrated Pest Management
Because of the warm days early in the season, farmers have been spraying consistently since then to keep the fruit healthy and pest-free. Read more about Johnson Farms’ integrated pest management system here, where my nephew Nic explained the process.
There are a ton of rules regarding pest management, which is why no one is allowed in the orchards without permission. Because of farm audits, even farmers and workers are required to log in and out of orchards where they’re working. The long-ago days of me riding my horse wherever I wanted on the farm are long gone, replaced by rules and regulations.
You’ve likely seen some sprayers on Old Mission Peninsula roads lately. Here’s Terry Boursaw, who works for my brother, Ward Johnson, heading north on Center Road last week. Below that are sprayers in the spray barn. You will often hear the whine of sprayers during the night, when the winds are not as fierce as in the daytime.
The photo below is a trapping device that gives daily updates on pest counts in the orchards. This system tells farmers what pests are there and in what number, helping them to know what to spray for and when. Optimizing pest control this way is another facet of Integrated Pest Management. Read more about these devices here.
In my dad’s day, farmers did more blanket spraying – spraying the hardcore stuff that killed everything. These days, Integrated Pest Management is more discerning, spraying less- and non-toxic sprays and only when needed.
Fixing Farm Equipment and Planting More Trees
Much of equipment repair and maintenance is done during the off-season months, but sometimes things break down during the busy season. Here’s my brother, Dean Johnson, working on a sprayer at the Johnson Farms shop.
Below is the young apple orchard we’ve been following for the past couple of years on the corner of Center Road and Kroupa Road. This orchard was planted in the spring of 2021. It will be a few more years before apples will be harvested here.
In case you haven’t noticed, most – if not all – of the trees planted on the farm during the past few years have been apples, not cherries. We may have to change our name from “Cherry Capital of the World” at some point.
On this same block of land, more apples are being planted directly to the west. Here’s the farm crew digging holes for the posts used in this type of high-density planting.
The apple blossoms this year have been spectacular. With their pink hues and big blooms, I look forward to the apple blossoms every year.
And just a few more blossom pics, because why not? To see more blossoms around the Old Mission Peninsula, click here.