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Jim Travis: Fruit Specialist by Trade, Grower by Passion

Posted by Christina Kostelecky at Nov 14, 2017 01:47 PM |
Jim Travis grew up helping his father in the fruit orchards, developing a passion for the art of growing quality fruit, and being a steward to his environment. Each morning, while leaving the back door, Jim would pick an apple off one of his father’s Jonathan apple trees before boarding the school bus. One day, in the early Spring...
Jim Travis: Fruit Specialist by Trade, Grower by Passion

Jim Travis with a Crimson Topaz

Jim Travis grew up helping his father in the fruit orchards, developing a passion for the art of growing quality fruit, and being a steward to his environment. Each morning, while leaving the back door, Jim would pick an apple off one of his father’s Jonathan apple trees before boarding the school bus. One day, in the early Spring, Jim noticed that one of the trees’ branches had turned brown. After calling the local county extension agent, and sending a sample to the Penn State University Fruit Disease Specialist, it was discovered that his tree was suffering from fire blight. After the Fruit Disease Specialist informed them of the tree’s disease, and offered management solutions to the problem, all Jim could think was: “Wow, I’d like to be a “specialist” who could identify problems on fruit trees and help people solve the problem”. Eventually, Jim did become the Penn State University Fruit Disease Specialist, and spent 29 years traveling across Pennsylvania helping fruit growers solve their fruit disease problems.

After an early retirement, Jim moved on to produce organic fruit in his own orchards. A certified organic farm since 2012, Apple Tree Vineyard and Farm (or Travis Organics) grows organic apples, peaches and pears in Adams County, PA. Jim explains: “When I looked for potential fruit orchard sites in Adams County, I found all the good fruit land already had orchards planted on them. So, rather than buy and plant on mediocre or a poor orchard site, I chose a site which had been logged off 10 years earlier and was covered with thick brush. But the land has excellent soil drainage, sunlight exposure, and air circulation on a southeastern exposure.” Once cleared, Jim’s orchards began producing excellent organic fruit, supplying most of their USDA Certified Organic fruit through The Common Market in Frederick, MD and Oyler’s Organic Farms and Market in Adams County, PA.

Jim Travis & Gold RushI asked Jim what “sustainable” means to him, and how his operation is sustainable. “When I recognize, understand, correctly adjust, and implement the factors that contribute to the natural balance of the orchard, all goes well and high quality fresh fruit is produced in addition to achieving orchard and site sustainability.” Jim also stressed that he is continuously learning the ways of his orchard, and constantly striving for a deeper understanding of sustainability. “Some years I learn to rejoice and other years I forget even past lessons, but the orchard is ever patient if I am willing to keep an open mind and learn.”

From Jim’s perspective, the future of organic fruit production in the eastern United States is bright: “There are natural features in the east that offer nearly ideal conditions for growing high quality organic fruit.” Our location here in Pennsylvania offers frequent rains, well-drained soils, ample sunlight and warm temperatures, a natural topography of hills and valleys, and a significant market for locally grown organic fruit. All of these factors contribute to the possibility of quality, high yielding organic fruit production in our area. “It’s all here, everything that is needed to successfully grow and market organic apples, peaches, and other tree fruits.” Jim also notes that some of our regional attributes also have the potential to harm organic fruit orchards, such as moist climatic conditions and native and invasive pests that are able to thrive in this region. “The two keys to future success depend on the grower and expanded information based on new organic research.”

Jim has been a member of PASA since the early days. He served on the PASA conference committee in its early days and later served on the board of directors for a year. He has given a number of presentations on growing sustainable fruit and organic fruit. For the upcoming 2018 Farming for the Future Conference, held February 7-10, 2018 in State College, Jim will be hosting a workshop on how to develop a commercial organic apple orchard with the goal of producing the highest yield of quality fruit possible. He will focus on utilizing hand work efficiently, as well as orchard design and mechanization to reduce labor and improve production in the field. Conference attendees can look forward to leaving with an understanding about what is required to establish and manage a commercial organic orchard. Jim will also offer an extended conversation on the key factors that must be addressed to achieve the best yields of quality fruit in the northeastern United States. So if you’re a fruit grower, be sure to select Jim’s workshops when you register for the conference.

By Brittney Dieter

Brittney Dieter

 

Brittney Dieter is from Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. She is the Sales Manager at Wild For Salmon, and is passionate about sustainable food systems and environmental conservation.

 

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