Safe Food at Highland
We are not Certified Organic.
Our goal is to have healthful food that can be sampled right in the field. We do use Integrated Pest Management(IPM) which allows us to use as little pesticides as possible and still maintain a high quality product. You might notice that some of our fields are not weed free. This is a direct effect of using IPM and less pesticides as we do not try to eradicate the pests we simply try to get them to acceptable levels.
We do spray if we must to control disease or pests. Many customers have expressed concern about pesticides during harvest. Every pesticide has a federally mandated pre-harvest interval which we adhere to emphatically so that our fruits and vegetables can be eaten right off the plants without washing.
With Food Safety, sanitation has become the greatest risk factor, not just hand washing but the whole process of food handling. We are working hard on this front also.
The most common food illness is not from chemicals but from sanitation. We are addressing this through implementation of Good Agricultural Practices (GAP.) Much of this is behind the scenes, but some steps may impact you. For example GAP requires orchards to exclude domestic animals from the fields. Pets are not permitted in the orchard. Hand washing is a significant step. We do encourage you to wash fruit and vegetables with clean water, not soap, before use.
What is Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
The primary objective of IPM is to employ cultural and biological control tools, while minimizing the use of environmentally disruptive chemicals, in order to build a balanced and sustainable orchard ecosystem.
Elements of IPM
Growers give their plants a head start on pest problems by choosing the proper site, testing the soil, rotating crops, creating raised beds where necessary, and providing sufficient organic matter.
Growers plant crops that tolerate common problems, altering planting time and spacing to discourage certain diseases and insects.
Weather data is consulted to predict if and when pest outbreaks will occur. Treatments can then be properly timed, preventing crop damage and eliminating sprays.
Traps that are attractive to insects are used so that growers can pinpoint when the pest has arrived and decide whether control is justified.
Growers inspect representative areas of the fields regularly to determine whether pests are approaching a damaging level.
Before treating, growers wait until pest populations reach a scientifically determined level that could cause economic damage. Until that threshold is reached, the cost of yield and quality loss will be less than the cost for control.
The pest's environment is then disrupted by turning under crop residues, sterilizing greenhouse tools, and harvesting early.
It is necessary for growers to conserve the many beneficial natural enemies already at work. They import and use additional biologicals where effective.
Growers select the most effective and appropriate pesticide and properly calibrate sprayers. They then verify that weather conditions will permit good coverage without undue drift.
Records of pest traps, weather and treatment are kept for use in pest management decisions.
For more information on IPM practices please visit Penn State's
web site, http://extension.psu.edu/ipm