Apple Farm / Bates & Schmitt
32 Acres in Philo (16 of them are farmed), about 130 miles from the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market.
Tim and Karen Bates, their children Don and Sally Schmitt plus Cruz Alvarado and an ever chaning array of seasonal employees.
California Certified Organic Farmers and Demeter Biodynamic
The Apple Farm is an historic orchard that sits at the bottom of the Navarro River in Mendocino County. Since 1984, when the orchard was purchased, the two couples have been working to make it a place where people, plants, and animals can live and thrive together. In Karen’s own words, “the orchard is a treasure in an area that is quickly losing its diversity.” By practicing sound farming techniques, the Apple Farm is helping protect a diminishing watershed.
Morning fog and hot afternoons produce tender-skinned and intensely perfumed fruit. All of the harvesting and packing is done by hand, and apples are never sprayed or washed. Having minimal inputs and keeping everything family run makes farming more efficient. Farming is part of their lifestyle, and they will continue to farm using biodynamic concepts, which will keep them busy for the rest of their lives.
Tim and Karen work on enhancing the micro-ecology of their farm for pest control. Sulfur is used for pheromone disruption during the mating season for insects. Border hedges where wild plants grow provide a good habitat for beneficial insects. By continually running livestock through the orchards, weeds and evasive plants do not pose a problem. In addition, the farm chooses varieties that are pest resistant and thrive in their microclimate.
Keeping in the biodynamic tradition, the farm only uses local products when building their soil. A variety of local horse and cow manures, composts, and cover crops help keep the soil strong and healthy. Occasionally farm animals are herded through the orchard to add more compost and help aerate the soil. The farm is always looking for ways to put nutrients back into the soil, because a complex soil leads to healthy fruits and vegetables. Younger trees are mulched with chipped apple wood to protect health, growth and to help retain water.
Water comes from the near-by Navarro River and is used only once every three weeks. This makes the fruit better tasting.