Buffalo Ridge Orchard field day will explore planning, managing a high-density orchard – July 10, near Central City

For Release: June 24, 2016

CENTRAL CITY, Iowa — When deciding the best way to set up an orchard, it’s especially important to consider your long-term goals, says orchardist Emma Johnson. “If your goal is for production, you should probably look at a dwarf system, since those trees start producing sooner,” says Emma, who operates Buffalo Ridge Orchard near Central City with her husband, Marcus, and parents Mary and Vernon Zahradnik.

“You’ll need to prune a lot more trees – and there’s the cost of trellising and posts, which are learning curves some people might not want to face. But on the flip side, picking fruit is easier and we’re able to do most of the pruning on a ladder. However, I have a friend with an orchard whose goal is for his grandkids to be able to sit in the orchard and have trees shading them – so his goals aren’t the same.”

Emma and Marcus operate a high-density orchard with 3,600 apple trees on dwarfing rootstock, and 250 pear trees. They invite farmers and the public to learn more about orchard planning and management at a Practical Farmers of Iowa field day they are hosting on Sunday, July 10, from 2-5 p.m., near Central City. The event – “Pruning and Managing a Medium-Scale Orchard” – is free to attend and will take place at 1337 Rollins Rd., about 3 miles northeast of Central City.

Guests are invited to stay for a potluck after the program. RSVPs are requested for the meal. Please contact Lauren Zastrow, lauren@practicalfarmers.org or (515) 232-5661, by Thursday, July 7. Guests are asked to bring a dish to share and their own table service. The field day is sponsored by Mercy Medical Center of Cedar Rapids and New Pioneer Food Co-op.

Attendees will learn what is required to run a medium-scale, fresh-market apple orchard. Emma and Marcus will share their management schedule for the year; demonstrate summer pruning on 2-year-old and mature dwarf apple trees; walk through use of the spray equipment and products; show their orchard equipment; and discuss ongoing improvements to harvest efficiency. By growing their orchard slowly over the years, they have been able to trial practices and learn incrementally.

“People might be surprised to learn that it takes a lot less space than you’d think to grow the 3,600 trees in our dwarf system, and we get more production per acre,” Emma says.

Buffalo Ridge Orchard was started with the planting of its first apple tree in 2003. This began the transition of a traditional 80-acre agricultural farm to one that supplies healthy local produce. The goal is to supply vegetables, apples and pears sustainably. The orchard has expanded from 800 to more than 3,000 trees. Buffalo Ridge Orchard has over 50 different types of new and classic apple varieties. In 2011, the family installed a moveable hoop house, which allows them to grow greens and root vegetables in the winter, get an early start on tomatoes and extend the season for other vegetable crops.

Directions from Central City: Follow East Main Street / East Maple Street / Sawyer Road east out of town. In about 0.75 mile, turn left (north) onto Jordans Grove Road. After 1.5 mile, turn right (east) onto Rollins Road. Buffalo Ridge Orchard is the first house on the left (north) side of the road.

Practical Farmers of Iowa’s 2016 field day season features 25 events around Iowa. All field days feature farmer-led discussions and farm or field tours. Details are in Practical Farmers’ “2016 Field Day Guide,” available at practicalfarmers.org, or for free in print. To request a guide by mail, call the PFI office at (515) 232-5661.

Practical Farmers’ 2016 field days are supported by several sustaining and major sponsors, including: Albert Lea Seed; Applegate Organic & Natural Meats; Center for Rural Affairs; Featherman Equipment; Grain Millers, Inc.; Iowa Agriculture Water Alliance; Iowa Beef Center; Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH); Iowa Cover Crop; Iowa Environmental Council; Iowa State University Department of Agronomy; ISU Extension and Outreach; ISU Graduate Program in Sustainable Agriculture; Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture; Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES); MOSA Organic Certification; National Wildlife Federation; Natural Resources Defense Council; North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE); Organic Valley – Organic Prairie – CROPP Cooperative; RIMOL Greenhouse Systems; Riverside Feeds, LLC; Soil First; The Yield Lab; Trees Forever; Wallace Chair for Sustainable Agriculture; Welter Seed & Honey Co.; and Willcross Soybeans.


Practical Farmers of Iowa strengthens farms and communities through farmer-led investigation and information-sharing. Our values include: welcoming everyone; creativity, collaboration and community; viable farms now and for future generations; and stewardship and ecology. Founded in 1985, farmers in our network raise corn, soybeans, livestock, hay, fruits and vegetables, and more. To learn more, visit https://www.practicalfarmers.org.


Emma and Marcus Johnson | Buffalo Ridge Orchard | (319) 521-1353 | buffaloridgeorchard@gmail.com

Tamsyn Jones | Practical Farmers of Iowa | (515) 232-5661 | tamsyn@practicalfarmers.org