Students learned to care about the environment in their personal and professional lives during the Lasallian Week of Peace Symposium on Oct. 2, 2013.
Harry Hoch, the owner of the Hoch Orchard, said making wise food choices and being aware of the organic process helps better the environment. Hoch said the best way to help local farmers is to visit farmers markets, reduce fast food consumption and purchase organic food.
Organic farming, Hoch said, is a hot commodity. Hoch Orchard, he said, uses the latest technology to yield more profits and crops.
“[My farm] is a vertically integrated fruit production and processing company, which grows up to 5,000 to 10,000 bushels of fruit,” said Hoch. “Our main products are apples, but we also produce everything from berries to honey and pork.”
The farm has over 40 acres and has been organically certified since 2010. Since the main production is apples, the farm produces apple cider, sauces and juice. Using their heated processing shed apples are able to be picked year round. The farm produces various berries year round in their tunnels and green houses.
Hoch said they are the only orchard to produce cherries this far north. Beehives and pollinator plots help produce pollen for the fruit year round, he said. They also have two acres of vineyards which helps them grow wine grapes and table grapes. The farm also integrates animals into their production by using sows and
pigs, said Hoch.
Despite being in a cold Minnesota climate, Hoch Orchard is able to flourish in fruit production because of SweeTango, Hoch said, a strain of apples that allows fruit to grow underneath. The University of Minnesota gave the farm three acres of the fruit strain. The fruit underneath the trees are protected by straw to keep insects and animals away.
Another critical part of growing organic food in a Minnesota climate is the in-row cultivator said Hoch. “This may cause damage sometimes but at least they aren’t spray harmful chemicals,” he said.
The farm grows fruit by using a bio-intensive system. They use weather data recorders and computer modeling systems to time their sprays. A farm composting gives nutrients to the plants throughout the farm. The farm is currently waiting to become a bio-dynamic farm, which would allow it to produce all products on their own.
Hoch Orchard controls insects by placing birdhouse around the farm. They place these houses throughout the farm acres as a food source for the type of insects. The farm mows every other row to have a continuation for more food sources to grow for the insects.