The Big Question of Conventional or Organic Production.

Organic production is a decision that needs lots of thought.

There are several factors which you need to answer before deciding to go either direction.  Most fruit is raised conventionally, using synthetic pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, fertilizers and growth regulators, especially in the eastern half of the US where it is more humid.  In the more arid regions of the western half of the US, then organic seems to me to be proving much more feasible, than many places in the east.  When we used to be active fruit farmers, we were conventional, since "organic" farmers were considered fringe elements at that time. This is certainly not the case now--- organic has definitely gone main stream.  Organic production has a lot more followers, there is a much larger demand for the product, and there is more research and emphasis on a "systems" approach by the Extension Services and Universities.  Even though, I am still a "conventional" fellow, I would recommend that every new fruit grower take a good, hard look at the organic side of the industry.

Is there a viable market for organic in my region?  When you do your original market niche research, this is a good time to determine whether you want to even look at going organic.  If you have a large potential market for organic fruit sales, and the potential increased price you will need to charge for your product is attainable in the market place, and the chances of successfully growing organic fruit are fairly high, then it may be a no-brainer!  But, if the market shows that people won't pay extra for organic, don't really care if it is available, and you have high insect and disease pressures to fight, then it may be a no-brainer with a "conventional" answer.

Am I in a region where organic production is practical or just possible?  The more arid your growing climate is, the better chance you have of succeeding as an organic grower.  As an example, in most eastern apple regions growers may spray for scab infections 3-10 times during the season.  In the western growing regions in central Washington, this may be just a few times, if at all some years.8  Insect and disease pressure is usually much less in arid regions, so even in conventional systems, spraying pesticides and fungicides usually is required less.  However, no fruit grower can let their guard down in any region.  A good fruit grower scouts his orchards himself, or maybe has a consultant or other professional do it for him, so that he may be pro-active more often than being reactive in disease and insect control. 

What are the pitfalls of organic versus conventional production?  I can't say that I am any kind of expert on organic production.  In many eastern regions,  it may often be a questionable choice, unless you are where you can charge accordingly.  However, it is not impossible to do, just a lot more challenging than growing conventionally.
    One of the most often heard comments about growing organically is that your spray bill will usually be much less.  Conventional spray bills can run into the thousands of dollars per acre on conventional apples, especially if you are seeking top quality, high pack outs, and the best priced fruit.  With organic, expect lower spray bills, but also more insect stings, disease markings on fruit, and some increased labor costs maybe.  It is a trade off that needs to be carefully calculated.