He led one of the sessions at the EcoFarm Day conference and his message was simple: if you're looking for a sustainable, viable way to farm, grow more fruit and nuts. Even on a micro-scale like ours, it makes good sense. As as country, we import 99% of fruit consumed, with seedless grapes being our #1 crop import, and we have very little in the way of commercial nut production. And Canadians love their fruit and nuts.
Sounds great, but what's particularly exciting about what Taylor is doing is he's growing varieties that don't just survive, but thrive in our northern climate. His philosophy is one of zero interference: no weeding, fertilizing, watering, pruning or spraying. As Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm encourages farmers to 'let a pig be a pig,' Taylor preaches to 'let a tree be a tree'.
Over the last 30+ years, he's achieved amazing results field testing for hardiness, disease resistance and maximum production with minimum input. He calls himself a 'mad scientist' (he does have a PhD in chemistry to back up his claim) and rightly so; for example, he's had great success with innovative breeding techniques, such as grafting a two-year-old heartnut scion on a five-year-old root, reducing the years-to-production to 1 to 2 years, down from 12.
His top 10 list of must-grow fruit and nuts includes: pears, walnuts, Asian pears, plums, table grapes, hazelnuts, raspberries, chums (cherry/plum cross), cherries and mulberries.
Notice there are no apples on his list? That's because he's discovered that other cultivators, such as Asian pears and even his own apple-pear variety, have a higher pest and disease resistance and require no spraying, as compared to the ubiquitous Macintosh apple, which requires heavy chemical controls.
We've already planted a few apple trees -- Gala, Freedom and Liberty varieties, plus we have two old trees that are still productive but could use some pruning.
But this year, we're excited about adding these to our wee orchard:
• Two Northbrite pears: a disease-resistant, highly productive pear that you plant and then leave alone
• Two Heartnut: a fast-producing tree that starts bearing heart-shaped sweet walnuts in two to six years
• Two sweet cherry trees of the Theranivee variety that produce loads of large, mahogany-coloured fruit with sweet black-red juice
• Two chum trees: a mix between cherry and plums, combining the best characteristics of each
• Two apple-pear trees: a very winter hardy, vigorous growing, disease-resistant tree that produces red-blushed yellow fruit with crisp, juicy, sweet flesh and it stores forever.
And in the fall, we'll be planting two Asian pear trees (we're on a waiting list) that grow prolifically without chemicals or fertilizer and improves in storage.
All photos courtesy of The Green Barn Nursery
It's a big investment but I think it'll be a fruitful one (ba-da-bump.) Of course the ordering is the 'easy' part. Now I just have to get someone to help me dig all those holes, haul the manure/compost, install the deer fencing around the orchard...
If you're interested, let me know. I'll pay you in fruit, in about 1 to 2 years.
Ed. update: Since publishing this post, I've discovered the chum varieties I wanted are sold out, so I'm bumping those onto next year's wish list, and I've requested two mulberry trees instead.
The Illinos Everbearing variety produces fruit all summer long only one year after planting. Birds love them, so I'm planting one for us, one for our feathered friends. Maybe then they'll leave the cherries alone!