Both American Fruit Grower® and Western Fruit Grower® magazines’ Apple Grower of the YearSM Rod Farrow, and the man from whom he bought Lamont Fruit Farm, George Lamont, point to an experience with the International Fruit Tree Association (IFTA) as being life-changing.
Lamont began developing a vision for fresh fruit in a state known for processing apples in the early 1960s, back when it was IDFTA — the “D” for “Dwarf.” He began thinking of moving away from processing apples on large trees after local grower/nurseryman Fritz Wafler persuaded him to attend an IDFTA meeting in 1962.
Thirty years later, Farrow visited British Columbia (BC) with IFTA and saw the super spindle tree training system for the first time.
“I thought ‘This is how you’re supposed to grow apples.’ I was absolutely gob-smacked,” he says. “It was three days that changed my life.”
Of course, being a fruit grower, he was still somewhat skeptical, and began thinking of all the reasons why it wouldn’t work. Especially because with such a close planting he would have difficulty controlling vigor in New York with no ability to restrict water.
But Farrow was enamored with the idea of planting trees just two feet apart and the uniformity that could bring. They grow their own trees, and one year, 1996, just a couple years after visiting BC, they found they had a few thousand extras. With no concern over tight spacing, they planted two acres of super spindle and it was evident it was going to be a hit within just a few years.
“We haven’t planted a different system since 1999,” he says.
Today, Farrow is IFTA president, and says it’s an honor to serve a high-value organization that allows you to meet progressive growers from around the world who freely share information. “This is where your contact list starts,” he says.
Farrow’s success is proof of the value of the tours and continuing education — IFTA has an annual winter conference and summer tour in the world’s leading fruit-growing districts — and serving as president helps give it back/pay it forward. The tours provide glimpses of what makes some of the world’s best growers tick.
“An important part of touring orchards is everybody does something better than you,” he says, “and the average grower wouldn’t get these experiences if not for IFTA.”