Do you have any fruit-growing buddies? Whether you’re completely new to fruit growing or have been doing it for years, there’s huge value in hanging out with other people with the same interests.

Visiting other gardens (public or private), or going on a field trip to someone else’s property is one of the most effective ways of learning. (Apart from actually doing it for a few years, of course).

If you really love growing your own food, then finding your tribe is both heart-warming and incredibly useful.

After doing everything by ourselves for the first few years we finally found a peer group, and being able to learn from other fruit growers kind of changed our lives.

Hugh, Katie, and orchard lessee Ant at the 2019 ANOO conference
Hugh, Katie, and orchard lessee Ant at the 2019 ANOO conference

The Australian Network of Organic Orchardists

We’re in a group called the Australian Network of Organic Orchardists (ANOO), which has a get-together most years (COVID notwithstanding).

ANOO was born in Tasmania in 2015, the brainchild of Michelle McColl from Kalangadoo Organics.

It’s a pretty casual group – no committee, no office bearers, and no bank account. There are only two principles: it’s for certified organic commercial fruit growers to learn from each other, and it’s a collaborative, information-sharing space.

Organic orchardists having a round table discussion at Willie Smith's Apple Shed, in the Huon valley
Organic orchardists having a round table discussion at Willie Smith’s Apple Shed, in the Huon valley

No one’s an expert on everything, but ANOO is a gathering of farmers who are problem-solving every day to grow the best fruit they possibly can.

We all face essentially the same issues and problems, but everyone puts their own interpretation on them and solves them in their own unique way.

A cute picking ladder that's completely different to the type we use
A cute picking ladder that’s completely different to the type we use

Learning from seeing

Field trips are brilliant because you get to see different solutions in action. Learning about something in theory is useful, but seeing it in action makes it easier to understand.

At the 2019 ANOO conference, we did a field trip to Simon’s orchard. Simon uses a flame thrower in his orchard to get rid of last year’s leaves and the Black spot spores they carry. It only causes minimal damage to the understorey – a brilliant solution!

Simon demonstrating the flamethrower he uses to kill black spot spores in his orchard
Simon demonstrating the flamethrower he uses to kill black spot spores in his orchard

Sometimes the learning comes from noticing the differences between the farms we visit and our own.

Because ANOO is set up on the principle of openness and information sharing, we get to see and hear about everyone’s mistakes, as well as their successes.

Simon's undulating orchard on the side of several hills had Ant jumping for joy
Simon’s undulating orchard on the side of several hills had Ant jumping for joy

In Tassie, some of the challenges most growers face are too much vigour in the trees and too much grass in the orchard.

We wish!

It’s such a contrast to our semi-arid growing conditions and our relatively low soil carbon levels.

It’s a fantastic opportunity to benchmark ourselves against others and compare our yields, fruit quality, and disease management.

At the 2019 conference, we also saw lots of examples of animals in orchards. This is great experience for us because it’s something that a lot of Grow Great Fruit members are interested in doing.

Ant giving the pigs what they love at Our Mates' Farm in Geeveston
Ant giving the pigs what they love at Our Mates’ Farm in Geeveston

The value of learning from other fruit growers

The greatest value of ANOO is having a peer group of like-minded people who “get” what you’re talking about.

Apart from our Grow Great Fruit Q&A sessions, there are not many places in the world we can have in-depth conversations about Codling Moth or Black Spot. At least not without the eyes of the person you’re talking with quickly glazing over!

We spent the first 15 years of our fruit-growing career with no peer group. We often longed for other growers to talk to, ask questions of, and troubleshoot with.

It gives us a lot of joy knowing this is one of the valuable things we’ve been able to provide for Grow Great Fruit members. A sense of camaraderie and information-sharing can make a huge difference to your fruit-growing journey.

If joining the program isn’t right for you just now, we highly recommend that you find some like-minded people. It might be your local gardening group, community garden, or even your next door neighbour.

Coming together over a shared love of fruit growing will enrich your life, we promise!

Where are my bloody multigrips?
Where are my bloody multigrips?

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