Andrew Bishop of Noggins Corner Farm has turned a quarter-of-an-acre of his cherry crop into an experiment under sheltering tunnels. The 14-foot tunnels arc over the cherry trees, protecting them from birds and rain. Since installing the tunnels, Bishop says these problems are close to non-existent. His trees get water from a small irrigation system, but also from rainwater running through the sloped orchard.
Bishop is helping Josh Oulton recreate his success on a larger, two-acre scale. Oulton’s trees are not yet in production, but the rows of saplings have been planted with their tunneled destiny in mind, growing more ergonomically within the space constraints of the tunnels.
Oulton and Bishop are hoping, in a few years’ time, these trees will see the same – or better – return. The plastic covering the metal structures of the tunnels will go on a bit before they bloom on their first producing season, and stay until after the harvest. The tunnels have to be tough enough to withstand winds, rain – and sometimes even snow, but flexible enough to allow for venting when the trees get too hot.
This new method of cherry production is an example of the diversification farmers must incorporate to stay alive. Bringing in large, flavorful cherries by way of innovative growing techniques is another way small farm markets can offer their customers more choice when they choose to buy local, which seems to be the trend with conscientious shoppers.