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UW offers school for beginning apple growers

The Midwest School for Beginning Apple Growers, a three-day workshop for people wanting to start an orchard business, will be offered February 5-7, 2010 on the UW-Madison campus.

The new school is being offered for the first time in response to a spate of interest in fruit production and local food.

“University fruit specialists and the Wisconsin Apple Growers Association are fielding numerous calls from people who are starting or want to start an orchard,” says school coordinator John Hendrickson, an outreach specialist with the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems (CIAS). “With our experience running schools for beginning growers, CIAS is well-positioned to help aspiring orchardists get started and succeed.”

The new school is patterned after several others that CIAS offers for people interested in starting up various types of agricultural enterprises. One is the Wisconsin School for Beginning Market Growers, which Hendrickson has taught since 1998.

Like the other schools, primary instructors for the apple growers class will be experienced growers, including Bob Barthel and Nino Ridgway of Barthel Fruit Farm in Mequon, and Harry and Jackie Hoch of Hoch Orchard and Gardens in LaCrescent, Minn. Joining them will be UW -Madison fruit specialists Matt Stasiak, Dan Mahr and Patricia McManus.

The school will emphasize sustainable and organic production methods, including integrated pest management strategies. Other topics will include risk management, marketing and business planning. Participants will have opportunities to network with others intent on making a business out of growing and selling apples.

The Midwest School for Beginning Apple Growers is sponsored by the North Central Risk Management Education Center and the UW-Madison Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems, and is open to the public. Registration for the program costs $300. For more information, contact John Hendrickson at (608) 265-3704 or jhendric@wisc.edu, or visit the CIAS web site: www.cias.wisc.edu.