On May 16th, the Veteran Farmer Training Program and Agriculture Supported Communities Program visited Frecon Farms in Boyertown, Pennsylvania. Frecon Farms, family-owned and operating since 1944, includes an orchard, bakery, cidery, and farm market. Steve Frecon, owner, provided an overview of the family history and business followed by a tour of the cidery.
The Frecon’s have been producing craft hard-cider for seven years and face an ever-changing market driven by consumer trends and legislature. During the tour, Steve explained how Frecon Farms has been able to adapt to and overcome these constant adjustments by learning what consumers want and finding its niche as a craft cidery.
Following the tour of the cidery, the veterans were directed to the orchard where they learned about the many varieties of fruit in production. Steve and his assistants discussed Frecon’s growing practices and integrated pest management (IPM) system, which is the implementation of several pest control methods that promote healthier crops and soil while reducing costs and risk of future pest management crisis.
The tour guides also demonstrated proper pruning techniques and a grafting process known as “top working.” Top working is an ideal technique for beginner farmers who may not have enough money to purchase started fruit trees or have time to wait for them to produce. In this process you cut off the top of a well established native tree or "root stock" and attach a scion (twig) from a from a well producing fruit tree you wish to grow. The scion and root stock will grow into each other and then the tree will start producing the fruit of the scion. At Frecon's they used this technique to produce many of their fruit trees.
During the visit, the veterans and interns were able to network and learn new farming techniques from the farmers at Frecon Farms. Being able to interact with such a reputable and established business, they have been operating for over 70 years, interns and veterans were able to glean from a wealth of knowledge. They are now able to take this information and implement the practices on their future organic farms.