Sitting high on a ridge a few miles south of the Arkansas-Missouri border, A&A is well-suited for fruit. Founded in 1979, we transitioned from a small nursery and roadside stand of twenty-five farmed acres to today’s orchard-to-local market model of fifteen acres of apples, nectarines, peaches, and pears. Rather than a “fencepost to fencepost” farming operation, over half of our land is forest, meadow, and border habitat that we preserve for pollinators, birds, and other wildlife.
Maintaining an orchard within this natural landscape is a high-wire act. A dynamic approach that requires flexibility, we are committed to and passionate about a scientifically based and ecologically sound model of orcharding. Our elevation and John’s education in horticulture provided a good start, but his career as a buyer and agricultural researcher for Gerber Products Company changed the direction of A&A. Everything learned about food systems and land management through travel, university alliances, and fieldwork — designing IPM (integrated pest management) programs for farms across the country — was applied and adapted to our farm here in the Ozarks, shaping an altogether unique orchard management system.
The Ozarks’ weather, humid climate, rocky soil, and insect generations make for a particularly challenging setting to grow fruit. A&A ups the ante by farming on an “edge” with an extremely soft prevention program. Because of the environment we encourage, we invite both beneficial insects and problem pests. Instead of a cleared site, woodland weaves in and around our fruit trees, so invariably we are orcharding at the edge of forest, dense with sumac, persimmon, and wild plum; these margin areas harbor valuable helper bumblebees and swallowtails as well as plum curculios. To grow fruit and support beneficials, a conventional, calendar-based spray plan is not appropriate. Our soft approach relies on intense proaction, a combination of at least daily scouting, pheremone disruption, an array of IPM and organic tools, and non-reliance on any insecticides harmful to pollinators. Because conditions vary each season, adjustability on our part is requisite. Reward for decades now is successful pollination from native pollinators.
In favor of this greater good, we tolerate fruit loss and damage, but we do not endorse mediocre tasting fruit. Choosing delicious over modern or long-storing, we handpick each tree as many as five times to ensure peak flavor. Slow and selective, directly delivering fruit to area farmers’ markets is the right fit. We partner with customers who, like us, enjoy the rhythms of the season, and we delight in sharing our varieties — their best purpose and their best season. To this end, our twenty-five plus types of peaches and nectarines allow us to harvest over a ten to twelve-week season, and we stagger plantings so that one to two varieties a week ripen from mid-June through early September. And several of our fifty or so apple varieties are familiar, but many are “new” Southern heritage and cider types for true apple enthusiasts, allowing us to provide early and mid-season dessert apples as well as late season keeping apples August through January, apple season in this region. By accommodating the Ozarks’ temperament, A&A produces fruit of this place — hard won and full of personality.