The Simpson family has been growing fruit on the Leelanau Peninsula for three generations. This area of Michigan is gifted with a climate that makes it possible to grow a broad range of fruit. The major crops grown are sweet and tart cherries, apples, wine grapes, pears, plums and strawberries.
We use integrated pest management techniques to grow our crops with minimal chemical inputs. Soils and plants are constantly monitored for imbalance or disease, so when a problem shows up we can make an educated decision on a course of action. To avoid unnecessary spraying we tuck grape shoots annually in catch wires and hand pluck leaves in the fruit zone. This creates an open canopy where air can circulate drying the dew and rainfall before fungal diseases can establish. All vineyard rows on the Leelanau Peninsula have permanent sod middles for several reasons. Our annual rainfall of about 35″ that can lead to soil erosion, the mixed species of grasses play host to beneficial insects and the grass cuttings aid in developing a healthier organic mix in the soil.
We are cooperating with Michigan State University on several research projects. The Agricultural Engineering Department has fabricated an advanced “propjet “sprayer which coats a vine so completely with spray material that a grower can feel confident in using a variety of “soft” and “organic” spray materials to combat fungus diseases. Our test plots have so far shown no difference in disease control using these “soft” materials versus conventional sprays due to the complete coating of the vines. We are also donating a plot of Vignoles grapes to research controls for the fungus disease “botrytis”. We should have data available in a couple of years about these treatments against a challenging disease.