In 2002, Blue Heron Orchard became the first certified organic orchard in Missouri and has continued to be certified organic to the present. We have 450 semi-dwarf and semi-standard apple trees with a dozen varieties. We sell fresh apples and processed products that we sell within a one hundred fifty-mile radius of our farm with an exception of US Wellness Meats (Canton, MO) distributing some of our products throughout the United States. We also have a 30X40 foot state and federally inspected food processing facility where we make value-added products from our apples, and some products from our certified organic gardens.
Our portfolio of value-added apple products include: fresh apple cider, apple butter, apple sauce, apple cider-vinegar, habanero cider vinegar, Pomona’s Ambrosia (apple syrup) and Apple Jerk (fruit leather). From our garden, we make basil pesto, Applewood-Smoked Fire Roasted Jalapenos as well as sun-dried and dehydrator (air-dried) tomatoes. We also press fresh cider for a brew-pub in Columbia, Missouri that makes a traditional hard cider.
The products we create mostly from all our grown ingredients are marketed with the perceived health benefits, ‘no added sugars’, ‘certified organic’ and ‘Missouri Locally Grown’. Also notable is a positive environmental footprint of ‘less transportation’, fresher to market time, and a soft and sustainable relationship within our farm environment.
Our food business model is based on the ‘Local Foods’ Movement. We serve our customers at farmer’s markets and participate in Fall festivals. We have a client base of regional grocery stores, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) groups, restaurants and in the Autumn, sell apples and related product on our farm. We also distribute some of our produce through other growers that may pack our wares into CSA shares.
Conservation methods are the keys to what can make an operation more sustainable. A major goal for Blue Heron Orchard has always been to build soil organic matter (SOM). Higher SOM gives the land a greater resiliency to be productive in droughts with greater water holding capacity. This allows the soil to hold on to nutrients and to resist the various attacks of sheet, wind and rill erosion. Our tillage reduction operations have also greater soil benefits here with less soil compaction and better water penetration and less loss of Nitrogen into the atmosphere from tillage. In agriculture, this should be a fundamental practice for any operation. Economically, there is no other way to achieve sustainability. And as for our neighbors living downstream, they are our community.