Category: Featured Personality

Featured Personality: Brad Isnard

Brad Isnard expected to spend his life out in California. But, when he moved to Connecticut in 1990, he took a job as an Orchard Foreman at Bishop’s Orchards, and over 20 years later he has a lot to show for his time here. He’s learned the ins and outs of the business and has become an expert on the production and caretaking of the land and crops grown on the farm. His time, experience, and expertise of the farm is what led to his recent promotion as the new Orchard Manager.

His role at the company allows him to oversee cider production and all packing and sales of Bishop’s items, in addition to activity and labor on the farm. When you think about winter on the farm, it’s easy to assume there’s nothing to do because it’s cold and there’s snow. But in actuality, winter is when all the pruning happens. “It’s the single biggest job we have on the farm,” says Brad. “But, in addition to pruning, we’re also buying seeds and are in the process of figuring out exactly what we’re going to grow for the coming year. From the squash you see growing out on the side of Long Hill Road, to tomatoes, asparagus and more. It takes a lot of time to get the seeds and plan for the season ahead, so the earlier we start the better.”

Brad also started the CSA Program (Community Shared Agriculture) here at Bishop’s Orchards. “I wanted to start the CSA Program because frequently the farm gets overshadowed by the store since it’s become such a substantial farm market. I thought the farm didn’t get the credit that it’s due. So, I wanted to create a program that showcased the farm and the products we grow while also allowing people to learn more about the farm since not many people know about agriculture. We also had a lot more land to utilize to grow more crops, so I wanted to find a way to bring people back to the farm so they could have a unique and exclusive experience.”

Working at Bishop’s has not only given Brad the flexibility he likes, but the atmosphere and the people give him a reason to appreciate coming to work every day. “The seasonal aspect of the job makes it all the more enjoyable. If there’s a job you don’t like, you don’t do it for long because there’s so many to do. And what makes working here unique is the fact that the owner’s are just as willing to “get in the ditch” as you are – I like the shared labor from top to bottom.”

Winter On The Farm

Screen Shot 2016-01-27 at 11.08.38 AM“So, what do you do in the winter?” is a question I often get asked. Quite a lot, actually. Winter is the time when we prep and repair equipment for the coming spring. We still have apples and pears in the cold storage to pack and sell.  We also try to save a few “inside” jobs for when it is actually raining or snowing, but mostly we are pruning our apple, pear and peach trees. As I mentioned in my last posting, we have 17,000 trees that must be pruned before April, so anytime it isn’t snowing or raining, we are outside pruning.

I have also had folks ask me why we prune if the trees aren’t very big yet. We actually start pruning or training the tree as soon as we plant it. It is important to get the tree started off right and the first several years in the life of a fruit tree is the time we build the framework or structure of the tree. Once the structure of the tree is established, the pruning process is mostly thinning, renewing and cutting back branches to maintain the tree. Over the years I have had friends, customers and neighbors with fruit trees who call several years after they have planted the tree in their yard and they figure it is time to think about pruning it. Usually in these cases the trees are too far gone to ever have a chance of establishing a proper structure.

There are lots of resources on the internet. Here is an example of one that covers the basics.

http://content.ces.ncsu.edu/training-and-pruning-fruit-trees-in-north-carolina

There are articles and even YouTube videos on the subject.

Pruning and training fruit trees are equal parts science and art (Some aspects of farming require equal parts science, art and luck.) Every tree is a little different, but once you understand enough about what the goals are, you can “see” the cuts you need to make. You will be pruning for the current crop, as well as leaving some branches that will be the renewal wood to take the place of the current framework and fruiting wood in the tree.

One of the things I love about farming is that you have a very tangible measure of what you have accomplished. At the end of a day, you can look back down a row or across a field and see what you have accomplished. There is beauty in a well-pruned tree and you can see you made a difference and imagine how that tree will look in the spring with blossoms or in fall, full of fruit.