A PRFCT Start to Your Landscape: UDSA Certified Organic Trees from Raemelton Farm
We found the PRFCT trees for your PRFCT landscape at Raemelton Tree Farm in Adamstown, MD. If you take the time and effort to manage your landscape chemical free, why would you want to start with plants already treated with them? And of course, organic plants grow better organically, so why not trees?
With over 300 tree species to choose from, there is bound to be a PRFCT tree to compliment your needs! Check out Raemelton’s 2018 Organic Tree Availability.
Raemelton's owner Steve Black started the farm in 2004 and from inception focused on sustainability and best management practices for pest control. By 2013, they created a field just for sustainability research and though it seemed outlandish this was their first step towards all-organic production. In January 2016 they became the first nursery in the country to offer USDA certified organic trees.
“Being first into the Organic landscape tree market meant that there was nobody to ask about the realities of organic production of ornamental trees. In the end we closed our eyes, gritted our teeth and jumped.”
Full Interview with Raemelton owner Steve Black
Q: How long have you been a grower and how did you come into the profession/industry?
A: I started Raemelton Farm in 2004 from scratch. I had decided to move on from my work in international affairs and going back to agriculture felt right. I grew up working on my dad’s horse farm in Ohio so it’s not as crazy a career move as it sounds. We bought the property in 2004 and put the first trees in the ground in the spring of 2005. The farm was a poorly maintained dairy operation so the soil was great but the infrastructure needed some TLC…and more than a few roll-off dumpsters!
Q: At what point in your career did you transition to organic and toxic-free?
A: From day one Raemelton has operated with more than a nod to sustainability and was a central element of the initial business plan. We instituted a real Integrated Pest Management program right off the bat. In addition to using every Best Management Practice currently available we have a robust program for researching and developing new tools, techniques, and strategies for pest management.
By 2013 things were moving along smoothly enough at the farm that we decided we might need to establish a special field just for sustainability research. We had in mind an area to test out REALLY outlandish innovative new production practices. As the thinking progressed it became clear that what we were moving toward was an actual organic field. Because of all our practices in the conventional fields…IPM, cover crops, and the use of compost, it was not that big a change to move to certified organic processes.
Q: What do you feel was the primary catalyst for that shift?
A: One of the nursery industry trade magazines ran an article about the future of organic ornamental plants just before we started thinking about it. Most of the article, and the quotes from experts and industry heavy hitters, all came down to two points. First, will any consumer really care if their new tree is certified Organic? Almost everybody reading this interview will laugh at that question! We assumed (hoped) that there would be a market for the trees. It seemed like the end consumers were ready for Organic ornamentals, even if the nursery industry wasn’t.
The second point in the article was more worrisome. Can you produce a tree in the same amount of time without sacrificing on any aesthetic standards? All the market research for organic fruits and vegetables says that people will pay a premium for organic if, and ONLY if it looks just like its conventional counterpart. An Organic ‘Charlie Brown’ tree will not work for our customers…certified or not.
The whole article implied that it was probably ‘impossible’ to do organic nursery production in a profitable way. One of the experts quoted in the article said that she didn’t think there was anybody ‘good enough’ to get certified. We had that quote blown up, printed big and hanging on the office wall for the whole three year transition period!
Being first into the Organic landscape tree market meant that there was nobody to ask about the realities of organic production of ornamental trees. In the end we closed our eyes, gritted our teeth and jumped.
Q: What do you think is the primary advantage of starting your organic landscape with clean plant material?
A: If you care enough to take the time and effort to manage your landscape using organic methods, why in the world would you start with plants already containing materials you would not allow to be used on your property?
We’re also selling what we don’t do to the environment to produce your trees. Today the production process is part of the product. People want to feel good about where, how, and by whom their purchases were produced. The certified Organic tree fills that need. People can have confidence that we didn’t create some dead zone nursery field just so they could have a pretty Black Gum tree in their front yard.
Q: Do you have a favorite tree you grow at Raemelton Farm?
A: We grow more than 300 tree species and cultivars so that’s a tough question. Really it changes from day to day and over the course of the year. Right now in winter I love the snake bark maples, like Acer pensylvanicum. Once we start to think about spring getting here I like the very early flowering plants like Japanese Apricot, Prunus mume, or Kintoki Cornel Dogwood, Cornus officinalis ‘Kintoki’. In the summer I enjoy the fruit trees. We have various things ripening over the summer so I can snack on Serviceberries early in the season, then Cherries and Peaches. Pawpaws and apples are tasty in the fall. We even have some female Date Plum, Diospiros lotus, which taste great after they’ve been through a frost or two. Fall is a really pretty time on the farm. The colors can be spectacular. From the awesome red of the Wildfire Black Gum to the rainbow leaves of the Persian Iron Wood, Parrotia persica.