Salt of the Earth: Richard Hennigar and Suprima Farms
January 27, 2008
Richard Hennigar has a lifetime of experience in the apple industry. As a third generation apple grower, he has learned the ins and outs of orchards “by osmosis”. In the 1970’s, Richard started organic farming and later focused on developing his organic orchard. Suprima Farms organic orchard, located in Sheffield Mills, Nova Scotia, now spans three and a half acres and Richard also manages a 20 acre organic orchard in Port Williams.
At Suprima Farms, Richard use scab resistant varieties of apples, such as Red Free, Prima, Nova Mac and Nova Spy. Richard does not use any sprays on his orchard, not even those that are organically accepted. Suprima Farms is also “Kyoto friendly” – no fossil fuels are used.
Early on, when the orchard was smaller and equipment was not readily available, Richard would mow the orchard with a ride-on mower, blowing the grass clipping underneath the trees to provide more mulch. Eventually, there was a point where the lawn tractor could no longer go under the limbs, leading Richard to a “serendipity moment.” He realized that when he bent the tall grass down, it wouldn’t bend back up; so now Richard lets the grass grow and eventually bends it all manually, which takes 24-30 hours for 2 acres. This method allows the orchard to act a little like a forest and absorb more energy. Richard also does some hand thinning once in awhile, and cuts back the new growth each year. These clippings are put in other areas of the orchard, as they are rich in nutrients. He also contends that ants promote soil health in the orchard, mining nutrients and opening pathways for air and water transfer.
Suprima Farms produces certified organic apples and apple cider, as well frozen juice bars, which are on their way to becoming certified.