Farmer Al can sum up the lifecycle of wood on the farm in just three words: Carbon is life.
A tree’s leaves draw carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, spin it into sugar, and use it to build wood. Trees store carbon in their wood system for decades, even hundreds of years. In the forest, trees get old, die, fall over, and eventually turn into soil, putting carbon back into the ecosystem.
Trees feed trees
It’s the same story at Frog Hollow Farm. But we don’t want to wait for a tree to decompose on its own. We thin our trees, opening them up to the sun. The small, willowy branches fall to the ground and are chopped up by the mower. The chopped-up branches decompose in place among the orchard rows and add organic matter and carbon to the soil.
We also prune our trees, removing excess fruit and large branches to help the tree concentrate its energy on producing the sweetest, most delicious fruit. The larger branches amount to 20 tons per acre. That’s 5,600 tons of wood that we haul to the compost area each year.
We also send the old trees that aren’t producing anymore to the compost area. We shred branches and old tree wood and add them to our massive piles of compost. The woody material jumps back into the lifecycle, adding the carbon that our trees use to build wood and produce fruit.
Like every living being, trees have their preferences. Our trees thrive with compost that is made of woody material. This material is high in fungus, and trees love it. Row crops, on the other hand, like a different kind of compost. Row crops thrive on the bacteria that springs to life when our produce decomposes.
Breaking down a tree to make compost takes a lot of equipment and a lot of work. We do it because, in farming, it’s all about the soil. And we are constantly feeding and regenerating our soil.
In nature, nothing is wasted. We want to mimic these intelligent systems of nature that regenerate our land and produce the sweetest, juiciest, most legendary fruit you can find.