Growing Practices

Tuttle’s strives to grow the highest quality healthy produce for you and your family.

We are a fourth generation family owned and operated farm.  We count it a privilege to grow your future food and take great pride in what we do.

FAQ’s about the Farm:

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions we get.

How many acres of apples and vegetables do you grow?

The farm is aprrox 150 acres total.  Currently, we grow about forty acres of apples, thirty acres of vegetables, and 10,000 square feet of greenhouse space.

How long has Tuttles been around?

Tuttle Orchards is still owned and operated by the same family that started the orchard in 1928.  You can read about our history here.

Does the Tuttle family still operate the orchard?

Yes.  Roy Tuttle’s grandchildren and great grandchildren still manage the orchard along with lots of “adopted family” staff members.  However, due to the generations – there is no longer anyone who has the last name of Tuttle.  The Roney family now operates the orchard.

Field Trip of Apple Orchard in Indianapolis Indiana Melon Field
Fruit Tree Pruning Workshop apple picking in indianapolis Winesap Apples Cortland Apples

FAQ’s about the Apple Growing Practices:

How many varieties of apples do you grow?

We currently grow more than 30 varieties of apples.  A couple varieties have been recently planted and are not yet producing.

Why are the apple trees grown on trellises?

We grow our apple trees on trellis systems (the newer orchards) because this is a technique used in high density orchards to provide stability for the tree, a way to train the tree, and allows for more production per acre.  Tuttle’s staff is regularly involved in continuing education and analyzing the latest research to find the best ways to grow apples.

What type care do you give to the trees throughout the year?

Winter:  all of our trees must be pruned in the winter.  We begin pruning in December and work until March to prune all 5000+ trees that we have.  The pruning helps to allow light to enter the tree, produce large size fruit, remove any diseased wood, and lengthen the life of the trees. Pruning can be a hard a cold job, but it’s necessary for having good apples.

Spring:  The trees are carefully monitored for when they are a “pink” stage which means they will be blooming soon.  Local beekeepers are contacted to bring in bees to help pollinate the trees.  Good pollination is essential for a good crop.  The spring is also the time when the trees are treated to prevent fireblight (a disease that can kill trees) and apple scab.

Spring is also the time we plant new orchards.  Young trees (the look like sticks) are planted and carefully trellised to help them to grow properly and to protect them.

Summer:  You trees are irrigated to make sure they are staying strong.  Traps are placed in the orchard to look for moths (the insect that causes wormy apples).  When a problem is detected, trees are treated to keep the apples in good condition.

Fall:  Apples are monitored for their sugar levels and are picked at the stage of ripeness that is best for flavor and storage.  Apple are all picked by hand and transported into our cold storage refrigeration until ready to be washed and sorted.  We also use a Smart Fresh treatment on some varieties to preserve the firmness through the winter months.  This treatment is a natural treatment that prevents the ethylene that apples naturally produce from over-ripening the fruit (causing soft apples).

Do you grow GMO apples?

No.  Apples are grown from grafting and not seeds so GMO is not something that typically done with apples.

Are your apples grown organically?

We grow our apples sustainably, but we are not organic. We use the integrated pest management system (IPM) here at the orchard to care for our plants and trees.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management defines IPM as: “a system that focuses on reducing pests by using a series of pest management techniques that are safe for the environment and children and use both non-chemical and chemical methods.” In following IPM practices, we use a combination of biological, chemical, behavioral, cultural, and genetic factors to control pests in the orchard. In using IPM, spraying is not our only method of eliminating bugs and other pests. Instead we use things like sampling plant nutrition, planting more disease resistant varieties, using natural predictors to control pests, and others to control pests. A great deal of research has been done by Purdue University and other universities in the country to develop safe, good growing practices that can bring a balance to controlling pests through chemicals and other methods.

The term Organic refers to growing produce without the use of genetically modified organisms or synthetic pesticides. There are three main reasons why we do not o grow our apples to be labeled organic.  Here are the three:

Location:  The warm, wet weather conditions with frequent rains during our growing season here in the Midwest are ideal for growing crops; however, they are also ideal for the growth of insects, diseases, and weeds. Because of our Indiana climate, growing saleable quality organic apples in a large setting is almost impossible. There are also some very dangerous fungi and bacteria such as fire blight that can affect and often kill the trees. Organically grown apples in the grocery store most often come from dry aired climates where disease and insects are much less and trees are often watered through irrigation. They are often shipped long distances loosing some of their nutritional value.

At Tuttle’s we work within our Indiana climate to use sustainable, healthy growing practices. Our trees are sprayed with carefully tested, approved fungicides and insecticides several times over the growing season. However, we do our best to reduce our use of chemicals as much as possible and spray only when necessary…especially since they are very expensive. It is important to recognize that organic apples are also sprayed with copper or lime sulfur to protect the trees and apples. Many of the pesticides we use are a synthetic form of copper.

Quantity: Here at the orchard, we have about thirty acres of apple trees…that’s exactly 4303 trees. It can take a lot of time to care for each tree. In the world of growing organic apples, there are practices that may be practical to apply in your backyard garden which are not possible when you have over 4000 trees. For example, some pests can be trapped or manually removed from the tree to prevent them from damaging the fruit. However, it’s just not practical for us to pull bugs off trees all day long. Instead, we use an integrated pest management system which is a combination of cultural, mechanical, biological, and chemical controls to keep pests at bay. For example, to control the red spider mites that like to attack the trees and suck juices from the leaves, we find that they have many natural predators like ladybugs, lacewings, and other mites. We also try to use chemicals that don’t kill these natural predators, but encourage them to kill the harmful mites. All of our apples are safe to eat right from the tree. Any chemicals that are used have been applied early in the season and have broken down to a safe level prescribed by the manufacturer before you pick them in the fall.

Quality:  Apples grown organically on a large scale in Indiana tend to have a very poor quality. They might be suitable for processing, but would not be apples you would want to purchase for eating. Here at Tuttle’s our goal is to grow high quality apples that families can enjoying picking and eating right from the tree, and we think we’ve succeeded. We follow all government regulations and suggested practices to ensure that when you’re enjoying that fresh picked apple you are eating a healthy, safe fall treat.

FAQ’s about Vegetable Growing Practices:

How many types of vegetables do you grow?

We currently grow 30+ different types of vegetables including winter crops in our high tunnels, favorite summer vegetables like sweet corn and tomatoes, and fall squash and pumpkin crops.  You can see many of our produce items here.  We also source for our farm store other local or seasonal top quality produce throughout the year. 

How do you have tomatoes ripe so early in the season?

We are able to have Indiana grown tomatoes by the first part of June through our work with high tunnel greenhouses.

Tuttles is also pioneering the growing of tomatoes in high tunnels in central Indiana.  High tunnels are a greenhouse canopy that are placed over the ground.   Plants are planted directly into the soil.  The greenhouse protects them from frost in the early spring and late fall.  There is also a heater that can be used at nights to protect them from frost.  We grow Heirloom tomatoes, as well as, Celebrity tomatoes in these high tunnels.   These high tunnel tomatoes have a great Indiana taste, but are available early in the season (June) and late into the fall (Sep/Oct).  We also grow tomatoes in the summer in our outdoor fields.

Check out some of the photos: 

Indiana High Tunnel TomatoesIndiana High Tunnel TomatoesIndiana High Tunnel TomatoesIndiana High Tunnel Tomatoes Indiana High Tunnel Tomatoes Indiana High Tunnel Tomatoes  

How are you able to grow vegetables in the winter in Indiana?

Thorough our high tunnels, we are able to plant crops in November that can produce thorughout the winter months in these greenhouse structures.  A heater is not used in the winter, but the sun and greenhouse canopy provide protection for the winter type crops we grow.  Lettuce or spinach may frost, but after thawing then can again be harvested.  We grow lettuce, spinach, turnips, carrots, and more in our high tunnels.  Check out these photos: 

Photos from the High Tunnels:

High Tunnel Lettuce Greenhouses Spring Head LettuceDSCN0178 DSCN0183 DSCN0176  DSCN0196

What type of growing practices do you use?

At Tuttle’s we use Integrate Pest Management and sustainable growing practices.  We have won many awards for having top quality produce.  What is Integrate Pest Managent?   The Indiana Department of Environmental Management defines IPM as: “a system that focuses on reducing pests by using a series of pest management techniques that are safe for the environment and children and use both non-chemical and chemical methods.” In following IPM practices, we use a combination of biological, chemical, behavioral, cultural, and genetic factors to control pests and disease. In using IPM, spraying is not our only method of eliminating bugs and other pests. Instead we use things like sampling plant nutrition, planting more disease resistant varieties, using natural predictors to control pests. A great deal of research has been done by Purdue University and other universities in the country to develop safe, good growing practices that can bring a balance to controlling pests through chemicals and other methods. 

An example of our use of IPM is in sweet corn production:  We place a trap in the field to look for moths (that can cause wormy corn).  We trap and count daily the number of moths so that we are able to only spray when necessary to keep corn worm free. 

Watermelon Fieldfield (58)Mike Inspecting Sweet CornEarly Morning Sweet Corn HarvestTom Pictures Farm Tour 205

Is your sweet corn GMO Free?

All of our summer varieties of sweet corn are NON GMO varieties.  We do not grow any Round Up ready sweet corn. 

For the fall season (Labor Day-Mid October) we grow a BT variety of sweet corn so that we can continue to grow corn for the fall season.  Other summer varieties do not perform well later into the fall.  This BT Corn is a GMO because it has a naturally occurring toxin from the soil inserted that discourages worms from eating the ears.  It is not the same thing as Round Up Ready GMO Corn.  Growing BT Corn allows us to grow fall corn without having to spray continuously for worms.  You can read more about BT corn here. 

FAQ’s about Apple Cider:

Is your apple cider pasteurized?

Yes, we use an ultraviolet light form of pasteurization to treat our cider for your protection.  Our apple cider is safe for consumption by high risk individuals such as pregnant mothers.  The UV light pasteurization kills any potential bacteria while still maintaining the apple cider taste you love.

Do you add anything to your cider?

No.  It’s just apples.  That’s all!

Can I use your cider to make hard cider or apple wine?

Yes, we have lots and lots of customers who purchase our cider for this purpose.  The UV light treatment does not kill the elements in the cider needed for fermentation like a heat pasteurization process does.

Why does your apple cider taste better then others we’ve had?

We’re glad you noticed.  Yes, we do pride ourselves on having top quality cider…and we’ve won awards for that.  Best Cider in USA, Best Cider in Indiana!  We believe there are several factors that lead to great tasting cider:

  • Using top quality apples for the cider.
  • Using a special mix of apples for the cider.
  • Making our cider in small batches on our press.
  • UV pasteurization process.
  • No added ingredients or preservatives.

How long will my apple cider last?

Apple cider has a shelf life of about two weeks.  Because we do not add preservatives, the cider must be refrigerated. 

Apple Cider Tour Indianapolis

FAQ’s about Farm Store Products:

What criteria do you use in deciding what items to sell in the Farm Store?

At Tuttles, we believe in making ethical decisions about where we source the products we sell in our Farm Store.  We know that the decisions we make with what we buy can influence our world for the better.  We also recognize that we live in a complex world, and things can rarely be boiled down to definite rules.  We know that it’s often difficult to know when you are shopping how something is made so we want to be proactive about sourcing from vendors who we trust. 

Here are our general principles when we source items for the store:

Produce:  if we grow it we sell that first.  If for some reason we don’t grow it or it’s out of season, we try to source first from local farmers (if we can find good quality and quantity), and after that source good quality products from other farms.  Apples are a good example of this.  We sell our apple until we run out (typically March or April).  Then we will source from Indiana growers that we respect if there are still apples available.  Finally we will source apples for the summer months from growers outside of Indiana.  In doing this, we look for the best quality apples we can find. 

Other Products We Sell:

  • If we can find a good quality local product with sufficient quantity, our choice is to support a local grower/producer/artisan. 
  • If we can source from quality products made in the USA, we like to do that.
  • If we can source fair trade products, we like to do that.
  • Quality is important to us.  If it’s not good quality, we will opt not to carry it. 
  • If we can source from companies who have a social responsibility policy (this typically indicates that there is ethical treatment of employees, good environmental practices, etc), then we will choose this type company.  If they don’t have a formal policy, we ask questions about where products are made, fair treatment of workers, do they inspect factories, etc. 
  • As a last resort, we will source the “must have and can’t find any other way items”  from traditional vendors because we recognize we live in a globalized world where complete knowledge of all companies is difficult.  For example:  we are still looking for a company with a social responsibility policy who pumpkin carving kits – we’d be happy to sell those, but until now we’ve been unable to find one…and our customers ask for pumpkin carving kits so we’ve elected to sell from a traditional vendor.  At this point, there are very few items we are sourcing from vendors who do not have some type of social responsibility policy. 
  • We source what our customers buy.  Sometimes we’ve had great products, but if it’s not something that sells for us then we can’t continue to stock it. 

 

Tuttles Farm Store Spring Tuttles Farm Store Spring