Economic sustainability comes first

Environmental sustainability has been an objective of Carlsons enterprise from the beginning. "We wanted people to come here, enjoy the environment and be able to walk around and buy healthy food," he says. However, financial reality quickly earned equal billing.

"You have to make the system economically sustainable first and then use the tools that are available to you to make it environmentally sustainable," says Carlson. "That's always been a struggle for me. My ideal is not using any synthetic chemicals, but I need to stay in business."

That's why Carlson now sparingly uses malathion to stop leafhop-pers from infecting his flowers with aster yellows disease, which they can briskly do within 24 hours. With about a fifth of his 250 flower species susceptible to the plant-killing virus, Carlson scouts his fields daily when his climate is ripe for leafhoppers, spraying once or twice if he must.

His direct-market emphasis allows Carlson to take risks growing diverse varieties that other producers would be reluctant to try.

It's also why he has adopted a "low-spray" program for his apples, treating them conservatively with the relatively short-lived organophos-phate Imidan: twice around petal-fall for plum curculio and codling moth and about twice after petal-fall for apple maggot flies. "I feel like it's the least amount that I can put out there and still have a marketable crop," he says. He times his apple maggot sprays with red visual traps.

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