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Buffalo Ridge Orchard *
Contact: Mary & Vern Zahradnik and Emma & Marcus Johnson
Address: 1337 Rollins Rd Central City, IA, 52214
Phone: 319-521-1353
About Us
Buffalo Ridge Orchard (BRO) was started with the planting of its first apple tree in 2003. This planting began the transition of a traditional 80-acre livestock & row crop farm to one that supplies healthy local produce. It is BRO’s goal to supply high quality vegetables, apples, and pears to our community responsibly & sustainably. The orchard has expanded from 800 to over 4,500 trees. BRO has over 50 different types of new and classic apple varieties. In 2011 we installed our first moveable hoop house, which allows us to grow greens and root vegetables in the winter, as well as getting an early start on tomatoes and extending the season for other vegetable crops.

Mary and Vernon Zahradnik, the founders and continued visionaries for BRO, graciously invited their daughter and son-in-law, Emma and Marcus Johnson, to join in their venture in Central City, Iowa. They each have a lifetime of farming and agriculture experiences. Marcus and Emma Johnson spent seven years in Philadelphia working in the field of landscape architecture. This work gave them lots of opportunities to see how to build, grow, and create. It was in Philly that they were able to see the importance of healthy local food in the success of a community. Spring 2012 the Johnson’s sold their row house in Philly and headed west to eastern Iowa where a row house is called a town house and the land rolls gently with fields of corn, beans, pastures, and suburban development.
Our motto is “growing quality local produce responsibly,” which includes continually modifying and updating our management practices. Every year we work to fine tune our practices and systems to conserve soil and resources on the land that we farm. We use organic practices such as crop rotation, cover crops, cultivation, hand weeding, and organic sprays (when necessary) for our vegetable production.

With the apple and pear orchard we use an integrated pest management system. Orchard management is an iterative process and we continue to try to improve our methods to meet our goal of farming responsibly. Iowa is a tough place to manage pests & diseases due to the rain and humidity. Of course this is one reason why our apples have such great flavor. To manage the tough growing conditions we have a weather station that is hooked to software that models our risk of fungal and bacterial diseases and we use lures to monitor pest pressures. This insures that we are spraying only when disease/pest pressure meets a maximum threshold. We use conventional sprays in the spring to manage the increased fungal pressure during the rainy season and some pests. We then transition from using conventional sprays to organic sprays after the fruit has set on the trees (early June). However, this transition sometimes happens a few weeks after fruit sets, depending if it is still cool and/or wet (perfect temperature for fungus). Also, over the past three years we have struggled with Japanese Beetles in July/August. They are mostly attracted to certain apple varieties, so if we do need to spray we can be selective rather than apply an orchard-wide pesticide. One way we are trying to combat summer pests is to encourage beneficial insects in perimeter native prairie plantings. After the apples are picked we wash them in an organic solution (peroxide and vinegar). We do not dip our apples in a post-harvest fungicide dip or wax our apples.