You can make health-conscious fruit and vegetable consumers happier by growing your produce organically.

For grower Ron Cottle of Faison, N.C., that has seemed a particularly good strategy on the muscadine grapes he grows for the fresh market.

"We are just getting started in fresh market grapes, but so far we have had a good response to them. I think the fact our grapes are organic has helped. I expect we will double our business this year, and we are planting more vines for table grapes now."

Most of Cottle’s crops are grown organically. They include strawberries, blueberries and grape tomatoes.

All Cottle’s crops are sold fresh now, so the smoothie will represent a departure of sorts. “But I like the value-added aspect of the new smoothie we are developing,” he says.

Growing grapes organically is not an easy task. Weed control is particularly difficult because of the lack of chemicals approved for organic production.

Terry Bland, North Carolina State University horticulturist, says it is important to reduce weed populations as much as possible before planting. “After planting, utilize natural or synthetic mulches like landscape fabric, grain straw or hardwood chips,” he says. “Mulch around each vine suppresses weeds.”

Cottle uses a synthetic landscape fabric. “We put down cloth that has been approved for organic use and we put bark on top of the cloth to keep weeds down,” he says. “We plant grass in the rows and that keeps the weeds down.”

Cottle began pruning for the 2012 crop on Jan. 24 and says you have to prune organic grapes harder than conventional ones.

“That’s because you don’t want as much foliage in the organic,” he says. “You don’t need a lot of canopy. We need as much air flow as we can get.”