That would be my approach. Get them from as healthy a nursery as you can and then they'll just get better from there on out. There are a number of permaculturenurseries around that may fit the bill. Or start the trees from seed and graft if you need a particular cultivar.
While others see this as a kind of purity/virginity test, I'm a lot more permissive I suppose. I don't spray and haven't used any chemicals whatsoever in my orchard or garden for the past 15 years with the exception of once when some fire ants came in with a load of wood chip mulch, so I'm hardly Toxic Tom. My take on the question would be, what possible difference would it make if a baby tree is organic or not? Particularly if it's a bare-root tree, would it make any difference whatsoever if it had been exposed to some inorganic fertilizer in its short lifecycle?
How would you even tell if a tree had been grown organic or not? Most new trees don't produce fruit in the first growing season anyway, so even if there were pesticides sprayed around the tree before you planted it in your orchard, would there be any hint of those chemicals still present in 2 years when you harvest your first fruit? Doubtful.
So, no, it wouldn't be worth the extra price if it were me planting that tree.
"The rule of no realm is mine. But all worthy things that are in peril as the world now stands, these are my care. And for my part, I shall not wholly fail in my task if anything that passes through this night can still grow fairer or bear fruit and flower again in days to come. For I too am a steward. Did you not know?" Gandolf
I suppose the counter-point is that buying an organic tree means you don’t aid and abet a non-organic grower in spraying toxic gick in the process of growing the tree. That stuff is in the ground/water/air somewhere, even if not on your land.
But otherwise agree, once you plant it, unlikely to matter to the fruit you ultimately consume a few years down the road.
If non-organic was all that was reasonably available, I would probably buy it, and not lose too much sleep over it. Hopefully the benefits of a growing tree over its lifetime outweigh the damage done during its first year or so.
I think Paul makes a case for growing trees from seed/stone as superior from a taproot perspective - to that advantage you could add better than organic.
“All good things are wild, and free.” Henry David Thoreau
I prefer organic trees over non organic trees if they are available, mainly for the reasons mentioned above, like not not being sprayed with toxic stuff and supporting growers who don't do that. However, I'm not really willing to pay more for just that.
However there are other things that are more important to me that seem to affect the success of the plant and its survival more. Most of the time only a permaculture nursery will do these things, but I would guess that even most permaculture nurseries don't do all of these things.
The things I look for in order of importance, and I'm willing to pay more for are...
1) strong, healthy, well rooted plants (usually the plants get established a lot quicker and are more resistant to pests and diseases the first year, when they are generally more susceptible to these issues while getting established)
2) grown naturally outdoors in nutrient rich soil, preferably with no irrigation (by being grown outdoors, the plants are already used to growing in the elements, like hot and cold weather, and are generally "tougher" than ones grown in a greenhouse and babied more with irrigation and "organic" fertilizers)
3) offered as bare root (usually has a better natural, spreading and developed root system, and is available to buy and plant during the dormant season, which has greatly increased the success rate of plant survival from the ones I've planted)
Another thing to consider is that some permaculture nurseries may not be certified organic, (I've heard there are a lot of unimportant and extensive hoops to jump through) but may be offering a product that is much more natural and better than the certified organic trees.
Please excuse my abstract artwork, but this is an illustration of the difference of results I've seen after one year between healthy naturally grown plants and weak certified organic plants. I've also purchased some really healthy certified organic plants, but just because they are certified organic doesn't necessarily mean they will be more healthy. In my experience, the more they are grown in a way that mirrors the list above, they seem to look like the plant on the left after growing for one year, and the less they mirror the list above, the more they tend to end up looking like the plant on the right after one year. A lot of other factors can influence this, such as location and soil health, but in general and if the plants are planted in a similar location, it seems to be the results.
It seems (to me) that the term "organic," in recent years, has become more of a trendy label and excuse to inflate prices (not that I disagree with the principles behind the original intentions of the word). I typically won't pay more for the organic label unless it's sold on the same premises where it was grown, or sold by the grower/producer. Just because you never know what the tree, produce, etc. is exposed to after it's been wholesaled or consigned.
When I purchase trees I primarily base my decision on price & health/vigor; with preference given to things that are locally grown & adapted to my environment. I'm willing to pay more for something that's noticeably healthy/vigorous, and I'm willing to buy something that looks like it needs some TLC if the price is low enough to justify the gamble of losing it. If it's not considered organic, I will, either, bare-root it when planting, or trust the life in my soil to eventually break down anything undesirable in the potting mix.
If it comes down to choosing between an organically grown tree or something not grown organically, I will go with the lower priced tree if all other traits/variables are the same; but if the price is the same for the trees, and there's no other obvious differences between the organic/non-organic, then I'd choose the organically grown tree over the other one.
So my advice is to look at what options are available for locally grown/adapted trees and decide if your priorities are health/vigor, organic status, or price; and use that to base your purchasing decisions. I frequently see posts where permies mention fruit/nut trees on their land that are likely older than they are, but they consider the produce organically/sustainably grown under their care, even though it's impossible to know what all the tree has been exposed to in it's long lifetime
I agree with the consensus here. I have an organic certified farm, but my tree nursery is not organic certified. I will still use the microbial cultures to get the soil microbes as happy as possible, but container grown trees are often grown in some kind of monoculture not in the same 'natural' environment as a healthy permaculture productive system. I don't use anything nasty that would be prohibited under organic certification, but would consider doing so if it was necessary. Sometimes pragmatism has a place, and you can't expect a tree nursery to have all the ecosystem check functions of an established biodiverse ecology.