I could subtitle this piece, “Don’t You Know Local Is More Important Than Organic?”
That was my experience looking for organic apples at the North Carolina Farmer’s Market here in Raleigh.
You see, Marc and I have gotten into making apple butter from scratch. It is so so good. He and Mama Bull are big fans of apple butter, as is my sister, but increasingly over the years, we have realized that finding apple butter without high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in it is nearly impossible.
In fact, finding apple butter in stores at all is nearly impossible.
Apples have it rough in my world. Let me explain a bit:
- I once enjoyed their crunch, but never could eat an actual apple again after having my braces removed nearly 15 years ago. I only drink their juice and eat them fully cooked now.
- A college professor pushed how important it is that we buy organic apples anytime we buy apple products – the degradation of both our environments and our personal health otherwise is unforgivable.
- Another college professor pushed how he hated, yes, hated Meryl Streep for her role in trying to “destroy” American apple farmers and their lives in the 1980s.
- Somewhere along the way, I have learned that apples are one of the most pesticide and fungicide sprayed crops in our country.
- Most recently, Dr. Oz published reports (and no, not sensational ones, but sound ones) on the levels of arsenic found in commercially-produced apple juice. (See ABC News video here)
Needless to say, when I got to the Farmer’s Market, I noticed that only one booth was listed as “organic” produce. They had no apples, and they were not open.
A lady at the nearest booth asked if she could help me.
“Actually, could you tell me if you know anything about the pest management and treatment of the apples here? I am looking for organic apples.”
She boldly belted out, “Haven’t you heard, local is more important than organic!”
I smiled and said yes, but that naturally I am concerned over what I have heard of pesticides in apples.
She yelled, “No such thing as organic apples! At least, I wouldn’t want to eat them! … They’d be crawling with worms!”
Another booth attendant chimed in, “Without pesticides, we wouldn’t have any food! There’d be no apples. No anything.”
The first lady jumped back in, “I never trust any North Carolina farmer I see saying they have organic apples! If it isn’t sprayed, we don’t have it in NC! I would walk around here and eat any of these farmers apples without washing it first!”
(To which, my usually-skeptic husband replied, “Just because she would do it, does not mean we should do it!”)
Then she pointed over to the empty booth for the organic produce grower.
“He’s the only one who claims to be organic. I don’t know how he makes it! Please! He only comes on Saturdays. He has to pay the rent, and he pays someone to come work his booth only one day a week! And his stuff always looks awful. Just ugly looking stuff!”
I realized I was getting nowhere here. Only stepping on some of the booth owners’ toes, apparently. I bought some “pesticide-free” radishes from her and walked on.
I walked down to the end and found a sweet elderly man running the booth for Perry Lowe Orchards (out of Moravian Falls, NC). Not organic, but he had apples galore. His sweet demeanor and hard work ethic spoke to me. When he asked if he could help me, I gladly bought a bushel of granny smith apples for my apple butter. Forty pounds, ready for the cooking.
They are waxy (almost greasy feeling), and surely treated with multiple poisons. Still, they are big and firm. They smell wonderful. Plus I felt good in interacting with him. Great, in fact.
They made glorious apple butter as I continued to seek organic apples for future cooking.
Since my Farmers’ Market encounter, I have been mulling my apples over in my mind. I hear that lady’s words strong and hard.
Still, I like what Billie’s Mom told him regarding his once-cavalier attitude toward organics:
“You can ignore all the chemicals and hormones all you want, but that doesn’t mean they’re not there and not dangerous. The chemicals in that food don’t only hurt you, they hurt the planet, and that’s just wrong.”
I agree. (By the way, check out that article to get some great tips on buying organic locally. Great piece.)
Also, I found what looks to be one “organic” apple grower in North Carolina. Maybe my sis and bro on the other side of the state can get me a bushel next time. Check out Windy Ridge Organic Farms.
Windy Ridge apparently also sells to Whole Foods (though, not Triangle stores that I have found). At the following link, you can see several NC farmers that sell products through Whole Foods! http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/products/locally-grown/index.php?state=NC
Then again, I wonder what size Windy Ridge’s apples are. The whole reason I no longer wanted to buy the organic granny smith’s at Whole Foods was that they were so dang tiny. A dollar a pound is not a bad price for organic apples at all, but then again, when half of each of those tiny apples ends up in my trash (peel and cores), it costs a lot more and takes far many more apples to make our treat.
On a related note, the MountainXpress told in August of an annual apple festival in the area – where people can come and pick organic apples for free from a found orchard!