It’s still apple season and I wanted to respond to Tushar’s post about his visit to Carter’s Mountain. Having just recently gone myself, I figured it was time to play Devil’s Advocate and discuss why Carter’s Mountain maybe isn’t the greenest place you can go to pick apples. Please note that I love the option of being able to have access to local apples that are NOT coated by wax (unlike those at my grocery store). It’s quite clear the distinction between a grocery store apple and a fresh-from-the-farm apple since locally picked apples aren’t covered in wax to make them seem more appealing to grocery store shoppers and they’re smaller (yay for no GMOs!). Regardless of my points, everyone, from people to businesses, can always take steps to become greener. Here is my commentary/suggestions for Carter’s Mountain.
How “local” is local?
Don’t get me wrong, I love going to pick-your-own farms. I’ve been going to Homestead Farm in Poolesville, Maryland ever since I was a baby and I absolutely love how you can taste the difference between produce from the farm versus produce from the grocery store. Still, aside from local Charlottesville residents and students alike, people have been known to travel quite a distance for some of the famous Carter’s Mountain apples (and apple donuts, apple cider, apple cider slushies, apple butter, apple – oh, you get the point). Family friends from Richmond even have heard of Carter’s Mountain as well as their friends in the Richmond area. In fact, the friends tell me that people will often drive from Richmond just for the apples. I ask myself if that is really the point of getting local produce. Driving from Richmond to Charlottesville is about 40 minutes. Just think about that carbon footprint! Surely Richmond residents can get more local apples for less gas. Granted, it’s not like Carter’s Mountain can only open its orchards to exclusively local residents, but it is a shame that people from outside the Charlottesville area don’t look toward more local options.
Possible pesticide use
Carter’s Mountain is HUGE meaning they can offer many different fruits, from apples to peaches. Due to the amount of profitable biomass, local Charlottesville residents have told me in passing that Carter’s Mountain uses large amounts of pesticide. I’ve done a bit of googling to try and confirm that Carter’s Mountain does indeed use pesticides but, alas, I have nothing to prove it. Next time I go, I will definitely take the time to ask the employees if they know.
Anyway, I bring up the use of pesticides since it may not be the most healthy thing to eat an apple right off the tree if it’s covered in chemicals. Consider implications to applying pesticides like the effects on human health and surrounding environment. For instance, pesticides are generally for non-target species, meaning that once a pesticide is applied, all bugs exposed to the chemicals will die. Scientists are already concerned with decreasing bee populations as well as other important pollinators. Last time I checked, there hasn’t been any sure-fire indication that decreasing bee populations are directly due to pesticide use, but that’s not to say that we like our bumblebees or carnivorous insects that aid in managing more pesky insect populations. Excessive pesticide application can also result in runoff into surface waters, polluting them and potentially damaging human drinking water sources. Bottom line: The concept of pesticides has many implications that are overlooked by users.
Of all my pick-your-own experiences, most places I go to have you collect apples in plastic bags. Okay, I guess I’m used to that. I would have been delightfully surprised of another way to store your apples as you’re walking through the orchards, but I can see that Carter’s Mountain distributes plastic collection bags as a convenience. Plus, weighing the apples in the plastic bags to charge apples by the pound is certainly easy since the plastic bags don’t weigh much. However, it would be great if Carter’s Mountain and other pick-your-own places encouraged you to BYOB – Bring Your Own Bag. Had I known, I certainly would have and during my visit, I noticed that some people brought reusable bags.
At Carter’s Mountain, you have the option of buying apple cider or peach donut cider by the cup. However, the only available cups are styrofoam. Not even paper Dixie cups. Personally, I would be concerned of accidental styrofoam litter from patrons getting into my orchard, ruining the atmosphere, and, not to mention, possibly inflicting damage to the orchard since styrofoam leaches toxins as it breaks down. While it may be expensive, Carter’s Mountain could implement a BYOM (Bring Your Own Mug) system or implement reusable cups that Carter’s Mountain would wash themselves. (Darden Business School does this for their students with coffee and tea!) While washing reusable cups does consume water, styrofoam consumes twice as much more water and energy versus, say, a ceramic cup. It’s not like the cups have to be produced specifically for the orchard. I’ve visited some coffee shops where they have a hodgepodge of donated and gently used ceramic mugs. Since ceramic mugs constantly get washed, then why need to order new ones?
My proposition of using reusable cups (not necessarily ceramic) can be applied to their food bar as well. I noticed that the food at Carter’s Mountain is served in foil and paper wrappers, much like at a boardwalk on a beach. Since old dishes left outside can attract pests, I understand why it is easier and safer for guests to simply dispose of their food waste. However, if done properly, Carter’s Mountain could serve food on reusable plates with reusable utensils. One way for customers to avoid bugs is to directly deposit dirty dishes at a certain location at the site for immediate washing. Alternatively, to wash dishes in bulk, dirty dishes could be brought to an inside location, away from bugs.
Cover image from http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/