Devil’s Advocate at Carter’s Mountain

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.

It’s always good to see an “open” sign in at Carter’s Mountain! Image from Jeffersonheritagetrail.com

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.

It’s quite a turn off to rub an apple that you’ve just picked on your shirt only to see the filmy white stuff come off. Yup, that would be pesticide. Image from smh.com.au

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.

Spread the BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag)! Image from http://11cresma.wordpress.com/

Non-biodegradable containers

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/

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Mary says:

    They do use pesticides

  2. Mark says:

    So you attempt to slam Carter a mountain for pesticide use by showing a picture of an apple from an Australian website? People like you apparently don’t understand that certain things are necessary to support our population, like the unfortunate use of pesticides on produce. You don’t understand that if measures like this aren’t taken, it causes a chain reaction that effects everyone. It effects the businesses ability to turn a profit and stay in operation, it causes there to be less viable supply of produce at an affordable price for the populace and in turn contributes to an already limited food supply. If people like you had their way in every green and sustainable idea you have, this planet would look a entirely different. There would be mass poverty even more so than there is today. The death toll from starvation would be record breaking. There would be an even larger divide between the rich and the poor due to the scarcity and affordability of energy and fuel. There would be a gigantic shrinkage in population to the point at which basic infrastructure would collapse. The only positive would be the environmental impact of all of this if its even measureable. Of course, those that think as you do probably believe in overpopulation and don’t really see human life or the loss thereof as very important when compared to your need to care for the environment. Here’s a couple way you can help out. Cancel your internet as the profits of your usage fund big business and contribute to a large carbon footprint, make flower post and gardening dividers out of everything in your house made of petroleum; your cell phone, your TV, your computer or laptop, etc. If you have a car, well, you do the math. Live what you preach and eat this http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soylent_(drink)

    1. Green Grounds UVA says:

      This post had the intent of bringing discussion the possibility of upgrading more sustainable practices. While I could not get a photo of some of the apples I saw at Carter’s Mountain that did have pesticide dust on them, I had to settle for the Google image. Admittedly, the inspiration for the post came after I visited the site and thus when I was there, it did not occur to me to take a photo.

      As you have pointed out, sustainability is a tricky balance between the “idealist” version many people see (such as zero waste, completely green energy, etc.) and being able to support a growing population where the standard of living increases (such as shifting to a diet of more meat). I’ve heard some people say sustainability practices incorporate social, business, and environmental concerns, where the three areas serve as Venn Diagram circles and sustainability is in the center where the three meet. Carter’s Mountain most likely uses pesticides to increase their yield and using Styrofoam is an easy and cheap option to use, given the number of visitors each year. The business model they currently have makes it possible for them to meet their large demand. The points I bring up in this post are merely suggestions as I do say that I love going to Carter’s Mountain and supporting local business. I’ve seen other businesses transition to more sustainable practices such as using biodegradable serving utensils and plates and maintain demand which is why I turned my eye toward Carter’s Mountain. Certainly, the ongoing discussion about balancing the three principles of sustainability will continue for new and old businesses alike and looking at a local business makes an interesting case study.
      – Meigan

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