Apple picking is a fast-growing, super popular fall activity, and it’s no mystery why! Getting outside, enjoying the crisp air, and developing a direct relationship with your food is good for your physical and mental health. After the last year and a half, more and more people are looking for new ways to connect with each other and the outdoors. Taking your family to an orchard to pick their own fruit is a fantastic option.
Now, let’s talk a bit about the sustainability side of things!
Why is picking your own fruit considered to be the most environmentally friendly way to gather produce?
The short answer is: your food doesn’t have to travel as far to reach you! Food grown locally doesn’t carry the large carbon footprint that’s associated with overseas plane travel or long semi truck hauls to bring produce to the grocery store. By going out and picking your own fruit and bringing it home, you get to cut out the middleman between grower and consumer, and limit carbon emissions with it! (That’s what we call a win-win.) It’s not just healthier for the planet, however. When you pick from an organic farm or orchard, your produce will typically have more nutrients and less pesticide residue than conventionally grown crops. Ever noticed the way an organic apple packs a more powerful flavor punch? That’s because most organic farmers commit to waiting until the perfect ripeness to harvest, providing you with apples that are high in nutrition and deliciousness.
Wondering how to find the best place to pick apples from? Or how your methods might contribute to orchard sustainability? We’ve got you.
Tips for Eco-Friendly Apple Picking:
-Look for orchards with Eco Certifications! If you’re in the northeast, click here for a fabulous list of orchards that have this certification.
-If an orchard is unclear about their growing methods on their website, don’t be afraid to call and ask! Most organic farmers follow eco-friendly agricultural processes. These practices help enhance soil and water quality, reduce pollution, and restrict the use of harmful fertilizers and pesticides.
-Check that your orchard grows apples that are local to the environment. A quick google search can provide you this information as well as tell you what is in season!
-Go earlier in the season for smaller crowds, and earlier in the day if you can!
-Take a wagon or cart to haul kiddos and picked treasures. (Most strollers won’t be able to handle the terrain.)
-When you arrive, ask the orchard owners how they prefer you pick. With apples, some suggest a gentle twist and pull; others prefer a lift-up-and-over style. Picking with these techniques in mind is key to preserving the tree’s ability to produce fruit over time! Never shake the branches, as this will inevitably cause fruit to fall to the ground and bruise, leading to food waste. Aim to keep stems on apples—that helps the fruit store longer!
-Apples on the outer branches ripen first, so work your way in as the season progresses.
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is having a plan for how you’ll use your bounty after apple picking! Make plans for pies, apple-centered meals, sauces or jams to preserve them… whatever your family craves! We shared a blog post giving you a plethora of ideas for what to do with the apples you pick recently, so check that out! For younger children, check out crop-related library books and talk about how our food grows. Education is empowering, and the relationships we develop with our food and the land around us last a lifetime.
Happy fall, everyone!