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An Apple a Day...
By Jennifer Bogo
Mothers & Others for a Livable Future
Picking over the produce in
their local store, shoppers scrutinize fruit for its color, skin, shape and
smell. But how many really take a good look at the label? Maybe they should.
count on farmers like me to grow products that are okay to eat," says
Peter TenEyck of Indian Ladder Farms in altamont, New York. "But
they've become uncoupled from their food, where it comes from, and who grows
it." TenEyck is one of 43 Northeast apple growers who have embraced the
CORE Values ecolabel, developed by Mothers & Others, as a way to develop
a market for sustainable produce and raise consumer awareness about locally
According to Jim VanKirk, the
Northeast facilitator for Integrated Pest Management (IPM) activities,
introduction of monocropping and non-native species made it all too easy for
pests to get a foothold, putting farmers on what he calls "the
pesticide treadmill." One way for farmers to wean themselves from
chemical dependence is through IPM, which integrates many different
methods--biological controls, crop rotation, resistant varieties and
judiciously used chemicals--in a sustainable approach to managing pests.
But unlike similar ecolabeling
programs, the CORE Values' system is knowledge-based, encompassing whole
farm ecology. Growers must submit a farm plan, outlining such practices as
good pruning and nutrition, the best use of water resources and the most
efficient method of fertilization. They are then inspected and certified by
an independent third party, which includes other orchard owners, members of
the federal land grant system and IPM specialists.
"The good thing about CORE
Values," says Steve Clark, owner of Prospect Hill Orchards in New York,
"is that anybody can enter at any time. It's a journey on a road, and
as long as you're always moving in the same direction, you can be part of
An equally important part of
CORE Values--the label itself--has already appealed to many consumers.
Farmers' markets and stores throughout the Northeast, including Big Y,
Shaw's and Shop 'n Save, now carry CORE apples, as do all 25 D'Agastino's
markets in New York City and all 160 Manhattan public schools.
Despite the growth of
large-scale mechanized agriculture, the path an apple takes from seed to
supermarket is still controlled by the consumer. Clark points out, "If
we can get a million people to say 'I'm going to buy an apple that's grown
well,' there will be major changes in farming."