One Wednesday afternoon last month I was craving an apple, so I ran down to the cafe in my office building. When I got there I selected one and saw that it had the “grown in Chile” sticker on it. “Hmm”…I thought. “Why do they need to ship apples in from Chile when we have a farmers market right across the street on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and apples are in season right now!” But I was pretty hungry and junk food was really the only other option, so I brought the apple to the register, paid $1 for it, and went back upstairs to my desk. When I got there, I took a bite. Now when I say that this was a bad apple, it was a REALLY bad apple!!! Although the outside looked perfect (no bruising, cuts or discoloration), the inside was entirely rotten, grainy and brown. Both the taste and the texture were off-putting. I decided to give it one more chance though and thought that maybe it is just a bruise that I didn’t notice before, so I took a bite from the other side. Same thing this time around. It lacked everything that makes an apple an apple. There was no crispness, it wasn’t sweet, and it definitely wasn’t juicy, all the while looking perfect on the outside. I thought false advertising was illegal!
Now, Chile is an amazing location to grow many things, and if the Chileans want to grow and eat their apples, that’s awesome, but I would like to suggest that we let them keep them. These apples have been grown to withstand the Chilean climate as well as the transit that it takes to get them to market in the United States. I live in the Pacific Northwest where orchards are plentiful. The climate here is perfect for the most delicious apples I have ever tasted, but all too often, retailers will just buy what is cheap and available through their normal distribution methods. It seems like they don’t even bother to think about the quality of the product they are selling… I mean, hey, it sells right?
I am incredibly lucky to have access to fresh fruit and vegetables from my local farmers markets year round, but I recognize how rare this is, and most people are making their buying decisions based on those nasty apples from over 6,000 miles away. No wonder people don’t want to eat their fruits and vegetables!
Here is the thing. Until retailers start to challenge the system and demand local, sustainable produce from their distributors, nothing is going to change. And further, until WE, the consumers start to demand better, the retailers have no reason to change suppliers. Next time I am at the market across the street from work, I think I will pick up a few extra apples and bring one to the owner of the cafe. I will ask that he check out the farmers market, or order some local produce from his distributor. My guess is that he would increase sales if he offered quality product. Until then, it’s just not worth being a customer.