This human-interest story from UW Communications yesterday features Andy Ferguson, a third-year law student who also works full-time at his family’s apple orchard business. It’s a nice enough article, but it raised a couple thoughts for me.
1) I like the idea of you-pick apple farms, but the reality always has me edgy since I don’t know of any in the area that are organic, and conventional apples are notoriously full of pesticides. Michael Pollan may prefer local over organic, but when it comes to apples, I’ll take organic over local (if I can’t find fruit with both qualities).
2) If you check out the Ferguson Orchards website, you’ll see that they are TruEarth Certified. “What the heck is that?” I wondered. As best as I can tell, it’s a marketing ploy. The TruEarth website talks about genuinely laudable goals, like being “true stewards of our land, water and the overall environment by using sustainable holistic farming practices.” But what exactly does that mean in practice? Are there established, published standards, along with independent, third-party verification of compliance? Not that I can find. Alas, when you realize that Honeybear Brands, a tree-fruit company, hired a marketing firm to develop a campaign for them with the theme of environmentally friendly growing practices (TruEarth was the result), one rightfully becomes suspicious. I searched for further details on what exactly “TruEarth Certified” means but came up empty. I don’t know the whole story, but it seems to me that a fruit company that’s not organic wanted to get a bit of eco-cachet by creating its own ambiguously defined “certification.”
That said, Ferguson Farms report on their website that they use integrated pest management (IPM), a technique that tries to use pesticides strategically and judiciously as one part of an overall pest-control approach. If the choice were between conventional and conventional-but-thoughtful, the latter does seem preferable.