Free Book Offer from Apple Journal: “The Apple” (1915)

Just to end the suspense: No, we are not going to ship you a hardcover copy of the book. We do not have hundreds of copies of The Apple packed in cardboard boxes up in the hayloft above the modest but comfortable Apple Journal editorial office suite.

  The Apple: A Practical Treatise Dealing with the Latest Modern Practices of Apple Culture is available free here in a very legible online version, courtesy of Google Books. It is also downloadable, for free, as an Adobe Acrobat (pdf) file.

  Albert. E. Wilkinson was a professor of horticulture at Cornell University who “…became deeply convinced of the need of a single volume that would present in a logical manner the most essential of the recent practical ideas and methods.” It is a fascinating book, both for the thoroughness and clarity of his explanations and, for modern readers, as a window into the past. With this “single volume” in hand, you would have had all the information you would would have needed to start a commercial apple-growing operation. At least, if you were alive in 1915!  (As some of Apple Journal’s readers may have been!) (Though of course not quite old enough, in 1915, to manage an orchard!)

  For a sense of the breadth of topics Wilkinson covers, take a look a the table of contents.

  The Apple is full of charts, tables, diagrams, and photos. One indication of the serious intention of the Wilkinson’s project is the fact that, of the four full-color plates included in the book, three are devoted to recognizing insect pests. They are beautifully drawn by L. H. Joutel. (See above.)

  Thank you, Google Books, for making available to the general public a crystal-clear version of Wilkinson’s treatise. And a tip of the straw sombrero to Apple Journal reader Richard Youngberg of the Olympic Peninsula for alerting us to the existence of this classic.

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Who Defines the “Local” in “Local Produce?”

  I’ve never been known as one who has a propensity for stirring the pot or being a malcontent. However, when things I’m passionate about are sullied and bastardized by folks with no real credibility in the realm of the things I care about…

  This story really starts two years ago when I was trying to find a good mid-week market for our farm. We’d made a lot of great new friends in Greenbelt, Maryland, at our Sunday market there, and many of them expressed an interest in buying our products during the week. With this in mind, I searched for and found a market that both suited our needs (nearby to Greenbelt, middle of the week) and showed an interest in having us as a vendor. While this market had another fruit vendor, the specialty vegetables and the wide range of tree fruit we offer was going to fill a significant void, we were told. It seemed like a great fit, and I was told to expect confirmation of our spot once the board met and approved us.

  Just a few weeks later, I get an email from the manager of this market apologizing profusely, explaining that the board ruled that we could not enter the market because our farm was in Pennsylvania. At this time, there was already a vendor from Pennsylvania attending this market—a vendor whose farm was three times the distance from this market as ours. What’s more, a few of the Maryland growers were traveling twice as far to that market as I was. No matter. Local is defined in whatever way best suits those who are defining it, and I’d better look somewhere else for a farmers market. Frustrating as this was, this was a private market and they were free to create whatever nonsensical “rules” they’d like, even at the expense of their own market, as in this case. This market continues to have vendors from other states. We have not been asked back.

  When I was in college, I spoke to several grocery store produce managers who told me local produce is defined as anything that gets to the store on a truck in one day or less. Pressed further, these managers couldn’t tell me if one day meant one day’s travel, one 24-hour period, or 24 “truck hours” (as truckers cannot drive 24 hours straight legally). Their definition had to maintain plausible deniability and be elastic enough to suit their needs. The conversation ended…abruptly.

  But fear not, locavores! The Maryland Department of Agriculture is being proactive, issuing new regulations to define local. Admittedly, at the time, I had a feeling that my State Department of Agriculture missed a real opportunity to step up and provide a great model other states could follow. All the same, it was a breath of fresh air that this selective, self-applied definition of local was going to be really challenged, by my estimation, for the first time!

  And, as has happened so many times to me as a young adult in the business of local agriculture, my faith and anticipation were quickly proven to have been poorly guided.

  Two years removed from the market fiasco, and I’m still trying to market our products to folks in Maryland who are clamoring for them. After having missed the event last year, I acted quickly to insure I’d attend the 3rd Annual Maryland Buyer/Grower Meeting, having had a positive experience at the Innaugural Event. Today, I was informed that I would not be able to attend the event this year, based solely on the fact that my farm is in Pennsylvania. When pressed for an explanation of this policy change, I was told by Mark Powell, Chief of Marketing (contact info) that the buyers at this meeting were there to buy locally from Maryland farmers and my inclusion might “confuse” them. That is to say, the Ag Department believes that Maryland is more local than Pennsylvania. If my fruit travels 70 miles and an Eastern Shore grower travels 120, then I’m trying to confuse you—tricking you into buying something that isn’t local by traveling over state lines.

  For me, local should be defined by the consumer. If you’re reading this and you want to buy your food locally, you get to decide! What’s local to you doesn’t have to be local for your neighbor. If you’ve tried products from 50 miles away and the ones from 100 miles away are better, you’re free to make that choice. We do not need to start playing the more-local-than-thou game; it’s going to make things ugly for everyone. In a perfect world, every person purchasing local farm products gets to assign the value they see fit without a journalist-turned-ag marketer placed between you and I to prevent it from happening. At the end of the day, if you want a local product and you think 70 miles is closer to your home than 120 miles, I think you should be able to make your mind up for yourself—whether the government thinks that’s confusing or not!

  And if you’re looking for an organization built on local food facilitation, not obstruction, learn more about Future Harvest CASA.

Ben Wenk is a seventh-generation farmer and an occasional contributor to Apple Journal.  This article originally appeared on his website: Three Springs Fruit Farm.  If you want a picture of what it’s like to be a small farmer in the heartland these days, go there.  Highly recommended!

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Growers Show Up at Big Wisconsin Protest Rally

Great photos by Mark E. Andersen the rally in Madison on March 11

Click here to view the whole gallery!

All photos © Mark E. Andersen; used by permission of the photographer.

Check out lots more of Mark’s work on his Flickr page.  Thank you, Mark!

  Why (you may ask) are we publishing these photos in Apple Journal?

  Although all kinds of growers and ranchers, from vegetable farmers to dairymen (and dairywomen!) showed up at the protest rally, we suspect that there were at least some apple growers among the crowd. At AJ our motto is "A Passion for Apples," and the growers showed up in Madison with a lot of passion! And that raises some interesting questions:

  • Why do ag people (in some ways the most independent of independent business people) care about the employment contracts of government workers?
  • Why do folks in rural communities care about the working conditions of people in big cities?
  • Why are Midwestern farmers (generally thought to be political conservatives) carrying signs about “Revolution?”
  • Why do 100,000 people from all walks of life show up in the middle of winter for a protest rally that looks like a general strike —something that has not been seen in this country since the 1930′s?
  • And, most importantly for us at AJ: is any of this turmoil going to affect the price and availabilty of Honeycrisps, Pink Pearls, or Granny Smiths?
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Dissent is Brewing over Hard Cider Downsizing

  If you ask most people, we are still in a recession—regardless of the call a few months ago by the National Bureau of Economic Research. Unemployment remains around 9%—not counting discouraged workers, part-timers who would rather be working full-time, and the millions of people who are invisible to government statisticians. Wages for those who are still working are stuck at 2007 levels , although the cost of living has gone up about 6% since ’07.

  Naturally, most of us consumers are watching our pennies. And we’re very resistant to price increases, especially for those “discretionary” purchases.

  So what’s a poor multimilliondollar beverage corporation to do? Companies, whether publicly traded or privately owned, have a game plan. The name of the game is ever-increasing profit margins. But these days the buying public won’t put up with price increases—which is the way big businesses have traditionally squeezed more money out of the consumer.

  Well, apparently E&J Gallo has solved this dilemma by reducing the size of their Hornsby’s Hard Apple Cider bottles from 12 oz. to 11.2 oz.—and keeping the price the same! And hoping nobody would notice.

  But cider drinkers did notice, and they aren’t happy. Check out Hornsby’s Facebook page (parental discretion advised due to language). (Also, in the interests of full disclosure…your correspondent is a big fan of Hornsby’s Crisp Apple.)

  You have to ask yourself: What were they thinking? Everybody knows that the cost of ingredients is the least expensive part of the process—far below the cost of facilites, equipment, labor, distribution, marketing, etc. What do the ingredients in a can of Coke cost? Two cents? Seems like the cost of retooling the bottling equipment and the loss of customer loyalty would more than offset the financial gain from 0.8 oz less of cider in a bottle.

  This is a trend, though. Two years ago Dreyer’s shrunk their half gallons of ice cream to 1½ quarts. The price remained the same. Caviat emptor, baby!

  It will be interesting to see whether Gallo has the courage of its avarice. Will they have the chutzpah to market their vino in 700 ml bottles instead of the international standard 750′s?

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