I don’t exactly eat an apple every day, but it’s close. I love apples. I eat them year-round. We don’t think much about year-round food, but we should. After all, apples are harvested in the fall in North America. Even with the high-tech storage the apple industry uses which can keep freshly-picked apples marketable for months, there will be gaps in the supply.
Enter South America. Chile, specifically. Since their seasons are the opposite of ours—their winter is our summer—they can supply us with apples in the lean times. Not just apples of course but a huge variety of other fruits like berries and grapes.
Here’s the label on the apple bag, the last batch from Raley’s I just finished:
I checked out COPEFRUT. They are an agricultural cooperative based in Curicó, Chile, which is in the country’s central valley, a large depression west of the Andes and bounded by the coastal mountains. It has a Mediterranean climate similar to our own Central Valley here in California and thus is a great place to grow things. The organic apples come from the Maule and Araucanía Regions:
Apples are typically exported via refrigerated containers on ships. The trip to LA or another western port from the Chilean coast takes about two weeks. And as I mentioned earlier, the apple industry has sophisticated atmosphere-controlled storage options that allow wholesalers to supply multiple markets over a span of several weeks. That way I can have fresh, delicious apples year-round at my local supermarket.
Maritime transport is the most energy-efficient way to move things between continents. Air transport has a much, much larger carbon footprint. There’s a lot of interest these days in local, farm-fresh foods. Those of course are seasonal supplies. Most people I know want their coffee and bananas year-round. And once I could get the kind of apples I like every single week of the year in the produce section of my local store I got hooked. I would definitely miss my “apple a day” if the Chileans decided to sell their stuff elsewhere!
Farm-to-table is great. Support your local growers. But that’s just part of the picture. Our food supply is a complex web of global traffic. That’s why a war in Ukraine can effect grain prices. We are all connected together even if we don’t want to be. If we want to keep eating, and eat well, we should hope that all the ways we get our food are part of healthy, robust systems. These systems require huge inputs of both human and material energy. A hell of a lot of people have to work together to make sure these things get done. And that’s OK by me, after all getting a bunch of people to work together is a good thing, right?