The apple has been around for quite a long time. Although there is debate about whether or not it really was an apple or a fig that Eve allegedly used to seduce Adam, it was definitely the apple that was painted into all those paintings depicting the fall of man—or was that just a legitimate excuse to paint naked people? Doesn’t matter. The apple took center stage back then. And guess what…it was organic!
Michael Pollan’s book Botany of Desire is the definitive guide to the history of the apple and the role it played in early American society—not just adding sweetness, but also alcohol (there goes that fall of man again) to the American diet. But it wasn’t until the late 1800s that the apple went from being perfectly imperfect (like humans) to being chemically treated with lead arsenate so that it could more closely resemble an ideal of perfection.
As I wrote in my book Organic Manifesto, the use of lead arsenate led to a whole host of problems that are still with us today: contaminated soil and water, health issues, and—by the way—generations of pests that are completely resistant to those original poisons and now require even more toxic chemicals to kill them so that we can keep up that illusion of perfection. For example, DDT came next, and then ALAR (both are now banned). You can imagine what kind of chemical shenanigans it takes to bring consumers their cheap toxic chemical apple today (fall of man once again!).
Of course, “scientists” and “people” were always so quick to say apples couldn’t be grown organically—as if thousands of years of apple growing didn’t count. But one look in your local supermarket shows that not only is it possible, but it’s also deliciously achievable. And it’s possible because of people like my dad, Robert Rodale, who when told it couldn’t be done, decided to try anyway. That’s why at the Rodale Institute there are apple orchards with thousands of organic apples—apples that scientists and researchers have experimented with to find the best ways to grow them without toxic chemicals. And guess what…it can be done!
Don’t believe me? Skeptical? Come see for yourself. On Saturday, September 20th (coincidentally, the 24th anniversary of my father’s death), the Rodale Institute will be hosting its annual Organic Apple Festival, where you and your loved ones can come pick organic apples yourself and not worry about a single toxic thing (unless you’re allergic to bees, perhaps). From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. there will be apple picking, great music, and delicious food, including my famous organic Applegate Farms Hot Dog stand! My stand serves up real charcoal grilled organic hotdogs, organic soft ice cream, and organic apple cider floats… YUM! Plus all sorts of other good stuff. I will even be cooking up some veggie hotdogs and sausages for all you vegetarians out there.
And if you have kids, or are a kid at heart yourself, you can enjoy my favorite game at the festival: Rotten Apple Rocket. It’s basically using a giant slingshot to shoot rotten apples into a target—which kind of tells you what I think of perfection. Imperfection is so much more fun!
So I hope to see some of you there. Stop by and say hello! I will be “manning” the grill all day (except for one break from 2:00 to 3:00, when I’ll be looking for a cup of coffee).
I would like to thank ALL the people who make my Apple Fest stand a possibility and the occasion a hugely fun and festive day:
- The companies who donate the food: Applegate, Tofurky, and Blue Marble Ice Cream
- The team who secured the donations for me: Shelbi Stoneback and Kevin Harbour (and special thanks to Sarah Danish for ordering supplies)
- The Rodale Institute staff, who help with setup and takedown: Megan Kintzer, Molly Sweitzer, Kim Schroeder, Louise DeVall, Michael Schmaeling, Heather Gurk and the rest of the Rodale Institute crew
- All my volunteers(!): Adam Campbell, Brendon Luci, Casey Rinfret, Colleen Kelleher, Cory Treadway, Devon Novotnak, Erin Fergusson, Eve Cinquino, Gillian Francella, Jason Sizemore, Kathleen Oswalt, Maria Luci, Mary Rinfret, Melisa Klausner, Melissa Chuhran, Nick Buck, Olivia Lovell, Patricia Welle, Preeti Budhram, Rick Oswalt, Shelbi Stoneback, Tim Kraemer, Tom Pogash, Tori Katherman, and William Sanders
- And most especially: Kathleen Oswalt, who organizes and coordinates the whole thing.
Good times! Good times!