The Best Organic Apples On Earth®
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Washington State is known as one of the premier apple-growing areas in the world. The nutrient-rich soil, arid climate, plentiful water and advanced growing practices provide the right ingredients for producing top-quality fruit.
These same elements also make Washington the finest place to grow organic apples. The dry climate and ideal temperatures reduce the number of disease and pest problems that can impact fruit. This superior climate reduces the need for applications to control insects and pests. In addition, Washington’s quality standards for all apples are more stringent than grading standards used in any other growing region in the world.
All of Washington’s nine key varieties are available as organically grown.
Statistics from Washington State University’s Tree Fruit Research and Extension Center indicate most of the Washington organic acreage planted is in Gala and Fuji followed by Golden Delicious, Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Cripps Pink, Braeburn, Honeycrisp™ and other new varieties.
And Washington’s organic apple industry is not only growing, but it is holding true to the state’s unmatched history of dedication to cutting-edge production practices. Over 25 percent of the state’s apple packers hold Organic Handler Certificates from the Washington State Department of Agriculture’s Organic Food Program.
Organic Washington Apple FAQs
Q. How are organic Washington apples grown and packed?
A. Organic Washington apples are grown and packed only with materials and methods approved by the National Organic Program (NOP), which rely on natural materials and processes. Organic orchards receive nutrition and fertilizers consisting of compost, animal manure, fishmeal, plant residues and other natural nutrients. Natural pest control methods are derived from plant extracts, the fermentations of yeast, beneficial insects, mating disruption pheromones and systems that bait and trap pests. Weeds may be controlled by mulching, cover plantings and mechanical methods.
In addition, certified organic apples can only be processed and packed on equipment using belts, brushes and water specially cleaned and prepared to handle organic fruit. Organic apples may not commingle with conventionally grown apples in either the orchard or in the packing houses.
Q. How many years does it take for an apple orchard to be certified organic?
A. The land on which the apples are grown must have been farmed organically for three years or fallowed for three years before certification is granted. This means that for at least three years prior to the first certified organic harvest, only practices and materials allowed under the national organic standard have been used. Prior to the third year, the apples from the orchard are considered transitional fruit. Transitional fruit cannot be sold as certified organically grown.
Q. How are organic apple growing and handling practices monitored?
A. The NOP requires producers and handlers to submit an Organic System Plan. The plan must document the practices and procedures used, the materials they plan to use, the soil monitoring methods used to determine that soil and water quality are being maintained and improved and the records that are maintained. And, for growers who produce or handle both organic and conventional apples, the procedures that are in place to prevent commingling of the products. An annual update of the system plan must also be submitted each year.
Q. Are organic apple orchards and packing facilities inspected?
A. It is mandatory that organic orchards and packing facilities be inspected every year. The Washington State Department of Agriculture conducts these inspections. During the certification process, random samples are collected to verify compliance with organic production standards. Growers must submit soil tests every three years.
Q. Do organic practices involve or include genetically modified organisms?
A. No. Genetically modified organisms are not allowed under organic regulations.
Q. How do I know my apples are grown organically?
A. Look at the stickers on the apples and watch for signs in the supermarket. Along with the national organic standards, the USDA developed strict labeling rules to help consumers know the exact organic content of the food they buy. The USDA Organic seal (see below) tells you that a product is at least 95 percent organic. However, apple growers may or may not use the full USDA Organic seal, the certified organic apples may simply have “certified organic” on the existing sticker.
Q. What is Organic?
A. Organic refers to the way agricultural products are grown and processed. Organic food production is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility through the use of biological pest control, rather than chemical. Organic foods are minimally processed without artificial ingredients, preservatives or irradiation.
Organic Washington Apple Facts
- Washington apple growers currently produce over 6 million boxes of certified organic apples. Washington State cultivates 14,309 acres of certified organic orchards, compared to 7,642 just 4 years ago.
- The United States is the leading organic apple producer in the world, with Washington State growing more than 80% of U.S. certified organic apples.
- Organic Washington apples are available in every key variety – Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Gala, Fuji, Braeburn, Cripps Pink, Cameo® and Honeycrisp™.
- Each organic Washington apple is picked by hand.
If you choose to buy organic Washington apples, read the sticker on the apples to ensure the apples are certified USDA organic.
The National Organic Program
The push to standardize organic certification nationwide started in 1990 when Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA). The OFPA required the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop national standards for organically produced agricultural products to assure consumers that those products meet consistent, uniform standards.
In response to these demands, the USDA created the National Organic Program (NOP). NOP standards offer a national definition for the term organic. They detail the methods, practices and substances that can be used in producing and handling organic crops, livestock, and processed products.
Beginning in 1988, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) had been certifying orchards under the state’s organic food laws. When the USDA created the national program, the WSDA was accredited to certify orchards, processors and handlers under the national program.
Good Reasons to Buy Organic Apples
- Organic orcharding protects future generations
- Organic apples meet stringent standards
- Organic apples taste great.
- Organic production reduces health risks from chemicals
- Organic orchards respect our water resources
- Organic growers build healthy soil
- Organic growers work with nature
- Organic growers are leaders in innovative research
- Organic growers strive to preserve biodiversity
- Organic orcharding keeps communities healthy
- Organic orcharding saves energy
- Organic orcharding helps small growers
* 2006 estimated figures from Washington State University Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources.