Crop Talk, August 22: Week 12
Honeycrisp Apples -- The Strawberries of September!
  
The apple-pciking season kicks off this week with the popuplar Honeycrisp variety. Here's an excerpt from Elizabeth Gunnison Dunn's article on the Honeycrisp apples phenomenon:

"...In almost 400 years of cultivating apples on these shores, Honeycrisp may be the first true name-brand variety to hit the shelves — a designer apple, the first malus domestica to price out of a segment of the market.

   Even David Bedford, the man responsible for creating the Honeycrisp 20 years ago (via good old-fashioned cross breeding, not nefarious genetic splicing and dicing), is astonished by the apple's success. "I have absolutely never seen this price phenomenon with another apple," says Bedford, a scientist at the University of Minnesota. "There are varieties that have garnered a 10 percent premium to standard pricing, and usually they have a promotional campaign behind them. They eventually fade out. Honeycrisp has never had a national marketing campaign — it's truly a grassroots phenomenon. I've had to ask myself, 'Is this real?'"

   It is very real. Honeycrisps seem to inspire a devotion bordering on obsession from eaters who prize their sweet taste and distinct juiciness and snap (for evidence of this, just do a search for "Honeycrisp" on Twitter). It's what fruit folk call a great hand apple: phenomenal for biting into raw. This explosive crunchiness isn't simply a product of better freshness or farming practices — it's an actual genetic variation. Bedford says that studied under an electron microscope, Honeycrisp cells are twice the size of those of other apples, which accounts for their unique, pleasing texture.

   As for the hefty price, Bedford explains that the cost of Honeycrisps today is essentially a straight-up supply and demand story. After almost two decades of slow, steady growth, interest in Honeycrisps has skyrocketed in the past few years as consumers began to discover the apple in droves. But production can't just turn on the dime. From the time an apple tree is planted, it takes at least five to six years for it to produce fruit in commercial quantities. As demand has peaked in recent years, supply has lagged behind, sending prices up."

Read More here.

An Abandoned Quarry Above Rio’s Olympic Village Finds New Life as an Organic Farm

By Andrew Jenner, from Modern Farmer

   On a steep, forested hillside, in what was once a quarry in Rio de Janeiro, Fátima Anselmo scoops a handful of loose, dark soil from one of her garden beds. “It’s alive!” she says, holding the dirt in the air.

   The whole place, in fact, is bursting with life. Organic greens and peas and carrots grow in neat beds that checker the ground; nasturtium blooms add a splash of brilliant color. Inside two greenhouses, tightly packed trays of seedlings and microgreens form a sort of electric green carpet. And the dripping, chirping forest just outside appears poised for invasion. It’s a testament to nature’s resilience—and Anselmo’s determination—that only a few short years ago, this was an industrial wasteland, strewn with piles of rock and trash.

“I achieved my dream in this beautiful spot,” says Anselmo, of her bustling farm, Orgânicos da Fátima. “A dead place has come to life.”

Read more here.

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