The COVID-19 pandemic has had a wide impact on our lives and economy. As the country adjusts and adapts to these challenging situations, New York State growers are doing everything they can to provide a safe and reliable source of food. From orchard to table, our farmers are working tirelessly to bring in the upcoming abundant fall apple harvest. We are a close-knit group in the apple industry, and we care about the safety of communities, our families, and our country.
The United States has one of the safest food systems in the world and New York State is home to impressive state-of-the-art packing facilities. These packing houses are located near apple growers to shorten the distance from our 55,000 acres of apple trees to packing houses where bins of apples are washed, sorted and packed. Packing is hands-free as apples are mechanically bagged or placed into cartons and then shipped to grocery stores throughout the country.
Like many sectors of the produce industry, the apple industry conforms to rigid safety practices. On January 4, 2011, the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was passed, which mandated new processes and plans to prevent foodborne illness. Through the great work of the entire fruit and vegetable industry, the nation’s food safety system began shifting its focus from responding to foodborne illness to preventing it. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which oversees FSMA, there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 is a foodborne illness. That said, our growers and partners are still following the recommendations of the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and federal and state agencies. Apple shippers have increased cleaning and sanitation compliance, social distancing, hands-free packaging, and wearing of face masks and gloves.
Safety is paramount in our orchards as much as in our packinghouses. There are 150 Pick-Your-Own apple operations in New York State. As traditional apple-picking season approaches, many are offering pre-picked apples, available for orchard-side pickup. This system gives apple-lovers the fresh-picked flavor they’ve been awaiting while keeping people safe. Be sure to check with your favorite apple orchard to determine their services and hours of operation.
The food industry has done an amazing job of continuously distributing food throughout the country during this challenging time. New York State apple growers are working diligently to harvest this year’s apple crop, and we commend their commitment to growing and distributing the safe and nutritious food that is essential to our communities. We are all in this together and we thank you for your continued support of our over 600 apple growers and their family-owned farms.