Imagine your favorite dish at dinner with your family on a Sunday night. What is it? How do modern growing practices help to ensure it makes it all the way to your plate?
Location: Washington, D.C.
While I was growing up in central Florida, special family dinners were not complete without a fresh bowl of cut, chilled oranges on the table. The night before a big Sunday dinner or holiday meal, my grandmother and mother would spend an hour or two in the kitchen peeling and slicing Valencia oranges. No one was allowed to get near the bowl of fruit, for even a sample, until the oranges were properly chilled. My family would devour them at the meal, and we would get warnings that if we wanted more, we would have to peel and cut the fruit ourselves. The oranges were most often found in trees in the back yard or picked from my mother’s family orange grove. With easy access to such fresh produce in my youth, I found it odd to have to buy oranges in the grocery store as I grew older and moved away from my hometown.
Over the past twenty years the citrus industry in Florida has declined due to a disease called citrus canker, and now because of another, even more devastating disease called greening. When canker was first discovered, workers from the state of Florida would drive through groves wearing protective clothing and masks. When they left a grove, they washed down the truck with a tank of cleanser mounted on the truck. The workers had to throw away their protective clothing and put on a new set of gear before they went into another grove. If canker was found, the grove was burned immediately. The state did reimburse grove owners for each tree that was burned, but it cost most grove owners their livelihood. Then greening was discovered. It invades the orange tree, making it look as though it has not been watered. Slowly the tree dies, and once again, orange groves are being pushed up, burned and cleared. In the Florida Heartland, grove owners have, once again, started over with other crops.
Hopefully, in the near future, there will be new pesticides, insecticides, or sprays that will eradicate greening. It is critical that Congress understand the importance and urgency of approving products that can help the Florida citrus industry thrive again. Pesticides make a difference in protecting against these diseases, and it is important that new, effective products continue to be developed.
Change is inevitable in most areas of life, but our childhood memories do not change. I want my children, nieces and nephews to experience that same excitement and anticipation at family gatherings as I did over a sweet, juicy bowl of chilled, fresh oranges.