Janelle Atyeo column

Janelle Atyeo

As I write this column, I’m sitting at my desk in the sunny Neighbor offices, enjoying a tart, crisp apple from my dad’s tree in sweet home Clear Lake, South Dakota.

He sent me home with an ice cream pail full of tennis ball-sized fruit after a weekend camping trip.

The apples aren’t perfect. They’re misshapen. Some are small. Some are pockmarked with imperfections and tiny holes.

After taking my first few bites of my mid-morning snack, I noticed that one of those holes might have been filled with a little extra protein. Maybe I’m paranoid and slightly distrustful of “garden fresh” fruits and veggies, but I think I may have dug out a tiny little worm from the meat of my apple.

Might have. I’m not sure. It was tiny and white. Why can’t worms living in apples look more like the night crawler-sized versions drawn on back-to-school posters?

Without certainty that my apple was infested, I chose to ignore it. I ate the whole thing, and I’ve so far lived to tell the tale.

I was not so forgiving with the bag of turnips from my daughter’s daycare lady. The day after offering her garden goodies, she warned me that the small vegetables were filled with worm holes.

Indeed, I’d already noticed that most of the turnips had gone bad where worms had made a path through the root. I caught several of the little white worms in the act. I wasn’t about to ignore them. No, I’m afraid turnips are not worth it. Not even the chickens would eat the scraps.

It’s funny to think that not so long ago, I was one of those organic-only devotees. When I browsed the produce section, I looked for stickers with a produce code starting in nine, and paid dearly for it.

More than once, I came home with a head of broccoli full of aphids. If I’d had chickens then, the lucky birds would have enjoyed a fresh organic meal, plus extra protein.

I still rinse my fruit and veg with a special produce wash. I still nag my husband about rinsing the peppers when I see them go straight from the refrigerator’s crisper drawer to the cutting board. But I’m far less concerned about pesticides on my food.

There are guidelines for how much pesticide residue can remain on food, when pesticides are applied correctly. I have full trust that farmers follow those application rules. It makes no sense to over-apply. Considering how much such inputs cost, every drop counts.

I heard Michelle “The Farm Babe” Miller put it in perspective once. The liquid pesticide a farmer applies to a field is mostly water. The amount of chemical in the mix would fill about two soda cans. Two soda cans to cover an area the size of a football field. That’s it. I’m pretty sure my vegetable wash can do the job of cleaning up whatever’s left.

So thank you, farmers, for providing us with a safe and abundant food supply. The apples aren’t so bad, either.

Janelle is editor of the Tri-State Neighbor, covering South Dakota, southwestern Minnesota, northwestern Iowa and northeastern Nebraska. Reach her at jatyeo@tristateneighbor.com or follow on Twitter @JLNeighbor