Orange You Glad I Asked?…

A couple of Friday’s ago I had the opportunity to go to Lincoln to the State FFA Convention to participate in the Career Fair. We offer a variety of summer internships for college students, and while all of the attending FFA students were still in high school, it provided a great chance to inform hundreds of youth of the potential opportunities available to them.

Two things I learned. 1.) I need to bring more pens and promotional material. 2.) We might need to consider growing oranges at the Orchard. (Okay, not really, but I will explain why here shortly.)

Going in to this I didn’t really know what to expect, as I had never been to a career fair involving high school youth.  I learned they LOVE free promotional items. I had brought a few things…bags, candy, etc.., but not even close to enough to provide something for every student! Rest assured, more pens and apple shaped stress relief balls were ordered! 🙂

Stress relief balls and pens for everyone!

Stress relief balls and pens for everyone!

Secondly, when students would visit our booth I would initiate the conversation with the basic questions…what school are you from, what grade are you in, do you have future plans, etc…  I could immediately pinpoint the younger students as compared to the juniors/seniors based on how timid some of them were. But what really through me for a loop was that no matter the age group when I asked the next question, the overriding answer was the same. The question: Name 4 of the 8 fruits we grow at Kimmel Orchard & Vineyard.

Some students gave blank stares, some tried to quick flip through our brochure and most saw the apples that were sitting on our booth space as display and started their guessing with, APPLES? Yes! They guessed one, three more to go! And this is where I was completely amazed. An overwhelming majority of students guessed oranges.

Oranges?!?!

Oranges?!?!

I was absolutely stunned at that answer. Do students really think we grow oranges in Nebraska or are they just guessing the first fruits that come to mind? While I am sure it is a mixture of both, it left me troubled. I tried to think back to the “good ole day” of being in high school (while I don’t like to consider myself too old, high school was already 9 years ago!) Would I have guessed oranges also? I tried to reassure myself thinking; no way would I have thought a citrus fruit could be grown in Nebraska. But then again, before I started working at Kimmel Orchard I really had no idea cherries and peaches could be grown in Nebraska, either. So, while I wanted to assume I would have NEVER thrown out oranges as an answer to a question like that, I couldn’t help but wonder if my 16 year old self would have guessed the same thing.

Ok, so students guessed oranges, does it really matter? For some maybe not, but as someone who works at an Orchard promoting alternative agriculture, it is huge.  Personally, my eyes were widely opened when I first entered the Orchard industry. (And for someone who only knew red and green apples coming in to this, I’ve come a loonnngg way…25 apple varieties later, I am kind of a snob at the grocery store anymore. J ) Anyhow my point is; attending the career fair only solidified what I have experienced in working at an Orchard for the past three years; there is a very strong disconnect amongst consumers and knowing when and where there fresh produce/food actually comes from.

Whether it is guests visiting the Orchard in June wondering why we don’t have apples or hundreds of FFA students thinking we grow oranges, there is such a learning curve for most individuals when it comes to fresh produce and their overall logistics. And, while I think it is a concern, I also believe it provides us Orchard folks a great opportunity to educate children, students, adults, consumers, or whoever on fruit based production.

Therefore, I encourage you to visit a local Orchard (Kimmel Orchard of course if you’re in Nebraska J ) and talk to the grower, farmer, retail associate and ask questions if you have them.  I know we are always trying to help guests learn of the different fruit and vegetables we grow, as I am sure most retail farm markets are.  So, even if it’s not an Orchard, visit a dairy, local honey maker, berry farm….whatever or whoever it may be; it is one step closer to becoming more knowledgeable on locally based food production.  Plus, you will probably end up leaving with some of the freshest produce you can get…and maybe a promotional pen. 😉

-Erin

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