As the weather continues to warm and the sun stays out longer, fruits and vegetables are growing bigger every day. Which is perfect, because June is National Fresh Fruits & Vegetables Month!
While the basis of this month is to focus on the health aspects that fruits and vegetables provide to the human diet. We can’t help but stop to wonder, what determines the health of our fruits and vegetables? And who’s checking up on this?
Piqued Your Curiosity?
Where our produce comes from is commonly related to what store we bought it at and where that store is located. Until the Coronavirus pandemic in 2020, the concept of how that produce got to the store, was lost on many of the people who ate it. And sure, we know it comes from a farm, and that farmers have to grow it, but where are these farms located? And what are their growing practices? How do I know that the health of their plants is going to mean health for my body?
Finding the Answers
Unless you belong to the farming and gardening industry the idea of plant sourcing may be outside your realm, simply because you don’t see it. But, that’s part of the reason why Plant Sentry™ is here. We exist to safeguard the shipment of plants, and well, fruits and vegetables are plants too.
So this month, we’d like to help answer some of these questions for you and give you some tools you need to answer these questions for yourself.
Where Do They Come From?
While California leads the U.S. states in domestic agriculture, the other 48 states make sure to do their part when it comes to farming too. 2 million other farms to be exact. While this seems like a lot, and perhaps that it should be enough, what may be surprising about this is that only about 8% of farms market their foods locally .
Many fruits and vegetables grown in the U.S. are only in season for a few weeks out of a calendar year.
The Fruits of Labor After the Seasons Over
Once the U.S. growers finish out their seasons for fruits and vegetables the American consumer doesn’t end their want/need for the produce. Instead, the U.S. market imports fresh fruits and vegetables from all around the world to meet American consumers’ demand.In 2012 it was calculated that roughly 6.9 million metric tons of fruits and vegetables were shipped to U.S. Distribution Centers nationwide. 
So Are They Healthy?
The U.S. market for fruits and vegetables can be divided into 2 categories, fresh and processed. Deciding which market the farmer grows for determines how the produce is grown. If it is grown for the processed market, then the goods will meet the standards of that market. If the produce is grown for the fresh market, then they will adhere to the standards of the fresh market. The USDA monitors both of these markets and lists their standards for both categories here. 
When it comes to the health of fruits and vegetables determining their values can be a little bit more challenging, because it requires a closer look. Fruits and vegetable benefits are evaluated by the nutrient density of the good and can vary slightly based on growth conditions.
The way the food is prepared and handled will also determine the overall nutrient density of the fruits and vegetables. But generally speaking, it is safe to follow the nutritional evaluations of raw fruits and vegetables from the FDA. 
Beyond the Label
Unless you’re purchasing goods from a local grower, knowing more finite information about the produce your consuming can be challenging. While the FDA requires the listing of the country on the stickers for fruits and vegetables, beyond that is considered proprietary business information.
The Green Industry Role
In the Green Industry, it can be challenging to find out information if you aren’t on the inside of the situation. When there are disease and pest outbreaks, our government officials often settle for only listing the affected state and not the company name. This is no different when it comes to the agricultural side of things and handling the safety of food.
In order to protect international business relationships, the same standard of discretion is applied to the produce industry. As Americans continue to populate and rely on these resources, it is the utmost responsibility of the government officials regulating these goods to protect not only those eating them but also those who grow them.
The Plant Sentry™ Role
Being a member of the Green Industry can sometimes be challenging. While we at Plant Sentry™ primarily focus on the health of plants and their shipping and restrictions requirements, we know that every piece of the puzzle is important.
How consumers purchase and select their goods plays into the giant game of chess that impacts the availability consumers have.
This is why we do and encourage everything we can in shipping and compliance of regulations to help growers be successful so that consumers can keep their variety.
- Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (n.d.). Nutrition Information for Raw Fruits, Vegetables, and Fish. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/nutrition-information-raw-fruits-vegetables-and-fish
- Fast Facts About Agriculture & Food. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.fb.org/newsroom/fast-facts
- Fischetti, M. (2013, September 1). U.S. Demand for Fruits and Vegetables Drives Up Imports. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/us-demand-for-fruits-and-vegetables-drives-up-imports
- Grades and Standards. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ams.usda.gov/grades-standards
- Grossman, E. (2014, September 24). Want to find out where your fruit was grown? Good luck. Retrieved from https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/09/fruit-veggies-produce-origins-trade-secret/