Date: Jun 09, 2011
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Chelsea McClarty is a fifth generation farmer who is passionate about the peaches, plums, nectarines and table grapes her family grows. The McClarty family has been growing peaches in Kingsburg, Calif., since 1887. McClarty isn’t just passionate about the fruit she grows—she’s also passionate about how healthy it is.

“You can eat it fresh. You don’t have to add anything to it,” McClarty, who has a degree in nutrition, said. “You don’t even have to read a food label because you know it’s going to have vitamins, minerals, protein, potassium … anything you name that’s good for you.”

In fact, the federal government recommends filling half your plate with fruits and vegetables in its newly designed MyPlate food guide that replaces the food pyramid. First Lady Michelle Obama is supporting the food plate model and is touting its role in the battle against the childhood obesity epidemic.

But family farms like McClarty’s must deal with campaigns that often convince people to stop eating certain fruits and vegetables. Stone fruit, which includes peaches, is often a target for these attacks.

“Stone fruit especially gets a bad rap a lot of times with the ‘Dirty Dozen’ and things like that,” McClarty said.

Despite consistent findings that the U.S. food supply is safe when it comes to worries over traces of residues, activist organizations like the Environmental Working Group continue to label fruits and vegetables as “dirty,” using their annual Shopper’s Guide as a way to alarm consumers without providing scientific support for its claims. And in a survey of toxicologists conducted by George Mason University in 2009, 79 percent of the scientists said the EWG and other activist groups overstate risks. In contrast, the scientists in the survey rate most government agencies as accurately portraying chemical risks.

The latest federal data syas U.S. fruits and vegetables do not contain unsafe levels of pesticide residues, according to the latest Pesticide Data Report released May 25 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The report showed that 99.7 percent of all the fruits and vegetables tested for pesticide residues passed inspection with flying colors. “This report shows that overall pesticide residues found on foods tested are at levels below the tolerances set by the EPA,” wrote USDA administrator Rayne Pegg in a letter accompanying the report.

But the fact is, peaches and other stone fruit like nectarines and plums are a healthy choice whether grown traditionally or organically. Peaches are a source of potassium and vitamin C and are one of the lowest calorie fruits with virtually no fat, sodium or cholesterol, according to the USDA National Nutrient Database which can be accessed at Producepedia.com.

“A lot of really vicious rumors get spread about fruit and vegetables and (say) don’t eat them for this reason or that reason,” McClarty said. But her family started HMC Farms because they believe people should know what a good peach tastes like.

“When we hand people a piece of fruit and they say, ‘Oh my gosh, this is what a peach is supposed to taste like,’ we feel like people younger than us or in the next generation after that should know exactly what a peach taste like too,” McClarty said.

About Western Growers:
Western Growers (www.wga.com) is an agricultural trade association whose members from Arizona and California grow, pack and ship 90 percent of the fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables grown in California and 75 percent of those commodities in Arizona. This totals about half of the nation’s fresh produce. Western Growers is headquartered in Irvine, Calif.

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