apple picking
Instagram users have been mistreating the orchards for likes, and it's time for them to stop. (Illustration by Alice Yuan, Maryland Institute College of Art)

The Tradition of Apple Picking Has Changed and It’s Instagram’s Fault

Social media influencers searching for the perfect photo opportunity have waged a war on apple orchards and it’s killing the business.

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apple picking

Social media influencers searching for the perfect photo opportunity have waged a war on apple orchards and it’s killing the business.

The fall season has finally arrived as October slowly fades into November, and that means an abundance of activities for lovers of the crisp harvest season. Some of the most popular of these activities include pumpkin picking and apple picking. Families arrive in flocks at orchards across their home state to get a taste of the country lifestyle and have the privilege of picking their own produce. However, while this fall favorite activity might be on everyone’s seasonal bucket list, apple picking has taken on a different meaning since the era of Instagram and social media influencers.

I’ve fallen victim to the appeal of apple and pumpkin picking while donning some of my favorite fall looks. Sometimes it’s nice to escape the concrete world that I live in and explore the colorful landscape of a farm or orchard. The smell of freshly made apple cider and the crunch of fallen leaves as you walk between the apple trees can be such a refreshing experience.

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Most charming apple orchard award goes to @munchkeyapples! Nestled among the rolling hills of the driftless region in Mount Horeb, Munchkey’s offers bushels and pecks of many apple varieties, cider, caramel apples, pie, and other local goodies! We strolled down the sunny apple lanes munching on crimson golds and cider donuts (duh). The kids were enamored with the clubhouse and trampoline in front of owners large barn. Their backyard cows were a perfect soundtrack to the morning. Glad we could fit in this fall must before the snow flies. . . . . . #appleseason #driftlessadventures #driftlesswisconsin #explorewisconsin #applepicking #familytime #familyfun #shoplocal #orchard #appleorchard #discoverwisconsin #countrylife

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These orchards hidden away from the concrete jungle of the cities and suburbia have fallen victim to photo backdrop tourism as we move further into the era of social media and the obsession over image. Apple orchards have become the new must-have post, complete with the obligatory “Happy Fall Ya’ll” caption on everyone’s Instagram feed. Those seeking out this perfect photo opportunity to celebrate the fall season are seen scattered around apple orchards violently ripping apples from trees to find the perfect specimen to cup between their hands as they stare mindlessly into the lens of an iPhone. Activities such as this would be all well and fine if those same apples weren’t discarded on the ground after their two seconds of fame.

This is the problem with the recent popularity that apple orchards have received. Many of these orchards and farms are the main supply of income for the families who run them. These families rely on the sales of all of their produce and small market items that they sell during the season. While this fad with apple orchards may bring more people into their farms during the fall, it does not always mean that they become customers. Yes, some farms and orchards do charge to enter, but there are many that don’t. Such establishments that choose not to charge visitors to enter face the risk of losing money as many of these specific farms or orchards attract those looking for the perfect Instagram photo, leaving stripped trees and ready-to-eat produce scattered across the fields discarded.

Visiting the apple orchards and farms during the fall season has always been a favorite activity of mine as I enjoy buying a half gallon of freshly pressed apple cider to enjoy from my couch on chilly November nights and apples to bake in my oven with some cinnamon to fill the room with the sweet, welcoming smell of what the holiday season is meant to be about. Watching so many millennials take over these beautiful gems hidden in untouched pockets of nature to satisfy their hunger for likes on Instagram has begun to ruin the beauty of this fall experience. Yes, I always take one photo during my trip to a local orchard, but I always make sure to respect the environment that I am in. I never litter the ground with produce that is perfect for purchase and I always make sure to buy something, even if it’s only cider, before I leave to support the business.

The lack of support in these businesses is my biggest issue. Essentially, these orchards are providing those who obsess over their public image with a beautiful location to get their fix. The least that they can do is pay it forward and financially support the location they are so eager to use to promote themselves. No one would expect to be able to use a photographer’s services without paying a fee. It is the same for these orchards. At the end of the day, these beautiful establishments sharing their business with nature are there to make a profit and support those who live off of it. Your Instagram following isn’t helping these families make a living.

Promotion can be wonderful and taking photos is fun, but we must remember our manners when entering someone else’s establishment. By walking onto the grounds of your local apple orchard, you are making it known you are there to support their business and it should be practiced as such. Imagine how much money you are throwing away by tossing all of those apples on the ground after getting your perfect shot. Next time consider purchasing a few or taking home a small bottle of cider. It will cost substantially less than the money the farm is spending to replace all of that produce you wasted. You’ll be promoting a business that you sought out for your photo opportunity and preserve its livelihood for longer. Maybe you’ll even find new inspiration for your next Instagram post after trying out a recipe for baked apples topped with cinnamon.

As the fall season comes to a close, please remember to support your local orchards. While social media grows, these farms are dying out as the revenue that they are bringing in is not matching the demand of visitors overflowing their land. Let’s keep the tradition alive of celebrating fall with the activity of apple picking, but be sure to pay it forward.

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