From the Tree to the Table: The Journey of a Brave Little Orange

The surprising complexity behind even the simplest-seeming aspects of modern life.
Packing house workers, Redlands, 1950s. From Nathan Gonzales of A.K. Smiley Public Library, via Marketplace.
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Here's a link to Marketplace's report from Redlands, California, which ran on Friday and featured the past-and-future role of citrus in the town's culture and concept of its possibilities. Through this coming week we'll have reports in this space about the new bases of this region's economy, about the improbable emergence of a local high-tech industry, about the importance of "turning point" narratives in cities' sense of themselves, about the new trends in transportation in car-centric California, and other themes.

The Marketplace report also includes a local-knowledge quiz, which fortunately I aced, and a very nice video report on how an orange makes its journey from the field to the shipping carton and thence to wherever you might enjoy it. Most of the cartons you'll see in this report are labelled in both Japanese and Chinese and are bound for customers throughout Asia.

American Futures: The journey of an orange from Marketplace on Vimeo.

One other theme in this report is Kai Ryssdal's skepticism about Orange Wheat beer, the flagship brand and volume leader for the very-fast-expanding Hangar 24 craft brewery of Redlands. Orange wheat beer is locally significant, since the brewery very deliberately buys from the same local, often-struggling, old-growth citrus groves you heard about here. And according to Ben Cook, the young founder and owner of Hangar 24, it accounts for nearly two-thirds of the brewery's entire sales.

For whatever that means: here I note that the four best-selling brands across our country are Bud Light, Bud, Coors Light, and Miller Lite, of which to me only Bud qualifies as "beer." (When I asked one of my Redlands friends about the Hangar 24 lineup, he said, "Well, I'm not really a beer drinker, but I do like that Orange Wheat.") But as fruit-flavored brews go, Hangar 24's Orange Wheat is pretty good, and by any standards its Columbus IPA, Amarillo Pale Ale, and many others are excellent. (Label images from this very interesting printing-related site.)

Label images from Prints on Wood.

And if you're in the vicinity, Hangar 24 is offering free cab rides home from now through New Year's Day, so drink up. More "serious" matters soon.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.


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