The state has declared a fresh produce quarantine for a 123-square-mile area including Curtis Park following the discovery of 15 Oriental fruit flies in the Lemon Hill community in August.
The state quarantine affects 230 different varieties of fruits and vegetables, including citrus, grapes and tomatoes, which are potential “host fruits” for female fruit flies to lay eggs.
According to California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), the quarantine means that growers cannot “move any (fresh) fruits or vegetables from their property.” Commercial farmers in the quarantine area cannot sell their produce until they complete a four-week pesticide treatment. Residents are advised not to give fruit and vegetables away. Farmers markets within the quarantine zone are required to cover produce for sale.
The CDFA guidance goes on to say, “Fruits and vegetables may be consumed or processed (i.e. juiced, frozen, cooked, or ground in the garbage disposal) at the property of origin.” For example, if you cook and preserve your backyard tomatoes, you may give away jars of canned tomatoes.
The state issued its order in late August, but few residents seem aware of the quarantine or how it affects their homegrown produce. Bert and Ruth Pierroz grow apples, lemons and persimmons in the front yard of their home on Rochon Way.
“I was just thinking of offering apples to a neighbor to make a pie, but I guess I can’t do that,” Ruth said.
The quarantine is expected to last until May. That will hamper the efforts of Harvest Sacramento, which picks fruit from backyard trees and donates it to the Sacramento Food Bank & Family Services.
“We had a conversation with the county last week and they told us we would not be able to harvest until May at the earliest,” said Nick Anicich, who manages the Harvest Sacramento program for Soil Born Farms.
“Community members should know that just because their homes are in the quarantine area does not mean that their fruit is bad,” he added. “Follow the county guidelines and make it a goal this year to use as much of your fruit as possible – eat it fresh, juice it, freeze it, preserve it – and only if you really have no other options, dispose of it properly.”
Steve Lyle, director of public affairs for CDFA, said any discarded produce should be double-bagged and placed in the garbage bin, not in yard waste.
The quarantine zone is generally bordered on the north by El Camino Avenue, on the south by Laguna Boulevard, on the west by the Sacramento River, and on the east by Bradshaw Road.
For more information about the Oriental fruit fly quarantine, visit the CDFA website at https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/plant/off/regulation.html or call their Pest Hotline at 800 491-1899.