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California Agricultural Inspection Stations


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#1 Keep the Show on the Road!

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Posted 01 January 2017 - 10:00 PM

This is a little story about a contraband plum. Let me begin by expressing my respect and regard for the California fruit industry, and for all efforts to protect it from crop disease. I was born and grew up in California, and treasure my recollections of the golden state and its many rich agricultural resources. I eat California grown produce as often as I can find it. So I happily stop at their border agricultural inspection stations and cooperate fully, and gladly with the nice people who staff them. But I can’t help laughing about a very special plum.

 

I took a trip on our two lane roads into and through Utah, Nevada and California in November. Early on the third day of my travels from Washington on route to Bluff, Utah, I stopped in Green River Utah. As I am wont to do, I stopped to photograph the Midland Hotel, a marker for the old Midland Trail of the teens of the last century.

 

Green River is the name of a soft drink of my youth. And for you real history bluffs, the name of a anti traveling salesman ordinance. So I have a kinship with Green River.

 

Across from the Midland Hotel is a nice grocery store and I stopped to pick up some snacks for the road. Some bananas, a couple of plums, and a breakfast bar. In the next several hours I consumed the breakfast bar, the bananas and one of the plums. I left the lone remaining plum in it’s thin plastic bag, and I probably tossed it into the back seat. There it stayed for four days, in the sack, untouched, and forgotten.

 

This was no special plum. In fact it was a bit mushy, judging by its companion I had eaten along with the bananas. It crossed the great Utah and Nevada deserts, and experienced four days of fascinating adventures, and now was still with me, on the back seat in its thin plastic bag as I entered California

 

I won’t mention where I entered California, but it was a splendid vista, broken only by the Agricultural Inspection Station that loomed mid road, and through which all traffic was directed to pass, stopping first to check, as I now know, for plums purchased in Utah.

 

I want to repeat that I am empathetic with the intention of the agricultural inspection stations. They have interrupted my road travels since I was a boy, and that is longer then we have had jet planes. For all I know, the stage coaches used to stop to be checked for fruit. I know the routine as well as I know what to do at a signal.

 

The nice lady asks me where I have been and I try to recall. This isn’t easy for a 77 year old to answer on short notice, and I should write it down before I get to California. Lets see, I was in Utah, then Arizona, and then Nevada, I passed through Provo, and Bluff, and Kanab, and Las Vegas….and she interrupts me there.

 

OK, we have established that I was not in Central America. So next, do I have any fruit? This is where it gets funny. If I was carrying fruit that might be disease ridden, at this point I am supposed to confess. Right……..! But I am secreting a lone plum, purchased in Utah. I confess.

 

But I don’t recall where I bought it. “It was in the morning after I left Provo….” I blurt out. Obviously that was some sort of clue that triggered greater vigilance. I am directed to park the car and hand her the plum. Now this is getting serious.

 

They take my plum into the inter station, and another woman comes out and they confer. The cars behind me are being directed through the other lane now, while I sit waiting for the outcome of my plum inspection.

 

I’m thinking, tell her to keep the plum, it is mushy anyway. But I fear this may be perceived as a ploy to escape further inspection. I envision them opening my sack of dirty laundry in the  trunk, and perhaps making me explain the fruit stains on my trousers.

 

In about five or ten minutes the nice lady returns and hands me back the suspect plum. She explains that the problem is that it was not “grown in the US.” I can hardly choke down laughter. I could spend a month trying to find a plum in a grocery store in November that was grown in the US. They all come from South America in the winter and I could have told her that.

 

But the California fruit industry can rest easy that no Peruvian plum purchased in Utah is being snuck into California uninspected. Long live the inspection stations. Really!! I hope they are still checking fruit when I take that long last drive. I would truly miss the experience.

 

Dave

 

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#2 knightfan26917

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Posted 08 January 2017 - 02:18 PM

Dave,

 

You had me laughing out loud during several passages of your story.  This is a very well-written piece, & I'm glad you posted it here for us to read & enjoy.

 

During my Route 66 road trip in 2009, I remember being stopped entering California to be inspected for fruit.  I'd been to CA in my younger days on family trips, but don't remember being stopped for inspections.  Could be I just wasn't paying attention.

 

Anyway, during my stop in 2009, they just about turned my rental upside down.  They were nice about it, of course, but the more they "probed", the more nervous I got, which probably prompted them to inspect more ... LOL.  Obviously, I passed inspection, but it was an experience I'll not soon forget.

 

When I returned to CA in 2011, entering a bit further north through Utah, I do not remember them stopping me at all that time.

 

 

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#3 Mike Ballard

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Posted 23 January 2017 - 11:42 AM

Those inspection stations do vary quite a bit, from my experience, in how they handle travelers. They do at least have a reason for being. The bulk of the California agricultural industry is insulated from the rest of the country by large mountain ranges and/or large deserts. It wouldn't take much for someone to bring something infested across those natural barriers and contaminate the rest of the land. Mind you, these checkpoints have been used for things other than their stated purposes in the past. During the "Dust Bowl" era, they were partly used to discourage Oklahoma and Arkansas refugees from entering California and "burdening" us with their problems. Today, a few have been co-opted by the border patrol for their inland checkpoints. When it comes to the actual agricultural stations, I have found them to usually be friendly. Could be that I am a Californian and have, with one exception, come across state lines with a California plated vehicle.

 

Nice story though. It is always interesting to hear about others experiences when coming to California.


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#4 beckyrepp

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Posted 23 January 2017 - 01:42 PM

Love the story Dave! We had a similar experience, but not with a plum. The offending fruit was a banana. 


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#5 Keep the Show on the Road!

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Posted 23 January 2017 - 03:41 PM

Mike,

 

I love the California inspection stations.  I was born and raised, educated, and long employed in California, not to mention that my family members were pioneers in agriculture in the San Fernando Valley. I am the first to  defend our inspection stations.  No  one should read my comments as other than a fond expression of a humorous experience.

 

The inspection stations are one of the most enduring and endearing roadside symbols in America. I was not aware that they had ever been used for other than their legitimate agricultural purposes.  I'm sorry to hear they were ever misused. That is not my view of my native state.  

 

No one who has ever tasted a ripe California orange or tangerine, or for that matter a plum :) would ever want to be responsible for carrying infected fruit into the state.  I welcome the protection.

 

My days reach back a few years beyond yours, so I recall  the times when one could drive between my home in La Canada to Riverside or San Bernadino (or Idyllwild where we spent vacations) and see practically nothing but orange groves, and perhaps date farms.  Pomona and Fallbrook, where i also once lived and worked were both at the  heart of that industry.

 

Your explanation of the important purpose of  the  inspection stations is appreciated by this "native Californian."

 

Dave

 

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#6 knightfan26917

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Posted 29 January 2017 - 03:12 PM

I should clarify, too ... during my experience in 2009, as I stated, they were nice about the probing ... in fact, they were quite humorous about it, despite me becoming more & more nervous the more they probed.  Point is ... tho I was terribly nervous, it was actually a funny & humorous footnote experience to the entire trip.

 

 

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