Target Grade Level / Age Range 



30 minutes


By the end of this lesson students will be able to:

  1. describe the different fruits they’ve observed.
  2. locate on a U.S. map where the fruits are produced.  


  • Fruit: apples, oranges, grapes, peaches, strawberries (depending on season/availability)
  • Knife and cutting board (for teacher use only)
  • Napkins or small plates for serving (one for each student)
  • Fruit Tasting Lab Worksheet
  • U.S. map outline to display on board 
  • Crayons


  • Farm – area of land used to produce food
  • Crop – cultivated plant grown as food
  • Harvest – process or period of gathering crops
  • Infrastructure – buildings, roads, and power supplies needed to help people buy and sell food and other items between each other
  • Transport – the movement of humans, animals, or goods from one place to another
  • Climate the weather conditions in a certain area
  • Temperate – not too hot or too cold
  • Ripe – ready to eat

Background – Agricultural Connections

Humans began getting food by gathering it as they found it. We eventually devised ways to grow it so that we had a steadier supply. We were dependent on what we could grow around us. Different plant varieties grow better or not at all in some climates. How did we set up a system so that we can eat our favorite foods even if they don’t grow in our climate?

Apples: Apples are grown commercially in 32 states. The top apple-producing state is Washington, followed by New York, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. The United States produces an average of 240 million bushels of apples annually. Apple production is valued at $4 billion, with an additional $15 billion related to downstream economic activity each year. There are more than 200 varieties of apples grown, but the top 10 varieties are Red Delicious, Gala, Granny Smith, Fuji, Golden Delicious, Honeycrisp, McIntosh, Rome, Cripps Pink (Pink Lady), and Empire apples.

Apple seedlings are planted in the spring in between Hardiness Zones 3-8 (see Hardiness Zone map). The soil must be well-drained and rich to retain moisture and air. To have the best fruiting, an apple tree needs “full sunlight” (six or more hours of direct summer sun is needed daily.)

Apple harvest begins each year in August and continues until early November. Each apple is handpicked to maintain quality. Farmers want to prevent their apples from bruising. There are no harvest machines to pick apples yet. After the apples are harvested, they are kept in cold storage until they are ready to be consumed.

Apple trees can grow in Iowa. It is important to consider the right variety of apple and the adaptability of it for the area. Iowa State Extension’s link shows what varieties of apples grow best in northern, central, and southern Iowa.

Oranges: The orange originated in southern China, northeastern India, and southeastern Asia. Now the orange tree has become the world’s most commonly grown fruit tree. The United States leads the world in orange production. Florida is our top producing state followed by California, Texas, and Arizona. Citrus plants like oranges need sunny, well-drained spots to thrive. They need to have warm weather conditions. Freezing temperatures can damage the trees and the fruit. It makes the fruit taste dry and pity. They are subtropical plants and require a temperature range from 55° to 100°F during the growing period. During dormancy, the ideal temperature range is 35° to 50°F. 

Many citrus varieties are ready to harvest in January. Today, most of the harvesting is done by manual labor. Hand-harvesting techniques have been enhanced by using fiberglass ladders and abscission agents that make it possible to remove the fruits with less force at a greater speed. Mechanized harvesting methods have been explored, such as limb and tree shakers, and air jets, but are not yet implemented due to the high investment cost and the current availability of manual labor. After the oranges are harvested, they can be stored up to 3 months at 52°F and up to 5 months at 36°F. Coating the fruit in a polyethylene/wax emulsion doubles the storage life of the orange by reducing fruit moisture loss.

Grapes: Grapes are thought to have been cultivated for the first time more than 7,000 years ago near present-day Iran. During the 1700s, grapes spread across North America as Spanish missions settled around California. California now leads the country in grape production because of its ideal climate. In 2016, 7.67 million tons of grapes were produced. California accounted for 88% of the total U.S. production, followed by Washington and New York.

Grapes will grow in most climate zones in the United States, but grapes grown for wine, eating, or juice have a limited growing area. When grapes are rich in color, juicy, full-flavored, and plump, it is time to harvest. Most grapes that are grown for eating as fresh grapes are hand-harvested. Once the grapes are picked from the vine, they will not continue to ripen. Grapes can be stored for up to six weeks in a cellar stored in cardboard boxes or crates lined with straw.

Grapes can successfully grow in Iowa as well. They can flourish in a backyard garden or vineyard, but some challenges include insects and knowing the proper harvest time. Yard and Garden: Successfully Growing Grapes in Iowa

Peaches: Peaches are commercially produced in 23 states. The top four states include California, South Carolina, Georgia, and New Jersey.

Peach trees require chilling hours to induce flowering. They can bloom relatively early in the spring, so areas that receive frosts after mid-April should not plant peach orchards. Peach trees also require a fair amount of heat for their fruit to ripen appropriately. The trees are self-pollinating.

Peaches are first picked by hand from the tree. Then they are quickly rinsed with cold water to stop further ripening. The next day, the peaches are cleaned, defuzzed, the leaves are removed, and the fruit is sized by electric sizers. Finally, they are packed and shipped in refrigerated trucks to retail stores often within three days of picking.

Strawberries: Strawberries are a high market item. The top fresh-market-strawberry- producing state is California, producing more than 80% of the nation’s strawberries. Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania follow. The United States ranks first in the world in strawberry production.

Strawberries can be grown on a variety of soils. However, they should typically be grown on a site that is well-drained and receives plenty of sun, while still being close to an irrigation source. The strawberry shipping season begins in January, and volume peaks in April and May when production areas overlap. Strawberries are hand-harvested and packaged in small containers. Watch strawberry harvest here.  

Most of the fruits mentioned do grow in Iowa besides oranges. A lot of the fruit production is done on home gardens or small farms. Most of Iowa’s cropland is used for commercial corn and soybean production, leaving little room for fruit production.

Interest Approach or Motivator

Display different samples of fruit for students to observe at the front of the room. Ask students if they have ever sampled each fruit. Tell them they will get a chance today during class, but first, they will have to do some detective work.


  1. Ask students what are some of their favorite fruits. Do they know where they come from? How did they get here? How long did it take?
  2. Compile a list of descriptive words that describe fruit. Have students share out words. Write the words on the whiteboard so they are visible to students when they complete the fruit tasting lab worksheet.
  3. Cut up fruit into small sample size pieces and distribute a plate to each student. Only distribute one fruit at a time. Make sure to consider any student allergies when doing this lesson.
  4. Pass out Fruit Tasting Lab Worksheet.
    1. First, have each student observe one piece of fruit. What do they see? They can write or draw what they see in the first column of the Fruit Tasting Lab Worksheet.
    2. After they have observed the fruit, instruct them to smell the fruit. Have students write how the fruit smells in the smell column of the worksheet.
    3. Finally, they can taste the fruit. Have students describe how the food tastes. Describe how the fruit tastes in the taste column. They can mark with a smiley face or a frowny face if they did or did not like the fruit.
    4. Have students guess where the fruit is produced and write it on the guess part of the state column.
    5. As students are finishing up their worksheet, share with them the fruit facts from the background section.
    6. Repeat for each fruit sample.
  5. Project a map of the United States on the board. As a class, mark on the map where the top fruit-producing state is. Also, draw the weather conditions in that area that promote excellent plant growth (ex: Florida is hot and sunny). Students should write which state the fruit is actually produced in the actual section of the state column. Using the map, discuss how the fruits got from those places to the students.
  6. Talk about the different climates of the states they marked on the map. How cold does it get in Iowa? California? How hot? When do plants go dormant in Iowa? Do you think it’s the same in Florida, etc.? Why?

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)

Did You Know? (Ag facts)

  • The average U.S. consumer eats 19 pounds of fresh apples.
  • The Red Delicious apple began life as a chance seedling (a viable apple variety that grows from a seed) on an Iowa farm.
  • Grapes grown in California are in season May-January.
  • Orange trees can’t take any cold at all.
  • Peaches must be picked unripe for traveling long distances, so they are ready to eat when they reach the consumer.
  • If you rinse strawberries with water before you are ready to eat them, they will spoil faster.

Extension Activities

  • Go on a field trip to an apple orchard.
  • Discover how fruit is transported to the grocery store.
  • Investigate where vegetables are grown.
  • Give a short news report about one fruit that you conducted more research on.

Suggested Companion Resources (books and websites)

  • Hooray for Orchards, Bobby Kalman
  • The Fruits We Eat, Gail Gibbons
  • Time for Cranberries, Lisl Detlefsen
  • Come and Eat With Us!, Annie Kubler



Carrie Vance

Laura Mincks

Organization Affiliation

Des Moines Public Schools

Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation

Agriculture Literacy Outcomes

  • T5.D-2.e. Identify the people and careers involved from production to consumption of agricultural products.
  • T5. K-2d. Identify plants and animals grown or raised locally that are used for food, clothing, shelter, and landscapes.
  • T5.K-2.f. Trace the sources of agricultural products (plant or animal) used daily.
  • 2.K-2.e. Identify the importance of natural resources (e.g. sun, soil, water, minerals) in farming.
  • T3.K-2.b. Recognize that agriculture provides our most basic necessities: food, fiber, energy, and shelter.

Iowa Core Standards

Social Studies:

  • SS.K.13. Create a route to a specific location using maps, globes, and other simple geographic models.
  • SS.K.14. Compare environmental characteristics in Iowa with other places.
  • SS.1.16. Using maps, globes, and other simple geographic models, compare and contrast routes for people or goods that consider environmental characteristics.
  • SS.1.18. Use a map to detail the journey of particular people, goods, or ideas as they move from place to place.
  • SS.2.16. Using maps, globes, and other simple geographic models, evaluate routes for people or goods that consider environmental characteristics.
  • SS.2.17. Explain how environmental characteristics impact the location of particular places.

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