Each year at Cornell University, Autumn heralds the return of a most unusual vending machine outside the Mann Library, near the horticulture department. Instead of the usual assortment of snacks, the popular fixture offers nine varieties of apples, all grown at the two Cornell Orchards locations.
For the low price of a dollar, students can grab a crispy and juicy Gala, Shizuka, Honeycrisp, McIntosh, or Ginger Gold. The apples on display, however, vary from month to month. In late August, the vending machine often features delicious Sansa or SweeTango apples, while November ushers in varieties like Goldrush. Horticulture graduate students are responsible for both fruit picking and full machine supply. All proceeds support the Society for Horticulture (SoHo).
The vending machine, which has been the pride of the school for more than a decade, is much more than a novelty. Cornell Orchards has been the breeding ground for important new apple varieties over the years, including Empire, Macoun, Rubyfrost, Snapdragon and Firecracker, all of which hit the vending machine every fall. Occasionally, unnamed experimental varieties have appeared in the machine. Creating and marketing tastier apple varieties is big business these days – $10.5 million has been spent developing and promoting Cosmic Crisp, a Washington State rival to Honeycrisp.