Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I came across this disturbing story on NPR the other day.  It's a story basically plugging a book about supermarket tomatoes and why they are so...gross.  (Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit, by Barry Estabrook).

I'll quote the part that was the most disturbing to me: 

" Up until recently, workers on many of Florida's vast industrial tomato farms were basically slaves. "People being bought and sold like animals," Estabrook [the book's author] says. "People being shackled in chains. People being beaten for either not working hard enough, fast enough, or being too weak or sick to work. People actually being shot and killed for trying to escape. That sounds like 1850's slavery to me, and that, in fact, is going on, or has gone on."

Estabrook adds that there have been seven successful slavery prosecutions in Florida in the past 15 years." - Courtesy of "All Things Considered" July 9, 2011
Wait, WHAT?!  People being shot and killed for trying to escape?!  Seven successful slavery prosecutions in the past 15 years (meaning, what...how many unsuccessful prosecutions where there?  How many settled out of court?  How many have slipped under the radar?)?
The author's main point, according to the NPR story, is that tomatoes are a summer fruit.  They just won't grow below a certain temperature.  Florida has that temperature year-round, but it doesn't really have the climate or the soil for large scale tomato crops, so they have to constantly irrigate, use antibacterial agents and fungicides, and fertilize the hell out of them.  And they have to get them to places across the country at cheap enough prices that people will happily buy them in January.  Hence, the actual, literal slave labor.
The author's solution?  Grow your own, or at least buy local if you want taste.  And don't expect fresh tomatoes in wintertime, because where they came from...ain't pretty.
Sounds easy enough to me.  Excuse me while I go water my romas.

1 comment:

Chrissie said...

I'm with you. The locals do really taste better anyway. And that's what preservation techniques are good for. We can get our January tomato fixes via spaghetti sauce. :)