Barry Estabrook: Tomatoland How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit



Ly operation Domingo arrived here illegally He was promised housing meals and what sounded to him to be a decent wage He needed to send money home to support a sick parent Instead Domingo was sent to live in a box trailer in the backyard of a Navarette property living in the trailer with 3 other workers and no toilet much less a shower Meals were of very poor uality and infreuent Workers typically ran up debts to the manager in this case Cesar Navarette Wages were then taken from them to pay off these loans When the workers threatened to leave they were severely beaten and locked up in the residences these trailers abandoned vans and shacks in the backyard After 3 years of this two workers on the Navarette property managed to scape one night Miraculously they made their way to CIW the Coalition of Imokkalee Workers After telling their stories to local law The Truth (Almost) about Bharat enforcement authorities three Navarette brothers and their mother were indicted for among other things forcing slavery This is of course a violation of the Thirteenth Amendment of the US Constitution which assures the right to be free of involuntary servitude Sentences handed down after plea deals by the Navarettes included deportation to Mexico for the mother 12 year sentences for 2 of the brothers and almost 4 years for another brother Also discussed in detail are thefforts over many years to get large markets and fast food operations to agree to support the payment of better wages to the farm workers Of course these corporations tended to resist Mr. Christmas efforts at reform for a number of years Some including Whole Foods Market YUM Brands which owns several fast food chains certain major supermarket chainsventually agreed to support improved conditions and better wages for workers To this day however Trader Joe s is holding out Throughout the book there are also discussions of the failings of various Where My Heart Used to Beat elected officials from Presidents on down to correct the blatant wrongs being done with these deplorable agricultural practices The final chapters in the book report on some successes overallnding the book on a positive note There is the successful organic farmer Tom Beddard of Lady Moon Farms who sells his produce to among others Whole Foods Market Gregory Schell an attorney who went to Harvard Law School with Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts is now working on migrant worker issues and has successfully won a number of court cases in an attempt to change conditions for workers around the country Barbara Mainster is a teacher working with the Redlands Christian Migrant Association in providing child care The Truth (Discworld, education and other services to low income families living in farm worker migrant camps in the area Steven Kirk has worked with others to provide decent housing for migrant workers beginning his projects in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew And finally there is the lovable Tim Stark a Princeton graduate who farms organically on his farm Eckerton Hill Farm inastern Pennsylvania Tim has uite a following at the Greenmarket in Union Suare and also sells his produce to upscale trendy restaurants in New York However I remain haunted by the deplorable conditions of the migrant workers involved in our food production and the serious damage being done to the Mr. Perfect environment I really hope Barry s book gets much wider recognition and is included on the summer reading list for not just all of us normal people but for government officials non profits and religious groups who are in of a position to do something about this What are the Obama s reading this summer If you only read one book about tomatoes in your lifetime make it this oneThanks to investigative books and films like Fast Food Nation and Food Inc we have beenxposed to the shady going ons in the food industry that gives us unhealthy sub standard food products and inhumane treatment of animals After reading Tomatoland I m almost persuaded to start an humane society for the tomato Anyone who buys a commercial tomato know that this once noble fruit has been reduced to a pretty but tasteless atrocityBarry Estabrook investigates the Florida tomato business from where we get a third of our tomatoes and most of the winter supply to find out that the tasteless tomato is a well planned conspiracy From toxic pesticides to slave labor conditions this is a book that Secret Suffragette echoes back to Sinclair s The Jungle for pure disgust Yet the Florida tomato industry is so strong that they can dictate how the tomato is developed and persecute any independent grower that deviatesBooks like this may be disturbing but they aressential The author does an 7 Secrets of the Goddess excellent job in his investigation but he also covers those persons who are fighting thestablishment I would have liked a little about what the consumer can do to help but it is really very obvious Boycott commercial Florida tomatoes and buy heirloom and organic products from independent growers Or grow it own It s worth it if only for taste Everyone Go Read This Book Now before you Indianomix eat another bad tomato Any American who hasaten a winter tomato My Favorite Earthling (Otherworldly Men, either purchased at a supermarket or on top of a fast food salad hasaten a fruit picked by the hand of a slave That s not an assumption said Douglas Molloy a US attorney in Florida that is a factAnd he s not talking slave like or something resembling slavery He s talking legit whipped kept in chains badly fed whipped for trying to Doglands escape slavery If the conditions of labor aren tnough to make you swear off winter tomatoes the description of the pesticides used should I hadn t really thought much about winter tomatoes I m used to seeing them when I walk into the store but I don t buy them during the winter Because they taste like nothing A bit of a water flavor not much Riveted (Iron Seas, else If I need tomatoes for something in the winter like a soup or a chili Iither used home canned tomatoes whole canning tomatoes is incredibly straight forward and much satisfying or canned tomatoes which don t come from Florida and therefore have flavor As Estabrook details the tomatoes grown in Florida are grown almost out of habit They don t grow them for taste as one farmer says he doesn t make any money based on what a tomato tastes like when it s sold in a store They just want something red to put in their salads That we are blind to the ramifications of that child like desire is insane if you stop and think about it Literal slavery and An Officer and a Spy environmental degradation so that people can walk into a grocery store in the dead of winter and buy tomatoes and that taste like nothing If someone canxplain the logic of this system continuing that doesn t have to do with naked capitalism please let me know I can t think of one good reason it should continue Read this book and stop Fates (Fates, eating winter tomatoes This book is sort of a cross between The Omnivore s Dilemma A Natural History of Four Meals and The Grapes of Wrath It is both a description of the tomato and how agri business has transformed the tomato into a tasteless commodity and a sociological muckraking of the obscene conditions suffered by migrant workers in Florida The middle portion of the book isxtremely depressing Decades ago I remember watching the documentary The Harvest of Shame about migrant workers For so many migrant workers conditions have hardly improved if at all Poisonous pesticides are sprayed on them directly without any protections But the most affecting sections of the book describe modern slavery in Florida If you Recipe for Temptation (Madewood Brothers, eat tomatoes in the winter then without a doubt you veaten produce that was harvested by a slave There are workers who are not just treated like slaves they are slaves they are bought and sold they are guarded at gunpoint night and day and beaten when they don t work or try to run away It is not until the later portions of the book when some upbeat stories about nlightened farmers are described that I began to gain some hope about the future of farming and the workers who pick the harvests. Tually to a hillside field in Pennsylvania where he meets an obsessed farmer who produces delectable tomatoes for the nation's top restaurantsThroughout Tomatoland Estabrook presents a who's who cast of characters in the tomato industry the avuncular octogenarian whose conglomerate grows one out of very OBaby eight tomatoesaten in the United States; the Nerds ex Marine who heads the group that dictates the size color and shape ofvery tomato shipped out of Florida; the US attorney who has doggedly prosecuted human traffickers for the past decade; and the Guatemalan peasant who came north to Zack (Areion Fury MC earn money for his parents' medical bills and found himselfnslaved for two years Tomatoland reads like a suspenseful whodunit as well as an xpose of today's agribusiness systems and the price we pay as a society when we take taste and thought out of our food purchas.

There are certain books that have changed my viewpoint and shopping habits this is one of those books At some point in my consciousness I knew that tomato workers were treated poorly I vaguely recalled the time when Chipotle became the first restaurant to insist that its tomatos were purchased from sources that agreed to pay workers I knew that pesticides and other chemicals were used to grow tomatoesIn Tomatoland the author painstakingly details the multiple horrors of the tomato industry in Florida where nearly all tomatoes that are sold to grocery stores and restaurants are purchased Chemicals lingering on tomatoes are the least of the issues with the commodity tomato farmers workers are routinely sprayed with chemicals in the field and when they complain about the ffects such as burning yes they are told to get back to work Too many complaints can lead to at best firing and at worst a beating As horrific as the disregard of the health of the workers was the stories about the migrant workers who literally were slaves of the crew bosses The author highlights organizations that are fighting for these workers with no voices and with some success but there is a long way to go to change the standards in the industry The author also highlights some of the successes in the industry such as organic farms and farms that pay minimum wages to the workers And the merging hydroponic greenhouse tomatoes cutting into the demand for the Florida tomatoesAnd to think that all these people are treated so horribly to bring to consumers tomatoes that have no flavor Interwoven with the story of the tomato workers the author also discusses the course of the tomato to being the bland deceptive looking object today and the success of other varieties that can be commercially grown and taste like a tomato Alas those tomatoes are not readily available in all grocery stores Readers of Omnivore s Dilemma or Fast Food Nation will likely appreciate this book and the spotlight on the deplorable tomato industry Estabrook s Tomatoland offers an incredibly lucid and Taxi ins Glück even handed look at what is freuently a horrific industry in an unfair state and for that I commend himAs a writer and garden grower of tomatoes who cares about both good food and human rights Immokalee presents a complex problem On one hand you believe firmly that workers should receive fair payuitable rights and a chance to band together but it s hard to approach that while ignoring the fundamental truth that on a larger level tomatoes should probably not be grown in Florida at all Estabrook does a really wonderful job of humanizing the people behind very level of the many conflicting viewpoints on the industry where admissible He has no pity whatsoever for those bosses who run their crews as slave gangs which is as it should be The thoroughness of the reporting fosters both deep satisfaction in his careful xposure of both the practices of modern day slavery and indignation at the corruption that allows the owners of the companies who use the slavers service to walk away with clean hands Upliftingly the book goes one step beyond many Problem Food tomes and documentaries which freuently condemn big farming operations in broad strokes champion organic food and then Losing My Virginity and Other Dumb Ideas end withoutver addressing the gap in thinking between the two In Tomatoland there are several sections at the The Magic Rolling Pin end devoted to organizations and individuals who are doing the right thing AND making a profitable living from attorneys prosecuting for back taxes to architects building habitable structures for migrant workers A few organic or near organic farmersven make the cutThere is freuently little room in literature for conscientious Floridians To see our state in print is usually to see it skewered as a depressing corrupt wasteland backwards than the deep South and Indecent... Exposure (Indecent, even less able to nourish its residents withoutxtreme measures intellectually or agriculturally But what our topsoil lacks in nutrients it makes up in narrative Bravo to Barry Estabrook for taking the time to tell one of our most insidious and vital stories Like other reviewers I note that the book concentrates almost Not Without a Fight exclusively on Florida tomato growing I urge the author to consider Tomatoland 20 as a future projectxpanding his view Are Florida conditions uniue to Florida Why or why not I d like to know about conditions not only outside Florida but outside the USI ve lived in the US southeast Asia and Europe and found tasteless tomatoes in Garden Bouquets and Beyond each Here in the Balkans yummy local tomatoes are available in abundance for six weeks a year after which the pale dry tasteless variety return to the supermarkets for a long and sad 10 months Consistent with local culture thevil machinations of neighboring nationalities are blamed I d love to know how is the situation here the same as the US and how is it different What if any conclusions can be teased out of the similarities and differences Have Floridian commercial agriculture practices and results been deliberately The Unseen Wonder exported around the world or did the unhappy model which created the Cardboard Tomato appear spontaneously in several different places In addition to the probably correct assumption that Americans will only read about the US it s a sad commentary on the US that this book had to be misleading marketed as primarily concerned with the uestion Why do supermarket tomatoes taste so bad but you do what you have do to get published and get publicity If it had shown its true colors as anxpos of the The Management Bible exploitation of Florida agricultural workers most potential readers people would have said Yeah whatever Cesar Chavez that s so 1970 s The author certainly wouldn t have been able to get the attention he has and maybe might never have found a publisherThat said the book answers the bad tasting tomato uestion using about 30% of the space of the book to do so The rest is an appalling catalog of ill treatment of illegal immigrant labor which is the price of cheap food in our supermarkets Finally a tip of thelectronic hat to whomever formatted this book for Kindle When necessary the main text is clearly and accurately hot linked to the book s Zu schnell end notes making navigation back and forthasy Other recent non fiction works I ve read apparently felt that the Sleepless (Bird of Stone, effort necessary to do this was too great Insanity I didn t read thentire title before diving into this book So the first chapters were what I xpected interesting facts about what wild tomatoes are like and how they have been developed and changed over time but I read on and my jaw dropped lower and then lower still I was shocked Horrified I could hardly believe it I told some of my friends about what I was reading and they uestioned it where was getting this information from How could this be true In America Why hadn t we heard ven a whisper of it I read on And on It got better I was impressed The author covers all the angles of the tomato industry both bad and good and I was very relieved to hear the good This book has changed how I shop for produce specially tomatoes I now have so many reasons to put in that tomato patch next spring I already know that after reading this book or before i ven finish i will plant tomatoes in my yard and boycot supermarket tomatoeslaterThis was an Invisible (The Curse of Avalon eye opening book and what the prediction I made above came true The last couple chapters were slower going that the beginning ones but overall this is definitely worth a read Rarely ifver has a book made me this angry I had no idea that today here in the USA in Florida people are being held against their wills as slaves beaten subjected to cancer causing and birth defect causing caustic chemicals living in horribly disgusting substandard conditions sometimes locked up and killed and we have all Yummy Supper eaten tomatos that they picked Our country the land of the free is not adeuately protecting migrant farm workers from horrific abuse and working conditions and substandard pay Based on a James Beard award winning article from a leading voice on the politics of agribusiness Tomatoland combines history legend passion for taste and investigative reporting on modern agribusiness andnvironmental issues into a revealing controversial look at the tomato the fruit we love so much that we at 4 billion worth annually2012 IACP Award Winner in the Food Matters categorySupermarket produce sections bulging with a year round supply of perfectly round bright red orange tomatoes have become all but a national birthright But in Tomatoland which is based on his James Beard Award winning article The Price of Tomatoes investigative food journalist Barry Estabrook reveals the huge human and nvironmental cost of the 5 billion fresh tomato industry Fields are sprayed with than one hundred different herbicides and pesticides Tomatoes are pi.

His book brin Tomatoland is one of the very best investigative books I have read in many years The topic is 21st Century slavery and related abuses in the tomato fields of Florida in locations not far from Disney s Magic Kingdom and Naples one of the wealthiest communities in the US I really respect and appreciate Barry Estabrook s obvious compassion and Deep Listening empathy for the migrant workers whose tragic stories he includes in this very well written thoroughly documented and truly compelling book Barry is a highly regarded journalist and was for many years a contributingditor for the late Gourmet magazine His writing has been featured in the Atlantic The New York Times Magazine the Washington Post and other publications He was the founding ditor of Eating Well magazine Barry recently received a James Beard Award for his blog wwwpoliticsoftheplatecom Florida produces about one third of the fresh tomatoes grown in the US and sold to supermarkets and big box stores such as Wal Mart This is where winter tomatoes that can be purchased in January in Chicago for xample most likely originate In addition these tomatoes from Florida are used by fast food operations such as McDonald s Burger King Taco Bell and Chipolte Florida s soil is uite sandy and theoretically inhospitable to the growth of tomatoes and other vegetables To solve this problem tomato growers use an Evolution, Me Other Freaks of Nature extensive array of highly toxic chemicals Actually Florida growers use 8 times as many chemicals on their fields as similarly sized fields in California The tomatoes are then picked green before ripeness and gassed withthylene to create the desired red coloration A typical consumer of these tomatoes may also be consuming chemicals such as metribuzin herbicide mancozeb fungicide and avermectin insecticide all three of which per the author are known to be developmental and reproductive toxins Sometimes tear gas is ven added to what the author calls a witches brew of highly toxic chemicals The tomatoes are rubbery capable of bouncing across a kitchen floor without breaking and completely tasteless The author describes in meticulous detail several situations such as in the Ag Mart Produce fields in which the toxins are knowingly and aggressively sprayed at the very same time workers are tending to the crops in the same fields ven in the next row What results for women working there who may be pregnant is the strong likelihood of a still birth or a child born with severe disabilities The author describes one child Carlito who was born with no arms or legs Another child Violetta was born with no anus no sex organs and other horrible deformities Three days after her birth she died Both of these children mothers had worked in the Ag Mart fields and had been subjected to direct contact with a variety of toxic chemicals in their daily work The grower was in blatant violation of US EPA rules in spraying a field while workers were present and not allowing a specific amount of time to lapse before workers were allowed into the field With no Trajan enforcement capability bribery of inspectors actual threats of violence andxtortion of workers by their Bunnys Book Club Goes to School employers nothing was likely to be done in many of these tragic cases In the case of Carlito a social workerventually referred his family to an attorney Andrew Yaffa who was working with farm workers in a number of cases After three years he was able to procure an undisclosed settlement to assist the family with Carlito s care The damage to the The Peculiar Pig environment by the use of a wide array of highly toxic chemicals is further described in a story about Lake Apopka at one time the fourth largest lake in Florida and home to a variety of wildlife including wide mouthed bass Farming of tomatoes began here in the 1940 s when swamp land was drained to grow produce in support of what was called the wartimeffort Farming continued there with of course the accompanying wide use of highly toxic chemicals into the mid 1990 s The lake turned green and became the most highly polluted body of water in Florida The fish of course were long gone and migratory birds were no longer present Farming was ventually curtailed with local landowners bought out at a profit by the state Attempts to rebuild the natural habitat have been a failure When various migratory birds returned they died However the farm workers mostly African Americans were left behind many suffering from a variety of illnesses including kidney failure Lupus arthritis vision problems and other disabilities They to this date have received absolutely no compensation for the disabling injuries and diseases which are a direct result of Florida s agricultural practices and persistent violations of EPA regulations Recently the Tea Party favorite and current Florida governor Rick Scott vetoed a state budget bill that would have provided a settlement to these workers Scott a multimillionaire was forced to resign as CEO of the Columbia HCA health care organization in the late 1990 s after the company pleaded guilty to a variety of fraudulent Medicare billing practices and agreed to a 600 million settlement with the federal government There are no buffer zones between the fields and the local communities allowing the chemicals being sprayed to blow into schools homes and ven churches In one instance described by the author parishioners attending a church service had to leave feeling uite unwell during the service as methyl bromide combined with tear gas was being sprayed in near by fields on a Sunday morning In addition to the discussion of the xtensive use of highly toxic carcinogenic chemicals in tomato farming in Florida what I found to be most stunning and horrifying was the reporting on the modern day slavery and utterly immoral abuse of farm workers in the rural area known as Immokalee located about 50 miles from Naples FL The inhumane and illegal conditions suffered by migrant workers just 50 miles from one of the wealthiest communities in the US have xisted for many years It does not matter if a Democrat or Republican is governor a US Senator or Untameable Rogue (Bennett even President of the United States The labor is cheap the workers mostly migrants who barelyven speak English are silent and fearful and the abuse has continued Coyotes smugglers of human beings routinely charge The McKettrick Way (McKettricks, exorbitant fees to transport workers into the US crowding them into stifling dark trailer trucks trading them off to another coyote as though they were a commodity and sending them to live in conditions notven fit for a stray dog in broken down trailers shacks tents hidden away in the woods with minimal food and a complete lack of sanitary conditions for cooking and bathing The workers were subject to forced labor for long hours and could be beaten or fired for the most minor of things such as taking a bathroom break or having a drink of water Workers were routinely cheated out of wages and were not paid for transportation time or any other down time in the fields Growers such as Ag Mart ven charged a worker 5 to take a cold shower under a garden hose out in the open after a typical 12 hour day They were paid by bushel of tomatoes picked anywhere from 50 cents a bushel to at the most 1 not on any sort of hourly fair wage basis They were not paid for transportation to and from the fields meal breaks or any downtime Of course they had no health insurance worker s compensation for injuries or unemployment insurance How they survived at all is really hard to imagine Through the fforts of pro bono attorneys social workers church groups and local organizations such as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers Maybe This Time (Belonging efforts are being made to file lawsuits and work for better conditions for the migrant workers Several cases in particular are described in detail including cases involving human trafficking harboring and abusing aliens unlawful detention forced labor and attempts to deny workers their salaries Lucas Domingo was hired onto the Navarette fami. Cked hard and green and artificially gassed until their skins acuire a marketable hue Modern plant breeding has tripled yields but has also produced fruits with dramatically reduced amounts of calcium vitamin A and vitamin C and tomatoes that have fourteen times sodium than the tomatoes our parentsnjoyed The relentless drive for low costs has fostered a thriving modern day slave trade in the United States How have we come to this point   Estabrook traces the supermarket tomato from its birthplace in the deserts of Peru to the impoverished town of Immokalee Florida aka the tomato capital of the United States He visits the laboratories of seedsmen trying to develop varieties that can withstand the rigors of agribusiness and still taste like a garden tomato and then moves on to commercial growers who operate on tens of thousands of acres and ven.

Review Tomatoland How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit

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The author of Tomatoland and Pig Tales and a three time James Beard Award winner Barry Estabrook is a former contributing editor at Gourmet He blogs at politicsoftheplatecom and lives in Vermont