Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Investigative food journalist Barry Estabrook reveals the huge human and environmental cost of bringing perfectly round, red tomatoes to supermarkets all year long. Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit, based on his James Beard Award-winning article, "The Price of Tomatoes," traces the supermarket tomato from its birthplace in the deserts of Peru to Immokalee, Florida, and investigates the herbicides and pesticides used on crops, why tomatoes have become less nutrient-rich, and how the drive for low cost fruit has fostered a modern-day slave trade in the United States.


Barry Estabrook

Comments [13]

I grew up in south Florida, and will never forget my drive to the design class in the late 60's that I was taking in the local Junior college. Every week I drove by a migrant worker camp where I saw the kind of trailer's described by your guest. I was appalled and disturbed by what I saw. Such poverty that existed in such extreme cultural and social silence. No one talked about it. There were no groups that could have intervened and changed conditions for the good. It affected me deeply. I came away with a social consciousness that has never left me.

Jul. 27 2011 12:10 PM
Dee from Queens

I thought I heard Mr. Estabrook say that farmers were paid 50 cents for a 30-pound bushel basket of apples. This is more than a penny a pound. Maybe the slogan should be "a dollar a bushel."

Jul. 27 2011 09:57 AM

Much appreciated segment. The guest was clear, engaging and compelling.

Jul. 26 2011 04:42 PM
glor from Glen Ridge NJ

Mankind did not invent, create or develop the tomato. Consider how it came into being. When fruits and vegetables taste their best, that is when they are the best and the healthiest for us and our children to eat. Isn't it miraculous that the good Lord knew how to change the flavor and value of a humble plant to express the bitterness of the sadness, greed, servitude and hostility of the abuses that have grown up around the "business" of tomato production? How delicious and fragrant those vegetables tasted from our Italian grandma's garden; but then people never have faith in simple things or simple truths. Thank you, Mr. Estabrook.

Jul. 26 2011 02:18 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Aargh! Maybe Mr. Estabrook could answer that last question here in the comments?

Jul. 26 2011 02:03 PM
Ro from Manhattan

Thank you, thank you Messrs Lopate and Estabrook! A great segment - well-discussed, well-presented and well-needed!

Jul. 26 2011 02:01 PM
Julie from BX, NY

Why Mexicans Come to Immokalee:

As Lucas Benitez, the head of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers/CIW told me,* "My grandfather, my great-grandfather, my father worked on the land for decades. They planted maiz, frijol, calabaza in Guerrero. We didn’t live like millionaires, we didn’t live in luxury, but we had enough to eat. Then what happens? ...
NAFTA impoverishes the small farmer. They lost their land, then found themselves dealing with that very same agribusiness sector as farm workers in Florida. Meantime Mexico began importing a number of food staples for the first time...At this point Mexico is an exporter, but an exporter of cheap labor.”


Julie Leininger Pycior
Professor of History, Manhattan College

Jul. 26 2011 02:00 PM
Amy from Manhattan

I'm a little surprised to hear South America named as having the places tomatoes grow naturally. The name "tomato" itself comes from the Nahuatl language, which implies they come from Mexico--don't any grow wild there?

And are tomatoes grown outside of Florida any better in terms of ethics?

Jul. 26 2011 01:57 PM
Nick from UWS

The problem, on a larger scale, is the state of Florida itself. The worst overall state in the nation; the moral and legal garbage dump of the nation. The corruption and evil present in Florida is mind boggling.

Jul. 26 2011 01:57 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Are the minimal protections in the contract actually honored by the slaveholders, or do they only exist on paper?

And can buyers tell if the tomatoes in the store are picked under these horrible conditions or not?

Jul. 26 2011 01:54 PM
Athenis from Greenwood Lake NY

I like Ugli tomatoes. They tend to be more flavorful, but I heard that farmers are prohibited from cultivating them in FL due to the shape of the tomato not conforming to the FL Tomato Commission's standards.

Jul. 26 2011 01:51 PM
Ken from Upper West Side

If a penny a pound isn't that much, why is Trader Joe's still refusing to pay it?

Jul. 26 2011 01:50 PM
Camille Mazurek from Park Slppe

I was recently in FL where I got into a heated argument with relatives about illegal immigration--the were blaming all of Florida's ills on it. I asked if they knew that there was actual slavery in Florida. Not only did they not know, the seemed uninterested.

Jul. 26 2011 01:45 PM

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