Slave-picked Tomatoes?

August 13 2011, 1:05pm

A cover story ran in our local alt-weekly last month about a shocking state of affairs – the tomatoes supplied to much of the eastern United States, and the dark pit that is the Tomato-growing industry in Florida. The article is an interview with Barry Eastbrook, the author of a book on the subject called Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit. Here are some choice quotes from “Strange Fruit: An interview with Barry Eastbrook on the high cost of cheap tomatoes” by Megan Peck, Orlando Weekly, July 28: they inject methyl bromide, which is a fumigant which kills every living organism in the soil – every germ, every bug, every bacteria. [...] After a couple of weeks, when the soil is sterile – dead – they then poke holes in the plastic and put seedlings in. There is also a fair deal about the immigration status, living conditions, and low wages of the workers who pick the fruit, at one point claiming that “it’s abject slavery”: Our governor, Rick Scott, ran on a hard-line anti-immigration stance. He’s since taken heat for backing down. Might this have anything to do with agriculture companies and migrant workers? He may have taken a look across the border at what’s happening in Georgia. Florida’s agricultural sector is huge. [In Georgia] you have a situation where they had enacted one of these crazy laws, and right now there’s $300 million lost so far, with crops rotting in the fields because the workers simply – well, they are nothing if not migrant. Is there anything we can do to get around this evil? The closer your tomato is raised to your kitchen counter, the better it’s going to be. It’s not as easy in Florida, but there are small farms … [or] grow your own tomatoes. When fresh, good tomatoes are available, make pasta sauces and freeze them. For more information, read the full interview, or pick up a copy of Barry’s book.