Like "endosulfan, azoxystrobin, chlorothalonil, methamidophos, permethrin trans, permethrin cis, fenpropathrin, trifloxystrobin, o-phenylphenol, pieronyl butoxide, acetamprid, pyrimethanil, boscalid, bifenthrin, dicofol p. Sublethal doses cause disruptions in estrogen production, sterility, birth defects, and other reproductive problems". That is pretty nasty. What kind of birth defects are we looking at? These are the babies born to women who worked on Florida tomato farms: About six weeks later, a few cabins away, Jesus Navarrete was born to Sostenes Maceda.
Jesus had Pierre Robin Sequence, a deformity of the lower jaw. As a result, his tongue was in constant danger of falling back into his throat, putting him at risk of choking to death. Two days after Jesus was born, Maria Meza gave birth to Jorge. He had one ear, no nose, a cleft palate, one kidney, no anus, and no visible sexual organs. A couple hours later, following a detailed examination, the doctors determined that Jorge was in fact a girl.
Her parents renamed her Violeta. Her birth defects were so severe that she survived for only three days. One would think so. These are ghastly birth defects that are the result of exposure to chemicals used in tomato farms in Florida. So why would such dangerous working conditions be allowed to persist for the workers who toil in these tomato fields?
Surely law and regulations would step in. Here's where the story takes a decidedly depressing turn. When that system abruptly ended in , cooperative local sheriffs obligingly arrested gangs of African American men, typically on bogus vagrancy charges, and rented them out to landowners in "convict lease programs," a good deal for both the municipality collecting the fees and the farmers.
Workers who have little knowledge of the law, are mostly in debt, and are commonly illegal immigrants and therefore very susceptible to abuse by their employers. Their living conditions are appalling, to say the least. It housed five twin-bed mattresses. Three were flat on the floor with no space between them. Two rested on four-by-eight-feet plywood sheets suspended from the ceiling on chains. The room was covered in T-shirts, jeans, ball caps, running shoes, and a collection of cheap backpacks and luggage. The bathroom was at the end of a short hallway.
Barely bigger than an airplane lavatory with a curtainless metal shower stall, it served ten men who came home each day hot, dirty, and anxious to bathe. The sink was stained black. The toilet lacked a seat. The kitchen consisted of a Formica-topped table and four mismatched plastic-upholstered chairs with grayish stuffing protruding from slashes. A saucepan containing something brown and hard rested on one of the burners of an apartment-size stove.
A stainless steel sink was set into a counter that no longer had drawers or cupboard doors. A steady dribble of water ran from the faucet, and the door to the badly rusted refrigerator would not close. A single bulb dangled from a cord attached to an open electrical box in the ceiling, and two fans waged a noisy but futile battle against the heat and humidity.
It takes a detailed and long look at their conditions and efforts by groups to provide better and safer working conditions for these workers. This however is also the section that goes on and on and on. While interesting in its own right and probably deserving of a separate book in itself, I started to wonder if the labor employed on tomato farms was the main focus of the book.
But just as I started to despair, the book moved on to other aspects of tomatoland. So why is the tomato in so much trouble? The single biggest reason, the blame, has to be the tomato itself! It is a difficult fruit to please. Or more correctly, it is a difficult fruit to grow. It is difficult to balance the twin needs of taste and toughness. The tomato's skin has to be tough enough to withstand being plucked, packed, transported, and then placed on shelves in supermarkets - sometimes thousands of miles away.
The gooey part of a tomato, called locular jelly, has most of the all-important acidity.
The pericarp tissue, the walls of a tomato, give it strength and some sweetness, but no acidity. The harder a tomato is, the more bland it is likely to taste. Longevity is prolonged by keeping it cold. Chilling the tomato below 50F also destroys its taste - "reduces the fragrant volatile chemicals that are all-important in giving the fruit its distinctive flavor". If you pick a tomato when it is ripe it will spoil long before it makes it way to the grocery store in far away lands.
If you pick it when still unripe it looks green and unappealing. So scientists conjured up a way to give the tomato a red appearance even as the tomato was unripe - by gassing it with ethylene, a "gas that plants produce naturally as a final step in maturing their fruits" In summary, I think this book is a sort of Fast Food Nation for the tomato. While Fast Food Nation is a tour-de-force, Tomatoland still engages, educates, and shocks - it is a must-read.
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Behind the Kitchen Door. Pages with related products. See and discover other items: There's a problem loading this menu right now. Get fast, free shipping with Amazon Prime. Supermarket produce sections bulging with a year-round supply of perfectly round, bright red-orange tomatoes have become all but a national birthright.
Fields are sprayed with more than one hundred different herbicides and pesticides. Tomatoes are picked hard and gree Supermarket produce sections bulging with a year-round supply of perfectly round, bright red-orange tomatoes have become all but a national birthright. Tomatoes are picked hard and green and artificially gassed until their skins acquire 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 more sodium than the tomatoes our parents enjoyed.
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, a. 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 eventually to a hillside field in Pennsylvania, where he meets an obsessed farmer who produces delectable tomatoes for the nation's top restaurants.
Throughout Tomatoland Estabrook presents a who's who cast of characters in the tomato industry: Aug 10, Linda Harkins rated it it was amazing. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. Following in the footsteps of Frances Moore Lappe and Michael Pollan, this James Beard award-winning journalist provides insight into American tomato growing practices. Not only do we learn that supposedly mature green tomatoes are actually "gassed" to make them appear ripe in the produce section of the supermarket, but also how Florida manages to use loopholes to continue to spray vines with poisonous pesticides.
These chemicals are linked to birth defects as I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. These chemicals are linked to birth defects as well as depletion of the ozone layer. After what I've learned from Estabrook, I'll buy my tomatoes in season at the local farmers' market or Whole Foods. Sep 27, David Harris rated it it was amazing. Read the chapter called Re-Building the Tomato.
Great info about how people are working hard to rehabilitate the tomato after decades of abuse by large agri-businesses. If you don't have time to read the book, at least read this chapter. Feb 26, Kevin rated it really liked it Shelves: More about modern day slavery than about tomatoes. Granted, the slavery was centered around the tomato industry, but it would just as easily be applied to any crop picking industry out there.
It's hard for me to eat another tomato, honestly. Especially since I live in Florida and this is where the book focused on due to Florida's ability to get late harvests and meet the nationwide demand for tasteless, but perfectly round and consistent red colored tomatoes.
Given that this book discussed situa More about modern day slavery than about tomatoes. Given that this book discussed situations a few years gone by, I do wonder how much has changed. It's a shame about tomatoes, too. They were a sad sidebar to the already depressing slavery story.
Tomatoes have been turned into a tasteless crop by a group of growers that were given a monopoly on what is legal and illegal to export from Florida to other states. The "ugly" tomato that was bred not genetically engineered for better taste was originally banned, then gradually allowed back in only under the condition it was labeled and treated like a GMO, even though it is not. What I'm learning is that quality food doesn't fit well into commercial methodologies.
If a commercial producer likes it, it's probably not healthy or tasty. Buying seasonally, locally, and growing your own produce can drastically cut the demand for crap like tasteless tomatoes and the slave work conditions it promotes. Aug 05, Heather rated it really liked it. This is potentially the library book I've had checked out the longest approximately three and a half months now that I still actually managed to finish.
Although Wildwood was probably pretty close. This book didn't really grab my interest in the first 40 pages, and it languished in my bag, next to my bed, on my desk at home, on my desk at work, for many weeks before I was able to really pick it up again. Good thing I had some time to give it another chance! I came to this book with a desire t This is potentially the library book I've had checked out the longest approximately three and a half months now that I still actually managed to finish. I came to this book with a desire to answer the following questions: Why did our homegrown tomatoes taste like such utter crap this year?
How can I be assured a tomato so acidic it'll burn my mouth? There was some generally interesting information up front, about the history of the tomato and how all plants we currently think of as tomatoes are almost identical genetically, except for a very few genes that dictate size, shape, color, and so on.
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An interviewee described a long journey to the Chilean mountainside in search of a tomato version of the missing link. This helps me understand whence my cherished Willamette tomatoes were developed. Sprinkled throughout this page book, I found many answers to the question I was really interested in reading more in-depth about. I was fascinated to learn some interesting details about New Deal legislation that makes farm laborers disadvantaged to this day. But this book, in my opinion, got hijacked by the state of Florida.
There is a huge market these days for books about food politics—so there are as many of them as there are knockoffs of Twilight. More specifically, issues tied to the immigrant labor force. This section of the book seemed to be aiming to be a modern-day version of The Jungle , and the stories were extreme enough that some of the details actually pulled me out of the narrative.
That's a bad sign. I took an iPhone photo of one passage and texted it to someone else: Workers sold into slave labor. It seems like this book wanted me to vow that I'll never eat store-bought tomatoes again. The horror story tactic worked when I read The Jungle as a 16 year old in , but not so fast this time! My dear book, do you think that these incidents are limited to tomatoes? That future books about industrial production of strawberries, grapes, and other fruits and vegetables would not reveal similar stories?
Get a load of 's " Harvest of Shame " if you think the problem is so specific. Everyone knows that "reclaimed" water used to water California crops is "reclaimed" from sewage, right? And we wonder why we have e. If I stopped eating all the "dirty ag," it seems like in winter months I would be left with the slug-munched romaine in my garden, and the bird-munched groundfruit underneath my apple tree. What an easy target. This is the state that brought us Cool Hand Luke , the election, and some of the nation's most notorious serial killers.
In order to focus on the horror aspect, the book fails to explore any industrialized farming in the Canadian greenhouses—in fact they are only mentioned a few times. Estabrook has chosen to focus his book on Florida, as he claims that a large portion of the nation's tomatoes are grown there. I think he may be speaking as a New York-centric east coaster, because in the Pacific Northwest I have only noticed Canadian and Mexican tomatoes in recent years.
So I still feel like Estabrook's subject matter isn't tied to my region. Eventually the book dedicated a shorter chapter to exploring other parts of this flawed system, such as the struggles of the Joe Farmers. Estabrook did have a nice section about a farmer in Pennsylvania who seems to be the hope for the future—he produces quality tomatoes, manages to treat his workers right, he is immensely popular in New York City, and he has managed to keep his business running for many years. He doesn't hit the reader over the head with the "hope for the future" business that closes the book, and after the heavy-handed middle section about labor, I feel that the book was sorely in need of a Michael Pollan-like "here's what you should do about it" conclusion.
In fact, the book angered me enough with its misleading subtitle and my unfulfilled expectations that I'm going to write my own "here's what you should do about it" conclusion. Go read a Michael Pollan book instead if you're wanting to explore food politics. If you're looking for tomato information like I was There's almost nothing Master Gardeners like to talk about more than tomatoes.
Dec 31, Jacquelyn rated it really liked it Shelves: I expected to be bored with a history of industrial tomato production in Florida. I read the whole thing between last night and this afternoon.
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Bored would have been an improvement over how I am feeling right now. As someone who lives not far from Im After seeing Tomatoland: As someone who lives not far from Immokalee, which is a major subject in the book, it backs up everything I have ever heard on the news, from my high school Spanish teachers, and my mother on the conditions of the tomato laborers. But the truth is so much more-conditions and prospects are much worse than anyone has ever let on. I feel ashamed to live so close to this poor, often enslaved, community and have not known more about it before now.
Reading through the chapters on the Coalition of Immokalee Workers CIW broke my heart over the situations these people have been put through. Estabrook does a good job highlighting the complex interplay of economic and social aspects in the tomato business. At times, it seems as though he has failed to highlight environmental aspects. And then you read about the pesticide use and the health abuses against these workers from being sprayed with pesticides while working in the fields, in violation of laws set up to prevent this.
He scares the reader with the sheer amount of chemicals spread on the fields, let alone the toxicity of these. He names each possible chemical that could be used and its harmful side effects. He writes about several cases of birth defects in the Immokalee area caused by improper exposure to pesticides. I cried through this part; I was heartbroken for these families. Yet they remain optimistic for their children and their prospects in the United States. He presents the CIW and highlights their work to improve the lot of the migrant workers in Immokalee.
National campaigns against large fast food companies have been successful, but the CIW still has its work cut out for them. Estabrook has highlighted those that help these workers well, the lawyers that fight tirelessly to get minimum wage for the workers. Not all of the book is spent on the issues of Immokalee. Estabrook also goes into the lack of taste in industrial tomatoes. He highlights current research being done at UF Go Gators! Progress is being made. In Florida, At this point, all seems hopeless for the tomato industry.
Only now does Estabrook provide hope for both the industry and the tomato itself. He brings in Lady Moon Farms, which grows organic produce in Florida thought to be impossible by some experts. Not only does Beddard, the owner, turn a profit, he pays his workers fairly and provides free housing when the staff must migrate to Georgia and Pennsylvania. He also presents Tim Stark, owner and operator of Eckerton Hill Farm in Pennsylvania, who grows tomatoes and pays his workers a fair wage.
There is a way to sustainably produce tomatoes and pay workers fairly. The tomato industry of Florida should take note-it can be done. If not for the sake of treating their workers humanely, then for the sake of bettering their public relations, which would improve their bottom line. As someone interested in researching what happens to the tomato culls not sent to be packed and sold, I was a little disappointed that Estabrook did not elaborate on this ridiculous amount of waste.
However, that is a small issue for me. I am so glad someone wrote this book and the information is compiled for those interested in this subject. This book provides something for everyone: Everyone should read it, especially if you live in Florida. Estabrook has provided the information to the public, and it remains to be seen what the public will do once they know the truth behind the tomato industry. Jan 24, Robert Beveridge rated it really liked it Shelves: How Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit Andrews McMeel Publishing, I picked up Tomtoland expecting a kind of first-world-problems foodie lament about how factory farming had turned the tomato from that red, bursting, joyous thing one finds occasionally during the summer at farmer's markets to the half-green, impossible-to-slice globule one can now find at the local hypermarket year-round.
And yes, there is a good bit of that, but there are Barry Estabrook, Tomatoland: There is, of course, the foodie lament as well; when Estabrook is concentrating on this aspect of the manuscript, he in general focuses on the science of the tomato, the reason that some sort of lumpy Peruvian fruit tastes perfectly like a tomato while the sweet-scented Florida globe tomato persists in tasting like nothing at all.
There's a lot of science-in-layman's-terms stuff and some great interviews with folks who keep seed databases of heirloom tomatoes the framing device is about a team of guys heading to Peru to find one of the first strains of tomato-like plants still extant, and then Estabrook making the same trek at the end. If you like food biographies, it is of course going to be right up your alley.
There is the obligatory anti-factory-farm stuff, as well, and it makes sense; if you're trying to grow fifty thousand acres of tomatoes that all look and taste the same, you're going to breed out all the characteristics that make tomatoes interesting.
And, of course, the small farmers who grow those interesting tomatoes get a bunch of sympathetic column inches, as they should; these are people who actually care about the food. But the anti-factory-farm stuff takes a much, much darker turn during the middle third of the book, when Estabrook turns investigative journalist and starts tracing the history of the thousands upon thousands of undocumented migrant workers who toil in Florida's tomato fields.
If you were ever anti-factory-farm, this section of the book will cement whatever you had in your head. It's more of a horror story than any fiction I read this year, and it's truly important writing—even if you've never really thought about the whole factory farm issue before perhaps especially if you've never etc. One way or the other—whether you're interested in the social-justice aspect of the story, the foodie aspect of the story, or both—this is a must-read, one of the best books that crossed my desk this year.
It doesn't matter who you are, I recommend this one to you. It is a stunning piece of work. Aug 19, Greg Zink rated it really liked it Shelves: The funny thing about food these days is the more you know, the harder it is to eat. I watched Food, Inc. I read Bottomfeeder and had to make a point to know which species were overfished. So it goes with Tomatoland. If you're perfectly happy eating winter tomatoes and don't want to have that peace challenged, don't read this book. However, if slave labor bothers you, or even if you simply find that tomatoes don't taste like much anymore, it's an interesting read.
Tom The funny thing about food these days is the more you know, the harder it is to eat. Tomatoland basically spends its time bouncing back and forth between these two main foci; that the industrialization of the tomato crop has made it much less flavorful, and that the people who pick the tomatoes are slaves. I think we all know that migrant workers who pick our food don't exactly live or work in the best of conditions, but we kind of conveniently forget that's true when we shop. But even having that knowledge in the back of your mind, and being the sort of person who tries to buy things ethically, the atrocities the author exposes are shocking.
It ranges on the milder side from Grapes of Wrath-type camps where you can't leave and have to spend most of your paycheck at the company store to outright imprisonment, forced labor and beatings. I knew this would be an expose on working conditions, but I truly couldn't fathom that in this day and age in America they could be so horrible.
On the other track is the teaser that got me to read this book in the first place, though it eventually plays second fiddle to the human rights concerns. Estabrook recounts an experience watching rock-hard green tomatoes bounce off a truck, having just been picked and en route to be gassed with ethylene to artificially "degreen" and then shipped to the grocery shelves. He goes into depth as to how tomatoes are not well suited to grow in Florida, and how they've been specifically bred to be uniform and predictable, at the expense of flavor. If there's any motivation needed to grow your own, this book provides it in spades.
This is an eye-opening, thought-provoking book.
Cynical as you might be about industrial farming, it seems, things can always be worse than you imagined, and Tomatoland shows you just how bad they are. It also tells of how things are improving, though the victories seem to be small. As more people educate themselves about where their food comes from, we can hope they start to get bigger.
Jul 06, Dan Schiff rated it liked it. Tomatoland is empathetic and interesting, but seems incomplete. Estabrook's dedication shows immediately where the book's heart is: Estabrook's look at modern-day agricultural slavery -- though not limited to tomato-picking -- is a harsh reminder of who pays the costs of cheap, abundant food. At just under pages, Tomatoland is short Tomatoland is empathetic and interesting, but seems incomplete.
At just under pages, Tomatoland is short and leaves much unsaid. Perhaps the most interesting sections are those dealing with tomato breeding and what distinguishes a tasty tomato from an utterly bland, round one -- as someone says, "just something red for northerners to put on their salad during winter months. What the industry interests will do to protect the uniformity of their green tomatoes, which are gassed to artificially ripen them, will have you shaking your head.
The Florida tomato represents much more than the commodity crop Estabrook portrays it as. It is just one of the myriad food products that humans go to great lengths to bring to market -- incurring environmental damage and virtually enslaving workers, all in the name of a mealy, disgusting fruit that we can buy in January for a few cents. Is this a sensible tradeoff? In the final third of the book, Estabrook introduces his readers to small farmers, some of them organic, who grow tasty tomatoes the right way, using minimal pesticides, treating their workers with respect and selling direct to consumers at farmer's markets rather than through middlemen.
But is this scalable and accessible to all consumers? Will we always need factory farming operations awash in pesticides and other poisons to supply the tomatoes on our hamburgers year-round? The author sticks to the black and white -- factory farming bad, farmer's markets good -- without exploring any shades of gray. Estabrook avoids many of the macro questions, perhaps on purpose. It doesn't diminish the quality of Tomatoland, but it does leave the reader hungry for more information. Jan 25, Barry rated it really liked it. I purchased this book for a friend a few months ago with the intention of eventually reading it myself.
After her stellar review calling it the best book she has read all year , I knew I had to check it out. Estabrook gives the history, science and politics of the tomato, all in service of laying the blame for the ruination of a wonderful fruit. He looks through the lens of the fast-spreading movement to draw attention to the sources and quality of our food.
Read the entire review. Barry Estabrook is a masterful story teller with an uncanny ability to render intricate intellectual pathways entirely accessible. Tomatoland deftly leads us through a complex maze of interrelated occurrences, legal decisions and cultural practices human and tomato in a narrative that reads a little like a thriller.
I finished the book in two sittings and found myself identifying with farmers, migrant workers, lawyers and even some large growers. It comes at the cost of enormous environmental damage and shocking worker abuse. It utilizes thousands of migrant workers, some of whom are undocumented, and many of whom live and work in literal slave conditions.
And since the muggy lowlands of Florida are not native habitat, a tomato plant there can fall victim to as many as 27 separate insect species and twenty nine different diseases, necessitating a plethora of chemicals that are as hard on the workers and the land as they are on the pests. The list goes on. Barry claimed this territory for himself in a hard-hitting narrative on the Coalition of Immokalee Workers in Gourmet , which won a James Beard award and was one of the pieces Ruth Reichl was rightly proudest of during her tenure as editor.
Read the full review at The Atlantic Life. In Tomatoland , Estabrook presents a cogent case for reform, challenging everyone to stand up for what is good not only for the taste buds and the wallet, but also for the soul. In a gripping story of modern-day slavery, dangerous pesticides, and old-fashioned greed, Estabrook shows that the bland taste of most supermarket tomatoes is the least of their problems.
Seriously, I will have the publisher take action. As for price—the book is a bargain. We have been eating homegrown tomatoes for almost 50 years now. It is shameful what is happening to these laborers in our belovrd USA. I am sure your book will open many good citizens to the turbulance and disgrace, jt. Barry, I am so happy to have discovered you.
I am just about to read your article about African American farm labourers. I will be following you on Twitter, and good luck with the book! Test Tube Burgers- the book Tomatoland.. The Future of Culinary Arts? Today I was recently given the following article to read by non-culinarian colleague of mine, he asked me if this was going to be the future of Culinary Arts. Let us pray that it is not. Please read this article: Coming soon, the test-tube burger: Their hope is to be able to feed the world. My first response was to see if this article was legitimate or a joke.
In the case of tomatoes, scientist and farmers in Florida have created a product that is regulated by the Florida government and laws as to the specific size, color green , shape, skin texture etc of the tomatoes they produce and then sale. The tomatoes are not grown for flavor or taste, they are picked green and then gassed with ethylene to slowly turn them red. Additionally the tomatoes we buy in the supermarket days a year are soaked in chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
These tomatoes are in many instances picked by modern day slaves, victims of human trafficking. Consumers in parts of the world where food is readily available and reasonably priced should focus on foods that taste good, not only food that look good. Foods that are full of their god given natural vitamins and minerals, not foods that have over time have lost as much as half of their original nutrients and foods that are not drowning in chemical fertilizers and pesticides.
In parts of the world where food is not in abundance and in areas of the world where people are starving, it is my opinion we should be finding natural ways to give these people nutritious food, in ways that are environmentally sound, engaged in fair trade practices and that are sustainable for the indigenous peoples. Not by creating food in a laboratory from stem cells, or by genetically modifying foods.
Barry — I can not wait to read Tomatoland. Thank you for exposing the background of this heinous food crime. After growing up on the succulence of garden-grown beefsteaks during summers back East, I was mortified when I tasted my first grocery store tomato in California 25 years ago. Btw…caught the tail end of your interview with Terry Gross.
When we lived in Central Asia and Russia, the tomatoes were always so good you barely needed a pinch of salt to eat them with! I search for that tomate taste every summer but I rarely succeed, even though I tend to buy my produce at the local markets. Thank you for writing the book. My special interest is water management in Florida and I note that you could have done a bit more work in that regard. I was listening to NPR today on my way to buy tomatoes and heard you being interviewed about your new book Tomatoland.
I always prefer to buy local tomatoes, but I was even more careful to look at where the tomatoes came from. When I lived in the Fingerlakes region of New York as a teenager, we got good tasty tomatoes in summer that were affordable. I managed to buy some vine-ripened tomatoes in a box from MA, but the first local tomato I found was hydroponic. Most of the tomatoes were from either Mexico or Canada. Then I noticed an interesting brown brand-name tomato called a Kumato. I wondered whether you had ever heard of it and what you think of it. My brother told me about your book couple weeks ago — he has just finished reading it and recommended it to me.
I am hoping to check out a copy from the library this week and take it with me on my road trip to Alaska. The best tomatoes I have tasted were the heirloom varieties grown organically by my mother-in-law in Southern CA… Weighed in at nearly 2 pounds each, they are absolutely heavenly. This year I would love to see the winter tomato display in the supermarket all cleared out…with stacks of this book in its place!