tomatoes

tom1

in addition to some wonderful looking recipes and beautiful photos, this month’s gourmet magazine has a good article (the link isn’t available on the site, yet) on tomatoes and slavery. it focuses on the florida tomato industry and specifically, those who work in the fields. here are a couple of excerpts:

Immokalee is the tomato capital of the Unites States. Between December and May, as much as 90 percent of the fresh domestic tomatoes we eat come from south Florida, and Immokalee is home to one of the area’s largest communities of farm workers. According to Douglas Molloy, the chief assistant U.S. attorney based in Fort Myers, Immokalee has another claim to fame: it is “ground zero for modern slavery.”

Unfortunately, involuntary servitude – slavery – is alive and well in Florida. Since 1997, law-enforcement officials have freed more than 1,000 men and women in seven different cases. And those are only the instances that resulted in convictions.

in the book not for sale: the return of the global slave trade – and how we can fight it by david batstone, there is a chapter dedicated to modern-day slavery in america. one story focuses on a woman who helped rescue a girl who had been kidnapped from guatemala, sent to collier county (where immokalee is located) and forced to work in the fields during the day and then sexually abused at night.

i’ve known about the farming conditions in immokalee for awhile now. and it is one of the reasons omar and i chose to be join our local community supported agriculture (csa). yes, the food is fresh and local and seasonal, but i also know what the conditions are like in the fields. i know for a fact my tomatoes were not picked by the hands of a slave.

to some, this might seem like dramatic language, but it is good to know that this is an area of life that i can act on. it is so easy to become overwhelmed by the statistics and stories when you start to dive into the dark world of slavery. but turning the other way doesn’t negate its existence. it is hard to think of daily ways to fight sex trafficking or rescue child soldiers. i would propose that it is with your diet and food habits that most people can join the fight (even if in a small way) against injustice.  seek out local food. plant a garden.  look for community gardens.  research some of the food companies you buys your food from – the internet makes this quite easy!  if you have a favorite local restaurant, ask them where they get their produce and if they’d be willing to buy locally, even if only for part of the year.  one of the reasons i like michael’s genuine food and drink so much is because i know the owner strives to purchase local food and and is open about where he gets much of his other food.  

i don’t think that even this would necessarily be easy, but i think we’ve become too accustomed to wanting and getting what we want when we want it and not paying attention to how much of what we purchase and consume is made and grown.  

for more info on the conditions in immokalee, check out the coalition of immokalee workers.  and read not for sale.  it is an eye-opening book.

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7 thoughts on “tomatoes

  1. woah. I had no idea….dang. And my first response, wrongly, is wishing I didn’t know…as though not knowing would make it not happen… yikes.

  2. I am just about to sow my tomato seeds, and now I might plant a few extra. I knew about the injustices with coffee and cocoa in other countries, but tomatoes in the US? Wow.

  3. Interesting and eye opening. I live on the west coast and haven’t heard about this. We’ve been in a CSA but are just finishing up and are buying from our favorite farmers at at the farmer’s market these days.

  4. thank you for shedding light on this, kate!

    my husband and I were once members of the Student and Farmworker Alliance, which works in alliance with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. most people are unaware of modern day slavery. it’s terribly heartbreaking.

    I see your reading frederica mathewes-green – she’s a beautiful orthodox woman.

  5. thanks for posting that link, jenni. i saw the offer on another site and meant to mention it.

    unfortunately omar had a sad conversation with someone the other day about this. he brought the topic of the tomato fields and slavery up and the person flat out said, “i don’t believe it.” nothing to back up what he had to say, even though omar was the one who has read up on it. so heartbreaking.

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