November 5, 2011

The End of Tomatoland: Where some do it right, and what you can do as well.

The last three chapters of Tomatoland explore some farmers and growers who are doing things better. There is a farmer who grows organic vegetables in Florida and up the eastern coast. While the work isn't easy, he's been able to keep things sustainable and organic on a small scale, while also paying workers fairly. While he isn't chemical free, the chemicals are considered organic and his smaller scale operation allows proper functioning on a whole. There is a lawyer who not only fights for the rights of migrant workers, but wins. Others have helped build housing for migrant workers and develop education and daycare facilities to support the families. While always at risk of failing between bank loans and breaking even, workers can pay affordable rent and live in humane conditions. There are people who are trying to improve the system, no matter how much the system fights back.

This stood out to me the most: the farmer that works smaller scale eliminates the middle man. He sells his tomatoes directly to the restaurants and the public at local farmers markets. Here, he can set the price he needs to keep his farm afloat and he can sell whatever tomatoes he likes and his customers will buy. When you sell to distributers, the price is set - no matter if you break even or not. And with distributors, your product must live up to the expectations of others. Bottom line is this: farmers markets are a fantastic way to help support sustainable, local agriculture and to know exactly what you're eating.

Tomatoland gave an in-depth overview of the business of growing tomatoes in Florida. Florida is unique in its practices, and this book should not be used to judge the growing operations of other crops. But this book can be used to make you think about the produce you buy.

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