Florida’s tomato industry has been on the news quite a bit in the past few weeks thanks to the release of Barry Estabrook’s new book, “Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit.”
In the book, Estabrook, a journalist and author of Politics of the Plate, traces the history of the tomato from its origins in Peru to Immokalee, Florida, where he exposes the dire conditions in which tomato pickers work to supply perfectly round, red – and likely tasteless – tomatoes year round. Growing one third of the country’s supply of tomatoes also requires a large amount of chemicals and pesticides. According to Estabrook, in 2006, Florida growers sprayed eight times as many chemicals on their tomato crops as California growers sprayed on crops of similar size.
“Of all the fruits and vegetables we eat, none suffers at the hands of factory farming more than a tomato grown in the wintertime fields of Florida,” he writes.
Estabrook first exposed the poor working and environmental conditions of Immokalee’s tomato industry in a 2009 article for Gourmet that won a James Beard Award. He’ll be in town speaking about “Tomatoland” tomorrow, June 22 at 8 p.m. at Books & Books in Coral Gables (265 Aragon Avenue, Coral Gables; 305.442.4408).