Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook
How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit

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Synopsis

Supermarket produce sections bulging with a year-round supply of perfectly round, bright red-orange tomatoes have become all but a national birthright. But in Tomatoland, which is based on his James Beard Award-winning article, The Price of Tomatoes, investigative food journalist Barry Estabrook reveals the huge human and environmental cost of the $5 billion fresh tomato industry. Fields are sprayed with more than one hundred different herbicides and pesticides. 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.k.a. the tomato capital of the United States. 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: the avuncular octogenarian whose conglomerate grows one out of every eight tomatoes eaten in the United States; the ex-Marine who heads the group that dictates the size, color, and shape of every tomato shipped out of Florida; the U.S. attorney who has doggedly prosecuted human traffickers for the past decade; and the Guatemalan peasant who came north to earn money for his parents' medical bills and found himself enslaved for two years.Tomatoland reads like a suspenseful whodunit as well eposé of today's agribusiness systems and the price we pay as a society when we take taste and thought out of our food purchases.
 

About Barry Estabrook

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James Beard Award-winning journalist Barry Estabrook was a contributing editor at Gourmet magazine for eight years, writing investigative articles about where food comes from. He was the founding editor of Eating Well magazine and has written for the New York Times Magazine, Reader's Digest, Men's Health, Audubon, and the Washington Post, and contributes regularly to The Atlantic Monthly's website. His work has been anthologized in the Best American Food Writing series, and he has been interviewed on numerous television and radio shows. He lives and grows tomatoes in his garden in Vermont.? ?
 
Published April 24, 2012 by Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC. 258 pages
Genres: Business & Economics, Cooking, Science & Math, Computers & Technology. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Tomatoland

The New York Times

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In “Tomatoland,” Barry Estabrook delivers a withering criticism of the tactics of the tomato industry in South Florida, where the soil is as devoid of plant nutrients as a pile of moon rocks.

Jul 05 2011 | Read Full Review of Tomatoland: How Modern Indust...

Publishers Weekly

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In this eye-opening expos%C3%A9, Vermont journalist Estabrook traces the sad, tasteless life of the mass-produced tomato, from its chemical-saturated beginnings in south Florida to far-flung supermark

May 16 2011 | Read Full Review of Tomatoland: How Modern Indust...

BC Books

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In particular, the book addresses the Florida winter tomato industry, which supplies most of those insipid, pinkish tomatoes you find in the grocery store in winter or in fast-food meals.

Jul 27 2011 | Read Full Review of Tomatoland: How Modern Indust...

Examiner

The book is really a kind of expose on tomato farming practices in much of Florida and the business of tomato farming there.

Jun 15 2011 | Read Full Review of Tomatoland: How Modern Indust...

Daily Kos

But I am so happy to know that when the frost comes next fall and the good tomatoes disappear from the farmers' market, I'll still have my Canadian tomatoes to fall back on for the cold, dark winter when it comes again.

Jul 04 2011 | Read Full Review of Tomatoland: How Modern Indust...

Chicago Sun Times

When Reggie Brown, the executive vice president of the Tomato Growers Exchange, protests to him that his industry complies with labor laws and pays competitive wages, Estabrook follows with an account of a 2008 Senate hearing in which committee members demolish the industry’s claims that workers ...

Jun 18 2011 | Read Full Review of Tomatoland: How Modern Indust...

Time Out Chicago

In one segment, he tries to damage a supermarket tomato, writing, “I bowled the fruit through the kitchen door, across the dining room, over a wooden threshold, onto the tile floor of the sunroom, where The Tomato That Would Not Die crashed against the door.

Jun 29 2011 | Read Full Review of Tomatoland: How Modern Indust...

Eco Bites

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 me...

| Read Full Review of Tomatoland: How Modern Indust...

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