Tomatoes and Slavery in South Florida

These days in the U.S., there is at least a general knowledge of migrant farmworkers, who, although often illegal immigrants, harvest much of the bounty of Big Agriculture. Most don't realize that the utilization of these workers serves to keep food prices artificially low at the grocery store. Even fewer know about the horrid conditions that most of these workers endure so that food for the masses remains inexpensive. The conditions are not just bad, they are often modern day examples of slavery
An excellent article in Gourmet Magazine (online) details the conditions of farmworkers in Immokalee - a small town in South Florida. A glance at the city statistics reveals something of the situation: 
"Immokalee’s population is 70 percent Latino. Per capita income is only $8,500 a year. One third of the families in this city of nearly 25,000 live below the poverty line. Over one third of the children drop out before graduating from high school."
While the Latino label is a faulty product of the U.S. census bureau, the point is clear (many farm workers are classified as Latino, but are actually from a number of indigenous groups throughout Guatemala, Mexico, and elsewhere in Central America) - affluence is something less than common in this small Floridian town. What is not revealed by the statistics is that Immokalee is the home of U.S. tomato production: 
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 farmworkers. 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.” When asked if it is reasonable to assume that an American who has eaten a fresh tomato from a grocery store or food-service company during the winter has eaten fruit picked by the hand of a slave, Molloy said, “It is not an assumption. It is a fact.”
This is really an unbelievable story - continue reading here>>>

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1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:25 PM

    wow, this is truly sickening. it's a heartening, though, to see the situation changing, albeit slowly and too late.


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