Slow Food Columbus Blog

Living the slow life… one day at a time

Slavery in Florida’s Tomato Fields

with 3 comments

People often ask us what we mean by the “fair” part of “good, clean, and fair” food. We generally reply that we mean food that’s produced in a way that supports social justice, that ensures that everyone in the chain of production is treated well and fairly. But that’s often a somewhat fuzzy criterion, and it can lead to parallels like fair-trade coffee, which are inexact.

But now that the most recent Gourmet magazine has come out, we can point to the tomato fields of Florida for a clear example of what we mean by “fair.” Put simply: Not that.

The article details a ghastly practice that most tomato-eating Americans probably think only exists in history books.  Since 1997, police have freed over 1,000 workers from the tomato fields who have been kept captive, perpetually in debt from the moment they start working—in a nutshell, in slavery. Conditions haven’t improved much to this day, in large part because the slaves are unwilling to testify against the people who keep them in those conditions. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers is putting pressure on government officials and large food chains to put a stop to this practice, but so far they’ve only met with very limited success.

Winter tomatoes come from either Florida or Mexico. ¿De donde son los suyos?


Written by Bear

March 7, 2009 at 3:22 am

Posted in Uncategorized

3 Responses

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  1. Wow. Thanks for bringing this issue up. We try to buy (and grow) a lot of Ohio-grown tomatoes in the summer, but is definitely something to make me more conscious of my decisions at the store or market.


    March 9, 2009 at 12:24 am

  2. Happy to raise it. I was shocked to see the news item myself.

    And, for what it’s worth, Slow Food Columbus’ Fearless Leader, who also doubles as the manager of the Greener Grocer at the North Market, assures me that they have taken steps to ensure that the winter tomatoes being sold at the Greener Grocer are not from Florida.


    March 9, 2009 at 1:48 am

  3. […] may remember that earlier this year we wrote about slavery issues in Florida’s tomato fields but concerns about fair wages for farm workers are not limited to tomato fields. Farmworkers in the […]

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