The March ’09 issue of Gourmet has a fantastic article by Barry Estabrook called “Politics of the Plate: The Price of Tomatoes.” The article addresses the working conditions of tomato pickers in southern Florida, who live in “virtual slavery” and work for huge tomato producers who stock restaurants and grocery stores during the winter months. This small area in Florida apparently produces 90% of all the tomatoes grown in the USA, year-round. So when no local tomatoes are available, chances are they’re coming from here if they’re domestic.

I buy all our produce and meat from Whole Foods. Local green markets are great, and we try to support them. But let’s face it, sometimes you just need to go to the grocery store for the sake of convenience. It’s certainly more expensive at Whole Foods, but they make a conscious effort to ensure ethical treatment of the workers who provide their food, the animals who are the food, etc. For us it’s just important to be confident that the animals we do consume are healthy and well-treated. We are certainly not vegetarians, nor do we have any plans on becoming vegetarians. But we do believe that it’s important to respect ingredients and the people who provide them.

I found this article fascinating, and I had no idea the conditions of tomato pickers. I was surprised by how many corporations are affected by this. Whole Foods is the only grocery store chain that has taken the pledge to ensure fair wages and treatment for these workers. It’s just a really interesting article; I’m just discovering Gourmet’s “Politics of the Plate” series, and I think it’s great.