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Extended Audio Sample Tomatoland: How Modern Industrial Agriculture Destroyed Our Most Alluring Fruit, by Barry Estabrook Click for printable size audiobook cover
0 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 50 out of 5 0.00 (0 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Barry Estabrook Narrator: Pete Larkin Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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. He 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 US 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 as an exposé of today’s agribusiness systems and the price we pay as a society when we take taste and thought out of our food purchases.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “[A] thought-provoking book.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “If you have ever eaten a tomato—or ever plan to—you must read Tomatoland. It will change the way you think about America’s most popular ‘vegetable.’ More importantly, it will give you new insight into the way America farms.”

    Ruth Reichl, food writer and co-producer of PBS’s Gourmet’s Diary of a Foodie

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Kitty | 10/29/2011

    " This book documents the human and environmental price we pay to have tomatoes available year round. The treatment of migrant workers by the big growers in Florida is shocking. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Liesl | 10/28/2011

    " Everyone should read this book. It's short and informative. Excellent! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Kili | 10/11/2011

    " This book paints a bleak picture of the winter tomato industry: pesticides, corruption, slavery... It's not the best written book, but it is eye opening.
    "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Brittany | 10/5/2011

    " This book covered quite a bit of history of the tomato in a short amount of time. It was a quick enjoyable read, though not an all time favorite. "

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About the Author

Barry Estabrook, a James Beard Award–winning journalist, 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. He is also a regular contributor 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. Estabrook lives and grows tomatoes in his garden in Vermont.