The True Cost of Tomatoes
June 15, 2011 9:00 PM   Subscribe

 
The true taste of tomatoes is another matter, and only homegrown.
posted by Brian B. at 9:04 PM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


One more reason not to shop at TJ's.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:09 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


One more reason not to eat tomatoes. Yuck.
posted by item at 9:10 PM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yes; I will only eat tomatoes grown in finely raked muck.
posted by Curious Artificer at 9:19 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


The fresh tomatoes I use are always local and because of that, only for a short time.

The rest are imported in cans from Italy. I don't know what the situation there is. I can only hope it's better.

I don't do supermarket tomatoes. They suck anyway.
posted by Splunge at 9:20 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]




Hurrah, farmer's market! May winter never come.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:37 PM on June 15, 2011


It seems like you could build a ketchup plant nearby and make a deal with these farms to let you salvage thier spoilage at a low cost, and make some good discount condiment. The amount of tomatoes rotting on the ground in that photo on his blog is pretty distressing.

It's encouraging to see organized labor actually gaining in effectiveness anywhere at all, right now - I hope they can keep up the pressure.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:45 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Aside from the problems of the workers, which are far too large for me to address, that picture of all the "too ripe" tomatoes rotting in the fields really saddens me. After all the human and environmental exploitation you at least hope that the food grown would actually be eaten.
posted by troublewithwolves at 9:45 PM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Mmm, delicious flavourless watery supermarket tomatoes.
posted by tumid dahlia at 9:47 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


jesus christ you people have a sick society, rotten to the core.

We have a tomato grower just down the road, 12 ha. of hydroponics. Employs 200 people, pays minimum wage ($16/hr), a growing and profitable business. That's how the 21st century was supposed to be in the first world.
posted by wilful at 9:57 PM on June 15, 2011 [34 favorites]


The fact that they're growing them where they are is mindboggling. I mean, tomatoes will grow in just about any organic material, and these jackasses go with sand? What the fuck?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:59 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Employs 200 people, pays minimum wage ($16/hr), a growing and profitable business. That's how the 21st century was supposed to be in the first world.

They'd use slaves if they could.
posted by pompomtom at 10:22 PM on June 15, 2011


In my old place, I dug a hole in the ground, filled it with "stuff" (literally just stuff - grass clippings, cat litter, ashtray contents [filterless hand-rolled], paper, vegetable scraps, and a hint of dirt) and threw in a bunch of rotten tomatoes, covered them with old leaves, pissed on the lot every night for about three or four months and those fruit grew like bejeezus and were the best tomatoes I ever ate.
posted by tumid dahlia at 10:23 PM on June 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


Sys Rq: "I mean, tomatoes will grow in just about any organic material, and these jackasses go with sand? What the fuck?"

Total control of inputs (no variation in soil quality = homogenous crop = maximum return), close to a large pool of easily-exploitable labour (legal & probably illegal immigrants = cheap, low everheads), and no wastewater disposal issues (goes straight through the soil to the local water table = cheaper than paying for remediation / disposal of hydroponic wastewater).
posted by Pinback at 10:24 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


A good case for canning tomatoes in the summer. Our local CSA currently has vine ripe tomatoes on sale for $25 for 20 pounds. We don't buy tomatoes in the winter, on account of the slavery, but we don't suffer for a lack of them.
posted by Gilbert at 10:24 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


My girlfriend would verify this if she had ever deigned to try my cat litter piss-tomatoes.
posted by tumid dahlia at 10:24 PM on June 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


Pisstoes.
posted by tumid dahlia at 10:25 PM on June 15, 2011


That's how the 21st century was supposed to be in the first world.

Welp, we left sustainability at the side of the road about sixty years ago to make room for a hitchhiker named Profit Today.

It worked for sixty years.
posted by Camofrog at 10:25 PM on June 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


Devils Rancher writes "It seems like you could build a ketchup plant nearby and make a deal with these farms to let you salvage thier spoilage at a low cost, and make some good discount condiment. The amount of tomatoes rotting on the ground in that photo on his blog is pretty distressing."

You'd want ripe tomatoes for ketchup otherwise you'd have to add too much sugar and vinegar probably. And it takes a couple weeks to go from green pick to appropriate for ketchup ripe. Those weeks cut into the growing time for the next unripe crop.
posted by Mitheral at 10:36 PM on June 15, 2011


Here is something that has puzzled me for a few years. I live in Northern-ish Minnesota. We have a tomato grower just across the way who produces enough tomatoes for the region, all year round. The prices are comparable to tomatos flown in from wherethefuckever. Yeah summer is better than winter, and yeah growing your own (or the farmers market) is much much better... but we have non exploitative tomatoes all the year around in Northern Minnesota. If we can do it here. You can bet your sweet ass you can do it anywhere in America and 95% of populated Canada as well.
posted by edgeways at 10:39 PM on June 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


The true cost of tomatoes. In New York.
posted by Sphinx at 11:07 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


So...not the same as in town, then?
posted by ShutterBun at 11:45 PM on June 15, 2011


I just finished reading "The Jungle" for the umpteenth time yesterday. It seems that progress over the past 105 years has been slow, at best. (if anything, vertical monopolies and graft appear to have even INCREASED in their prevalence)

Incidentally, CBS has recently posted the entire original Harvest of Shame documentary (which I had been searching for for eons!) on YouTube. Looks like the message and the problems are still very much relevant.
posted by ShutterBun at 12:10 AM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


you at least hope that the food grown would actually be eaten.

Previous gloomy news about global food wastage.
posted by BinGregory at 12:17 AM on June 16, 2011


Our local CSA currently has vine ripe tomatoes on sale for $25 for 20 pounds. We don't buy tomatoes in the winter, on account of the slavery

Confederate States of America?
posted by orthogonality at 12:49 AM on June 16, 2011


Community supported agriculture. Harrumph.
posted by Gilbert at 1:03 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The rest are imported in cans from Italy. I don't know what the situation there is. I can only hope it's better.

It is not. In fact, it's probably worse. Migrant workers in Italy live in near slave-labour conditions, organised crime is involved, and basically, did you think you were getting Italian tomatoes that cheap because Italians on Italian minimum wage were picking them? HA HA HA HA HA HA.

Previously.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:07 AM on June 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


Tomatoes are a member of the nightshade family and thus are poisonous. I don't know anyone who regularly eats tomatoes that won't be dead in the next 100 years or so.
posted by Xoc at 1:31 AM on June 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


Pisstoes.

Those sound like hardcore tomaters!
posted by chavenet at 3:28 AM on June 16, 2011


What are the other reasons not to shop at Trader Joe's?
posted by postel's law at 4:00 AM on June 16, 2011


Tomatoes are my weakness, and I'm fortunate enough to indulge that in a big way. For the last few summers, I have planted between three and four dozen seedlings (if not more) and reaped the harvest: fruit for eating fresh in salads, sandwiches, and gazpacho; and spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, barbecue sauce, salsa, tomato soup, faux V8, and ketchup for canning. The canned tomato products last us all year and taste delicious, especially in the depths of winter. If you've ever thought about canning your own, here's a short tutorial (scroll down) on canning pizza sauce that will let you take advantage of what you grow or purchase at your farmer's market. It's a great way to make your own good food and not give as many dollars to the harmful practices that Bittman identifies.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:07 AM on June 16, 2011 [8 favorites]


Italy ...nothing to worry about. They have slaves. If they have problems they disappear.
posted by adamvasco at 4:16 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


A good case for canning tomatoes in the summer.

Another good case is "holy shit the ones grown locally taste so much better".

I'm a borderline locavore, but only by accident because most conventionally-produced supermarket produce tastes like crap, and so when I discovered my local CSA and farmer's markets, I said "screw this" to the local supermarket.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:17 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Only a corporate mind could make a business plan that grows the shittiest tomatoes possible, in the shittiest location possible, with the shittiest labor practices possible.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:24 AM on June 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


My tomato plants have done diddly this year. They are still only inches tall! In mid-June! WTF!

I've been thinking about setting up a greenhouse, because I eat like a tomato a day. Maybe exploited labor will push me over the edge into doing it.
posted by DU at 4:25 AM on June 16, 2011


DU:

I planted mine 6 weeks ago, and they are 5 feet tall and covered with fruit.

The secret? I grow them in Earthtainers. I've sung the praises of Earthtainers many times here. They are a little bit of work to build, but if you like homegrown tomatoes they rock.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 4:48 AM on June 16, 2011 [20 favorites]


Needs "bittman" tag. Mark Bittman has used the leverage from his best-selling cookbooks to discuss the ethics of food in a way that should put mere foodies to shame.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:39 AM on June 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


edgeways - Bushel Boy? That's all I buy here in Mpls. Love buying local, and like it even more knowing what the alternatives are...
posted by caution live frogs at 5:42 AM on June 16, 2011


sys rq, if you think it's dumb how we grow tomatoes in florida, you should see how we grow cattle
posted by toodleydoodley at 5:44 AM on June 16, 2011


DU: raised beds, fertilize w/ organic stuff every few weeks (and when you plant) soaker hose if it's dry. We've gotten about 6-7 so far, lots more ripening on the vine.

Never heard of eartainers. Am intrigued.
posted by emjaybee at 5:55 AM on June 16, 2011


One of the things that I really appreciated about Bittman's piece is that his proposed response avoids some of the usual class assumptions in articles like this. He doesn't assume that everyone has a yard or sunny patio on which they can grow their own, or access to a farmer's market, or money for canning supplies, or space to store a bunch of canned vegetables.
posted by craichead at 6:04 AM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wonder what happens if we find out in 10 years or so that some chemical in their cocktail, or combination thereof, causes some terrible unforeseen consequence.

Disgusting at every level.
posted by codacorolla at 6:53 AM on June 16, 2011


from the google, searching for 'Immokalee tomato fields', a horrible story about a baby born with no arms and legs
Add to 'costs of chemicals'
posted by growabrain at 7:37 AM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


One more reason not to shop at TJ's.

What are the other reasons not to shop at Trader Joe's?

I, too, am curious about this. I shop there pretty much exclusively (though I don't buy tomatoes).
posted by adamdschneider at 7:48 AM on June 16, 2011


I was in Italy last summer. Day after day we ate wonderful tomatoes in both residences and restaurants. I was envious and thought why can't we have tomatoes like this in the US? Why are Italian tomatoes so much better?
posted by Xurando at 8:09 AM on June 16, 2011


Long after our civilization collapses into dust, future archaeologists will pick over our bones and marvel that we just plain wasted so many precious resources, that we burned fossil fuels that could never be replaced to grow fruit that would never be eaten. We are no different from the ancient Rapanui who cut down the last Rapanui palm.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:11 AM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


The locally grown tomatoes are far cheaper too, or at least they are in Georgia. You usually get several large lovely tomatoes for around $2.00, directly from a farmer at a roadside table or at the flea market. The tradeoff you make is that you only get to enjoy them from around May through November, and then you wait again for the good ones the next year.

growabrain -- that case, of the pesticides impacting the female workers babies, is the profiled case that led me to scale back on tomatoes from the store at all (or at least non-organic, non-local ones, if those were available). Very sad.
posted by bizzyb at 8:11 AM on June 16, 2011


Like many in the thread, I also grow my own tomatoes. If you haven't tried it and you have even a little sunny space in a yard, you should. I've grown everything from summer squash to Brussels sprouts in my ordinary suburban yard, and I have to say, tomatoes are the easiest thing I've ever grown. You just have to choose a disease-resistant variety, and make sure that your plants have access to good nutrients in the soil (which you can provide with compost, leaf mulch, companion plantings of legumes, etc.), good drainage and plenty of water. Last year I had a tomato plant pretty much snapped in half by a storm and it kept on making fruit. Tomatoes are tough.

Which is why it is RIDICULOUS that industrial farmers are growing them in such terrible, unsustainable conditions in Florida with slave labor. It is not that hard to grow tomatoes ethically and sustainably, if you just put them in the right climate / environment. And the winter availability problem can be solved with greenhouses. There is a greenhouse a few hours away from my city that produces excellent tomatoes.
posted by BlueJae at 8:23 AM on June 16, 2011


Xurando, you can often buy imported Italian tomato seeds at Italian grocery stores in the spring. Why not plant some and find out?
posted by bitter-girl.com at 8:24 AM on June 16, 2011


Benny Andajetz writes "I planted mine 6 weeks ago, and they are 5 feet tall and covered with fruit.

"The secret? I grow them in Earthtainers. I've sung the praises of Earthtainers many times here. They are a little bit of work to build, but if you like homegrown tomatoes they rock."


Did you start from seed or with transplants? How big were your transplants when you started?

growabrain writes "from the google, searching for 'Immokalee tomato fields', a horrible story about a baby born with no arms and legs
"Add to 'costs of chemicals'"


The doctors in your link are unwilling to state there is even a correlation. It might be slightly premature to blame this on "chemicals".
posted by Mitheral at 8:53 AM on June 16, 2011


Here's the part about Trader Joe's for those that are wondering:
... and Trader Joe’s, which, in an attempt at “transparency” (odd for a chain known for its secrecy), published a letter explaining why it was refusing to sign the agreement. Really, guys? If McDonald’s and Burger King can sign a labor agreement, it can’t be that onerous; you should do it just for karma’s sake. (The CIW’s response is here.)
posted by exhilaration at 9:28 AM on June 16, 2011


Devils Rancher writes "It seems like you could build a ketchup plant nearby and make a deal with these farms to let you salvage thier spoilage at a low cost, and make some good discount condiment. The amount of tomatoes rotting on the ground in that photo on his blog is pretty distressing."

You'd want ripe tomatoes for ketchup otherwise you'd have to add too much sugar and vinegar probably. And it takes a couple weeks to go from green pick to appropriate for ketchup ripe. Those weeks cut into the growing time for the next unripe crop.


Did you see the picture of all the red-ripe tomatoes sitting in the field? It doesn't look like they pick the green ones and immediately clear the field for the next crop.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:32 AM on June 16, 2011


Did you start from seed or with transplants? How big were your transplants when you started?

Back in the day, I used to grow everything from seeds. I'd start them inside in February under grow lights. But nowadays I just buy seedlings. They were about 4" tall, and I planted them so just the top set of leaves was above the soil level. (Always pick the least spindly seedlings you can find - you want a thick main stem and a nice green color. Plant them deep as above, too. That encourages faster root formation.)

I also grow at least one heirloom variety. This year I'm growing Rutgers. I do that for two reasons. One, you can save some seeds for next year. Two, if you are in a milder climate, you can just let the plant die back at the end of the season, cover the soil with a good deep mulch in the fall, and your vine has a good chance of growing again next year. I'm in Virginia and this works about half the time.

(I still grow the heirlooms in the Earthtainers, but I don't really do the rest anymore - it's a good thing to try if you are using raised beds or growing in the ground, though.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:37 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


The article about the baby with no limbs is from 2005, I found a more recent article saying that the grower has been made to pay a settlement to the parents that will pay for the boy's care throughout his life. It was the pesticides.
posted by wilky at 9:38 AM on June 16, 2011


Also, if you do go the Earthtainer route, I can vouch that the following varieties grow very well in them:

Big Beef
Better Boy
Celebrity
Juliet (a very prolific and pretty kick-ass tasting grape tomato)
Rutgers
Roma
Brandywine
Cherokee Purple
San Marzano
posted by Benny Andajetz at 9:50 AM on June 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


From 4" seedlings to harvesting fruit is amazing growth; sounds like the Earthtainers are working well for you. We tried them twice but I think it's too hot and windy on our deck for tomatoes in them. Both years we had very disappointing results. Last year which was a poor year for tomatoes in our garden we only got a half dozen tomatoes off of six plants in earthtainers.

wilky writes "The article about the baby with no limbs is from 2005, I found a more recent article saying that the grower has been made to pay a settlement to the parents that will pay for the boy's care throughout his life. It was the pesticides."

The article states "Investigations by health officials in Florida and North Carolina did not connect the birth defects to the pesticides."
posted by Mitheral at 10:07 AM on June 16, 2011


ast month Ag-Mart agreed to settle the lawsuit after an expert said in a deposition that Carlitos' mother was "heavily exposed" to a "witch's brew" of pesticides during the first trimester of her pregnancy.

What the fuck, "witch's brew?"... it's interesting to see that _combinations_ of pesticides/other chemicals may have unexpected, extremely damaging consequences. Exactly which combination? Wonder how much research has been done on the subject, but quite evidently not enough, otherwise Carlito's miserable future may have been prevented (no amount of money will ever give him and his parents a fully enjoyable life).

The case first made headlines when The Palm Beach Post reported in 2005 that Carlitos was one of three children born within seven weeks, all with birth defects, all of whose parents lived in Immokalee and had picked tomatoes for Ag-Mart.

Wow! 3 childrens, the odds of that? Quite probably convering to zero for random mutation.

In response to news reports, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services investigated the company's practices and found 88 violations. Officials proposed a fine of $111,200. A Florida administrative law judge overturned most of the violations and lowered the fine to $8,500.

WTF? $111k is a slap on the wrist on its own, the reduction is an insult, 88 violantons are abundant evidence of systematic disregard of law!

Crap, all of this make me wonder: what about a "corporate death penality", maybe rephrased as "permanent ban from market" ; let' take the people responsible for this and enact a law, that they can't legally own/run a business or stocks/control in any business for X years (long enough), meaning they have to fucking go pick tomatoes for a living.
posted by elpapacito at 10:11 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


From 4" seedlings to harvesting fruit is amazing growth; sounds like the Earthtainers are working well for you.

Just to be specific, Earthtainers aren't magic (unfortunately), but they are close. I'm not harvesting yet. The vines are covered with fruit, but it's probably still another two weeks before the first tomatoes will ripen.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:12 AM on June 16, 2011


So are we officially having a tomato gardening sub-discussion here?

I grow my plants in the ground not containers, but I second Benny Andajetz in recommending Juliet tomatoes. They're actually a bit bigger than grape tomatoes -- more like mini Romas. And they will grow almost anywhere (in containers, in clay soil, in the shade) and take almost any abuse. If you plant them in the ground and actually take decent care of them, prepare for Juliets to get enormous and try to strangle out everything green in their path. I named my first Juliet Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.

Also if you have never eaten a Brandywine fresh off the vine, you have never truly eaten a tomato.
posted by BlueJae at 10:15 AM on June 16, 2011


caution live frogs: didn't know about Bushel Boy, up here in the Duluth area we have Bay Produce. Mainly do tomatoes, which you can find in virtually all the supermarkets in the area. They also do red/orange/yellow peppers from time to time.

I understand importing pineapples, and peaches n suchlike, but tomatoes? Yeah, Everywhere reading this could have local tomato productions
posted by edgeways at 10:24 AM on June 16, 2011


I plan to try out some hobby canning this summer, with my own tomatoes and/or with ones from the market, but probably not nearly enough to get us through the winter, and I'd love to supplement with local canned tomatoes, but I've never seen such a thing.

Question for the canning experts: if canned local tomatoes are so delicious (and it is!), then why aren't farmers at my local farmer's market canning them and selling them at the end of the season, instead of just selling huge numbers of tomatoes for canning? Is this done anywhere? Would they just have to charge so much money that no one would buy them?
posted by gurple at 10:26 AM on June 16, 2011


I've done some tomato canning... while I can't speak authoritatively to the economics of it, beyond what I have done. I suspect it is one of those things that makes sense on either the small scale, or the large scale.

Small scale, you don't have to worry about labor costs, because you are doing it. It'll take awhile and is a worthy thing to do. Better than, say, watching yet more television, but you aren't paying anyone else to do it. So, economically it's feasible.

Large scale you have... well the economies of scale, automation, low wage workers,lots of machines.

I would hazard a guess that CSA and farmer's market farmers just don't have the time or resources to can a ton of tomatoes cost effectively.
posted by edgeways at 11:02 AM on June 16, 2011


One of the things that makes the economics of home canning work for me is that you can re-use the jars. There's an initial outlay of about $14 for a case of twelve jars, and then $20 for a bushel of tomatoes (I'm kind of pulling numbers out of my ass a bit for the purposes of illustration). That's $34 for a dozen cans of tomatoes, which works out to about $2.80 a pint. Which is kind of pricey.

However, since you're eating the tomatoes yourself in your own kitchen, you can re-use the jars. Just wash it when you eat some tomatoes and set it in your cupboard to wait for tomato season to come around again. Then the NEXT year, all you have to do is get new lids -- and that's only about $3 for a box of twelve. You get another bushel of tomatoes for $20, plus the $3 for lids, and the price of a dozen cans of tomatoes has now dropped to $23 -- less than a dollar a pint. That's really economical.

But you're only able to do that by saving all the jars you bought that first year for yourself. If a farmer was going to do that, the only way to make it economically work is to then go around to all his customers and ask for the jars back over the course of the year so he can re-use them. So he has to get new jars every year....and that plus a mark-up, and you're looking at over three bucks for a pint of tomatoes, and I'm not sure many people would go for that.

And that's just the economics. Another reason is that while canning is indeed easy, and economical, there is a not-insignificant time-consuming element. I do precisely that -- can a bushel of tomatoes once a year when the "canner's specials" hit my local farmers' market -- but it takes me three days to do it on my tiny Brooklyn stove, and it's messy and time-consuming and I have to stand in a hot humid steamy kitchen in the middle of a NEW YORK SUMMER and get tomato googe all over myself and as delicious as home-canned tomatoes are I am so god-damn glad I only do that once a year. And that's just for about 24 pounds of tomatoes. Scale that up to a ton and I'd be jumping out the window.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:17 AM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


elpapacito writes "Wow! 3 childrens, the odds of that? Quite probably convering to zero for random mutation."

Three children with different birth defects born over a three month period? Can someone who is good with these kinds of statistics chime in with the possibility? I'm guessing a small cluster like this occurring at random isn't as rare as one would guess considering obvious birth defects occur in 2-3% of live births. Similar to the birthday problem.
posted by Mitheral at 11:20 AM on June 16, 2011


I do understand the whys and wherefores of beanplating the science surrounding the birth defects reportedly associated with pesticide exposure on these farms. It's important to get the facts right to support a good argument, etc. But I don't think we should lose sight of the forest here in the name of proving or disproving the existence of certain trees.

Can we not all agree that it is an epically bad idea for pregnant women to do physically demanding work 8-12 hours a day in the sun, with little access to clean water and food and few or no breaks, in fields that have been repeatedly doused in pesticides that have previously been shown to be detrimental to human health in large doses?

Would you want to do that yourself if you were pregnant? Would you want your partner to?
posted by BlueJae at 11:42 AM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's a study on the Immolake 3 births. Extracted from the file:
Despite the suggestive evidence, a causal link could not be established between pesticide exposures and the birth defects in the three infants. Nonetheless, the prenatal pesticide exposures
experienced by the mothers of the three infants is cause for concern. Farmworkers need greater protections against pesticides.
and
RELEVANCE TO PROFESSIONAL PRACTICE: The findings from this report reinforce the need to reduce pesticide exposures among farmworkers. In addition, they support the need for epidemiologic studies to examine the role of pesticide exposure in the etiology of congenital anomalies.
posted by elpapacito at 11:47 AM on June 16, 2011


exhilaration, my question isn't how Trader Joe's relates to this story. I read the article and saw the lines you quoted. My question is what other reasons are there to not like TJ's?
posted by postel's law at 12:41 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


to be fair to TJ's, they state in their letter that they are actually working with their suppliers to pass along the "penny-per-pound" to the CIW. They objected to several other points in the CIW agreement. From their letter:
4. The draft agreement contains a requirement that Trader Joe’s somehow will pay
the total premium whether or not the supply of Florida Tomatoes is sufficient to
meet our demands or regardless of where we actually buy the tomatoes. This, of
course, is a ridiculous requirement to which no serious business would agree.

5. The draft agreement requires Trader Joe’s to terminate any vendor or supplier
upon written notice from the CIW. This is one of the reasons for our
characterization of “overreaching.”
Now others may have signed this, but I'd be very surprised if Taco Bell, McDonalds and others actually let the CIW dictate which suppliers they can use.
posted by mach at 12:47 PM on June 16, 2011


Nthing the suggestion to try growing tomatoes on your own. Even with a small apartment balcony with sunlight only half the day in Seattle, it's doable.

We decided to grow tomatoes for the first time this year, being complete gardening newbs. We went with two seedlings, Sweet Millions, a cherry tomato variety, and French Carmellos.

We had no idea what we were getting into starting out. Cherry tomatoes? They're small, we won't need much space.

Hahaha, the plant is already four feet tall and still growing. But it's still completely possible to do in a smaller space, just make sure the container is big enough. We went with some compostable eco-containers or whatever.

We just got our first flowers a week ago, and our first little fruit this week. It's going to be awesome having fresh tomatoes and basil for sandwiches, salads and sauces.
posted by formless at 1:06 PM on June 16, 2011


Yeah, I have to say that I completely agree with Trader Joe's on this one. It's one thing to be asked to pay more and ensure that workers are treated fairly: after reading Trader Joe's letter, it seems that they're willing to do that. But it sounds like the actual agreement that CIW is pushing is ridiculously overbroad and unreasonable (and you'll notice that the CIW's response didn't deal with the substance of Trader Joe's complaints about the details of the agreement). I wouldn't sign an agreement like that either.
posted by gd779 at 10:00 PM on June 16, 2011


I would hazard a guess that CSA and farmer's market farmers just don't have the time or resources to can a ton of tomatoes cost effectively.
posted by edgeways


As a veteran canner--but not a participant in a farmer's market/CSA--I'll hazard a guess that in addition to the non-recoverable jar cost, there are issues of home kitchen inspection and licensing, which take additional time and money and effort to pass successfully. There's a storage issue, a transportation issue, and there are additional energy costs. That's a LOT of extra expenditure for a product that can be sold raw. I would also add that while you and your family are doing the canning, there are approximately 6,001 tasks around the farm that are *not* getting done. So it makes sense to me that farmers opt for pick and sell rather than the complicated logistics of canning for market.
posted by MonkeyToes at 5:37 AM on June 17, 2011


I'll hazard a guess that in addition to the non-recoverable jar cost, there are issues of home kitchen inspection and licensing, which take additional time and money and effort to pass successfully.

Ahhh, right, I forgot that part -- yeah, there's a lot of legalese to jump through if you're going to sell a canned food product like this. (It's one big, big thing that's stopped any kind of idle, "say, I know how to make jam, maybe I could sell it" pipe dreams I've had.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:02 AM on June 17, 2011


Two years ago I grew tomatoes. The fucking squirrels ate Every. Single. One. BASTARDS. Last year I was too despondent about the situation to try again. This year, it appears that the squirrels are mostly gone due to a combination of unfortunate luck. I suspect that it is too late to get started. Is there hope for homegrown tomatoes if I start now? This thread has my mouth watering.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:19 PM on June 17, 2011


Don't know where you are stone weaver but here in the interior of BC it isn't too late. You just won't have as much yeild as someone who planted a month ago. Pick a short season variety like Early Girls. And if you are only planting a few the nurseries here have fair large plants available but they cost 10-15 times as much as four packs.

Also in the fall you can extend the season by a significant amount by protecting the plants each night from frost. I've used those thin U-haul packing blankets in the past for this purpose.
posted by Mitheral at 12:30 AM on June 18, 2011


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