Part One: “The New Day is not something that’s going to happen, the New Day
is happening right now”…|
Since 2010, a metamorphosis has been underway in the Florida tomato industry, while in Mexico the industry’s counterpart has only sunk deeper into a morass of violence, corruption, poverty, and exploitation…
The quotation at the top of this post came from the Rev. Roy Terry of the United Methodist Church of Naples. Rev. Terry spoke those words during a candlelight vigil held at the Duke University Chapel as part of last month’s Now Is the Time Tour. The vigil was captured beautifully in the simple but moving video above. It bears watching before reading on, if you haven’t already.
We begin Part One of this two-part series, entitled “Extreme Makeover: Florida Tomato Industry Edition,” with Rev. Terry’s words because in those words can be found the central theme of this post. In short: In the space of just a few short years, a New Day of respect for fundamental human rights has dawned in Florida’s tomato fields, and that New Day has brought new life to an industry that, before the transformation, was fighting for its very survival.
Through its partnership with the CIW in the Fair Food Program, the Florida tomato industry has left behind its often brutal past and found its way toward a more humane, more sustainable future, a future in which Florida tomato growers can embrace the demands of the 21st century marketplace with a product they can be proud of. This new era of transparency and humane labor conditions now starkly differentiates Florida tomatoes from their principal competition in the marketplace, tomatoes from Mexico, where conditions have grown increasingly harsh — and prospects for independent oversight and protection of workers’ rights increasingly dim — during this same period.
Exactly how has this come to pass? Let’s take a closer look at recent history on both sides of the border...