by Amber

The True Price of Produce

Concerned about where those tomatoes at the grocery store came from? You’re probably worried about the pesticides they might have been treated with too. For a growing group of people, buying food with low mileage is also becoming more important. Yes, all of this has people turning to local farmers markets, and growing their own, but the really troublesome factor in the modern fresh food system is a lot worse.

Not too many people even think about the farm workers so important to the fresh produce industry. If it weren’t for this massive army of hard workers willing to toil long hours for ridiculously low wages, you’d be paying a lot more for those overpriced, well-traveled tomatoes, avocados, cucumbers, and pretty much everything in the fresh food aisles at your grocery store. Actually, it surpasses raw food. It branches out into the supply of wine grapes and prepared food too.

You think that the pay scale at Wal Mart, and McDonald’s is bad? Feeling much better about the employment practices at these pillars of today’s communities now that they’ve started giving them a more reasonable hourly wage? You might want to boycott any produce department next, because…

Behind Big Food is a rampant, abusive sweat shop of massive proportions. Fast food, restaurants, and grocery store corporations are all well aware of where their produce comes from and the abusive conditions the people who pick it deal with every day.

Farm laborers earn less, and work longer hours. The people who pick and pack all that commercial fruit and veg don’t have benefits. There are no paid vacations, sick days, health insurance, or comfortable working conditions for them. On top of all of that, abuse and slavery still exists on commercial fruit and vegetable farms.

So many people are up in arms about the inhumane treatment of farm animals. They seek out clothing not produced in sweat shops. Very few know anything about the deplorable employment practices that have existed in the food chain for decades. The large consumers of wholesale produce are fully aware of it, and go out of their way to ensure that their customers are kept naive about this part of where their food comes from. Every link in the chain between the grower and the grocery store are profiting off the blood, sweat, and tears of these farm laborers.

In exchange for their many hours of back-breaking labor, they earn next to nothing. Imagine being required to pick 4,000 pounds of tomatoes in 9 hours flat? Now consider that the pay for all that work is $40. And the cost of fresh tomatoes at your neighborhood supermarket is how much per pound? You might pay $100 for a bottle of fine Napa Valley champagne, while the person who picked the grapes that created it most likely earned a quarter… as in $0.25.

It will continue unabated too unless something is done to stop it. There will be those who say, “So, what? They’re migrant workers.” That may be, but they are still humans. They have families to feed and clothe at today’s retail prices. They have medical bills, dental bills, and the cost of housing to cover. Just like the girl who slaps together your Big Mac, or stocks the shelves at Wally World – a living wage is a necessity for anyone. So is some quality of life, and being able to have some dignity matters too.

All these facts and more have been disclosed in the documentary, Food Chain that came out in 2014.

You don’t have to hunt down the DVD, or wait for it to appear in your cable programming. You can watch entire film online right now:

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The garden played a starring role from spring through fall in the house Amber was raised in. She has decades of experience growing plants from seeds and cuttings in the plot and pots.