Whether you're in school, work, or prison, if you bite into a tomato in America it may very well come from the fields of Immokalee, Florida. That's because major corporations like Aramark and Sodexo are huge buyers of Immokalee product and distributors with contracts for school and prison cafeterias. Immokalee farms also sell to major grocery chains like Wal Mart, Publix and Whole Foods, as well as the giants of fast food known as "The Big 4" -- McDonalds, Burger King, Taco Bell, and Subway.
The migrant farmer pattern currently predicts that traveling workers are in places like New York, Michigan, the Carolinas and Georgia, but starting around October when the season hits, the parking lots of Immokalee will flood with a labor force waiting mostly at the La Fiesta #3 parking lot to be picked up by buses that will transport them to the fields of agro-corporate farms like 6L's, Gargiulo, Agmart, Pacific, and Noble-Collier.
Short Order took a midnight drive across the Tamiami Trail and north into Immokalee to see what the workforce who actually pulls the food we eat off the vine were up to on Labor Day. For the men and women in the lot it was business as usual, though there is less of it til October. Next time you bite into a tomato think of where it came from, and consider the fact that the people who pick them are frozen into wages from 30 years ago, and are caught in a system of institutional servitude that sees them not as human workers, but as cogs in a machine.
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