Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Eat Maine tomatoes

The front page story in today’s Wall Street Journal, above the fold, details the escalating anger and frustration over the salmonella outbreak affecting tomatoes sold in the U.S. Now more than 11 weeks into the outbreak, the WSJ reports that this has cost the food industry at least $100 million, on top of battling rising commodity prices.

Apparently, this is causing anger among farmers, distributors, and others affected by declining sales of tomatoes. Regulators still haven’t pinpointed a region, or even a country, where the outbreak originated. Worse, the CDC is saying that tomatoes might not even be to blame.

In much the same way that the escalating price of oil makes regionalization more attractive, considering regional supply networks for our food is important.

Last night, I had tomatoes on my salad because they were grown by Backyard Farms, in Madison. In fact, after having toured their facility this winter (and documenting it), their Backyard Beauties have become my tomato of choice.

Since agriculture is a wealth-producing sector, one of only three (the other two being manufacturing, and mining/extraction), it might be time to ramp up similar facilities in rural parts of Maine. Backyard Farms has aggressive plans for growing their operation.

I think their model offers potential for the future, in providing meaningful work for some of the state’s workforce.

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