Let’s Talk Tomatoes…And Modern Day Slavery (Recipe Too!) By Jacki Christopher and Chad Linderman

This summer International Justice Mission (IJM) has been working hard to promote awareness about their campaign Recipe For Change. The movement seeks to bring awareness to the scandal of modern day slavery taking place in the tomato farms of Florida, and the businesses and enterprises that are perpetuating it. While the issue of slavery is a relevant topic of discussion on any grounds, the fact that 70% of the individuals identified as victims of slavery are Latino means this topic certainly merits discussion on this blog.

Most people are surprised to hear this, but slavery is still happening in this country. If you don’t know about it and understand how it works, it’s time to get it. Because whatever America lacks, we must hold to some really important moments in our country’s history and abolition of slavery was one of those moments.

Put simply, the workers that have been ‘hired’ or ‘coerced’ to work in the Florida tomato fields are systemically underpaid, deprived of safe housing and working conditions, held against their will, and subject to physical abuse. Florida isn’t the only state in which individuals have been prosecuted for enslavement, but it has been identified as a hotbed of criminal agricultural activity. The other offense, which has been partially resolved, is the issue of fair payment for tomatoes to ensure that workers receive fair wages.

Two organizations are headlining the movement against slavery this summer. One is the Coalition for Immokalee Workers (CIW) and the other is International Justice Mission (IJM) through their summer campaign “Recipe For Change.”

The CIW, based in Florida, has been indispensible in the fight to end slavery among tomato growers and to ensure that tomato consumers and vendors such as Chipotle, McDonalds, Trader Joe’s and Publix are paying fair prices.

According to CIW website, “the CIW believes that the ultimate solution to modern-day slavery in agribusiness lies on the “demand side” of the U.S. produce market — the major food-buying corporations that profit from the artificially-low cost of U.S. produce picked by workers in sweatshop and, in the worst cases, slavery conditions.”

Barry Estabrook delved deep into the subject in his book, Tomatoland. While the book is in my queue and I intend to review and report on it once I have read it, I couldn’t wait until then to start addressing this issue. The enslavement of human souls must stop and moreover, we must believe that it has to stop. Before there can be action, there must be a fundamental shift in our belief about the very wrongness of this.

One premise guides my entire stance on this issue: the value of human life, as bestowed by God, trumps any national or ethnic status. The Antebellum South declared slavery legally legitimate because black people had been officially defined as subhuman. We all have accepted the fallacy of that position. Thus Mexican people, regardless of their legal status in this particular county, are God-created humans and thus entitled to the dignity commensurate with that status. Any treatment that would be defined as “subhuman” is therefore wrong.  Undocumented immigrants or “illegal aliens,” as some call them, are, at their core, humans, souls, people.

Said one comment on Huffington Post: “To me, human working conditions should be right for all. Slavery, regardless of legal status, is just not right. These are simple working people. How can anyone say that chaining them to their living quarters and not providing water and sewage is justifiable because they are illegal?”

Another poster had a response: “They do have an option to go home where they belong.” Charming solution from one of our fellow countrymen.

Here is the reality of the situation and my response to the above: if any one in this country expects to consume any agricultural product (including livestock) outside of what we grow for a few months in our gardens or hunt on select days of the year, we are going to require massive amounts of Mexicans to come here to do the deed.

And why is this? Put simply, white people don’t’ want to work farm labor. They would sooner live at home and play video games than de-tassel corn, pick rocks, or harvest lettuce on a twelve hour shift in 80 to 90 degree weather for a pittance. That means Mexicans and other various immigrant or indigenous groups. There is no way around it.

Once that fact is accepted, it is a short leap to come together around ensuring that these necessary workers are performing their jobs under conditions that meet at least a baseline for decency, safety, and respect.

To further explore the work of CIW, click HERE.

To read more about IJM’s campaign, Recipe For Chance, and to sign a petition asking grocers to pay fair wages for tomatoes, click HERE, or visit their Facebook page HERE.

Hey, Check This Out!

One fun part of the IJM campaign is the Recipe For Change Recipe Contest on their FB page. Check out the contest HERE and be sure to ‘like’ my Tomato-rific Caprese Salad on a Stick!

Here’s the recipe, though it barely needs one. As I cannot think of anything greater to do with a fresh tomato than pair it with fresh bufala mozzarella, pesto, and balsamic, my recipe is a simple yet irresistible. And it’s State Fair season in Minnesota, so this is on a stick!

Caprese Salad On A Stick


6oz home grown tomatoes (Cherry, grape, or Campari varieties work best)

4oz fresh bufala mozzarella broken into bite-sized pieces

2T basil pesto

1oz 18-year aged balsamic vinegar


In a small bowl, gently combine mozzarella pieces and pesto. Set aside.

Wash tomatoes and cut in half if they are larger than bite sized.

Thread alternating pieces of mozzarella and tomato onto skewers. Drizzle with aged balsamic vinegar.

Remember, go to IJM’s FB page and like this recipe!

A Few Articles Worth Reading:



What is your favorite summer tomato recipe? Share in the comments below!

11 Responses to “Let’s Talk Tomatoes…And Modern Day Slavery (Recipe Too!) By Jacki Christopher and Chad Linderman”

  1. 1 Bethany Anderson
    August 24, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Hi Jacki, could you outline some ways that we can take action?

  2. 2 Jim Hatch
    August 28, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    So, what’s the latest with you, friend? You in Twin Cities? Philly?

    Jim Hatch
    Church Planter Development Director
    Mission to North America

    Cell: 314-308-4226
    Fax: 678-825-1259

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