With knowledge comes responsibility. I’ve been known to tout the old adage, “ignorance is bliss” but in reality I really should proclaim that my own ignorance is often a reflection of laziness. Once you’ve gained knowledge is hard to sit comfortably without action.

Today I’m acting out against slavery. Along with The Giving Table, International Justice Mission and 50 other bloggers across the Internet we’re shedding light on the horrific slavery that still exists within the U.S. tomato industry. In partnership with The Coalition of Immokalee Workers and The Fair Food Standards Council (FFSC), IJM is removing our ignorance by revealing the mis-treatment of thousands of migrant workers (including children) who earn less than $0.01 per pound they pick.

You should know that not all tomatoes are treated equal and not all are grown under these circumstances. Slave-free tomatoes can be purchased as places such as Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and from many local farms. Not only are tomatoes purchased from these places guaranteed to be grown under much better circumstances – without abuse – they taste much better.

With the knowledge of this tragic mis-treatment comes responsibility. There is much you and I can do to change these conditions. In fact, I have no doubt that collectively we can completely abolish slavery in the tomato industry. First of all you can purchase all your tomatoes from places that buy slave-free tomatoes. As I mentioned above these places include Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Farmers Markets and direct from the farms. Your purchase is power. Secondly, send a letter to the markets who have not yet adopted the policy to buy slave-free tomatoes.  The form in the link provided makes it very simple. Just add your name and send. These markets depend on you to survive so don’t underestimate your power in making this change a reality. Thirdly, inform others of these conditions. No one should be treated in this manner and with this knowledge it’s our responsibility to shine light onto the darkness of ignorance.


There are few things more beautiful than a tomato. Ragged and jewel toned, tight skinned and fragrant with a scent that to me is the perfume of gardening. In fact I wish it came bottled so I could wear it year round. But nothing makes these nearly perfect orbs more beautiful than knowing that no person was treated improperly in the process of getting to my table.



Tomato Toast with Basil Butter // Tomatoes with Blue Cheese

Tomato Toast with Basil Butter

With a beautifully grown tomato I argue that very little should be added to it. A thick slice with salt is the perfect way to enjoy a sun-ripened tomato. This recipe has only a few more ingredients and has quickly become my favorite late-summer lunch.

This butter is summer’s condiment. On grilled corn it’s magic. 


1 Tablespoon chopped basil

4 Tablespoons butter, softened

1 piece of rustic bread, toasted

3 slices of thick-cut, slave-free tomatoes

sea salt


In a small bowl combine the basil and butter. Spread a bit on the warm toast. Top with tomatoes then sprinkle with salt.


Tomatoes and Avocado with Blue Cheese dressing

inspired by Ina Garten

With so few ingredients use the best you can afford. I used Rogue River’s Flora Nelle and I’d do it again. Pungent without smacking you in the face. This salad has no need for lettuce. Simple and stunning.


Blue Cheese Dressing

4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup whole milk

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


Combine everything in a bowl and stir to combine keeping large chunks of blue cheese intact.

Arrange thick cut slices of slave-free tomatoes and avocados onto a platter. Generously top with blue cheese dressing. Finish with fresh ground pepper.

Serve immediately.

Leftover dressing can be refrigerated for one week.

53 Responses to “portrait of a tomato”

  1. Annie

    Wonderful post and gorgeous photographs. Tomatoes are one of my favorite foods and I’m so glad to read about ways to get them without harming others.

  2. Nicole @The Giving Table

    Everything about this post is gorgeous, Ashley. The words, the photographs, and the recipe (that I’m definitely going to make this summer). Thanks so much for your support of Food Bloggers for Slave-Free Tomatoes today!

  3. Laura

    Major props on your contribution to Tomato Tuesday. The words, photos, recipes; all fantastic and delicious. And gosh, they really ARE the perfume of gardening. Simple, but wonderful realization.

  4. Kathryn

    Thank you for the work that you and the others are doing to raise awareness of this issue, tomatoes are so wonderful and it’s such a shame that there’s this shadow over them at the moment.

  5. Hannah

    Lovely post and call to action! That basil butter looks just about perfect, and your portraits of the tomatoes are stunning. The atrocities in the agricultural fields of our country have been going on for too long; it is great to see so many taking true action.

  6. Laura Dembowski

    I too love tomatoes, particularly ones like the beautiful heirlooms in your photos. The farmers’ market is my favorite place to buy them; they taste so much better than those in the store, and evidently they’re much more humane as well.

  7. kate C.

    I just heard about this recently… there aren’t even words. It’s too bad not many people know about it. Thanks for spreading the word.

    The only slave working to get my fresh tomatoes is me!

  8. fabiola@notjustbaked

    I appreciate this post. I appreciate what you and the other bloggers are doing, shedding light upon, and bringing it to our attention is awesome. We as bloggers have a voice, as many of the farm workers do not. They just need money to send back home to Mexico, or wherever they are from. It is the sad truth. I was wondering how I could get involved, let me know if there is anything I can do? Thank you.

  9. MG Atwood

    I had no idea! makes me happy with my little heirloom jewels from Trader Joes! Love your photography. So moody and nice. Just read a tutorial on moody shots that are dark. You nailed it, but then you all ready knew that, didn’t you?

  10. Inés

    Ah! Tomatoes…they tastes like Summer…and I miss Summer badly!
    Big hugs, from the Southern end of the wold!


  11. amy

    I just read tomatoland. and I was appalled at what I learned.
    we might end up being a tomato-free house if I can’t find slave-free ones that are available locally.

  12. Linsey

    I applaud you for highlighting this important issue! It wasn’t that long ago that Trader Joe’s had not signed the agreement; after a few letters via email, they got on board. It really is as easy as voting with your dollars and sending a few letters!

  13. dervla @ The Curator

    I loved this post. So interesting. It’s definitely in the air as it’s the second post I’ve seen today about slave-free tomatoes. Thank you for bringing this serious issue to our attention. Also love the recipes.

  14. Margherita

    The first picture is so stunning it looks like a painting from the Flemings…
    I can’t picture my life without tomatoes and after being in Italy and having tasted the little dattes tomatoes from Sicily I know that 90% of the things we get here in the US are really poor quality…

  15. shuhan

    that is so gorgeous.
    The toamtoes that I get from the farmer’s market come from the sunny isle of wight in the uk, they taste absolutely delicious, sweet and juicy and I know they come from a happy environment. thanks so much for highlighting the issue, I feel truly blessed.

  16. Erin

    Thank you for doing this. I love seeing that so much attention is being brought to this issue today!

  17. Julia

    I usually come to your site for the beautiful photos – and this post certainly has beautiful photos – but the content was not nearly as pleasing.

    I’ll start off by saying upfront that I haven’t been to a tomato farm specifically and can’t discuss their specific practices. I do want to address the the PDF you posted which states that “modern-day slavery [in agriculture] occurs along a continuum of systemic abuse that can best be described as ‘sweatshop’ conditions, including sub-poverty wages, no right to overtime pay, and no right to organize.”

    This is terribly misinformed. Compensation for farm workers – and most aspects of agriculture for that matter – does operate in a different way than corporate America that is difficult for people not in the business to understand. When I moved from Washington DC to Rural Texas, it was quite the adjustment to get used to the farm way of doing business. But, as a lifetime non-profit worker and committed humanitarian, I was pleased at what I found in how workers are treated and compensated.

    My husband and I have traveled to many farms across the country and across the world, and in most areas and on most farms, workers are treated well and given compensation far beyond “sweatshop like conditions.” I’ll give examples from our own farm – workers are paid far above minimum wage for hourly work and given bonuses at the end of harvest based on their performance through the year. They are also given trucks, gas, housing, and utilities. For some, we also pay for cell phones, cable, health insurance, etc., as well as many meals while at work. For those looking to start their own farms, we lend them our equipment (one of the biggest cost prohibitors to starting a farm). Hardly what I would call a sweatshop (other than that it’s hot in Texas and we all do sweat occasionally!!). And we are not the exception to the rule.

    Farm work is hard work – and the workers are compensated for the long, hard hours that they put in. Like with all industries, there will be bad seeds. But to write off all conventional agriculture and farmers as being modern-day slave owners is offensive and simply not true.

    • Ashley Rodriguez

      Julia – Thanks so much for commenting and I apologize for the delayed response. I love reading about your farm and want to apologize if I gave the impression that every farm behaves poorly. I know for a fact that that is not the case as I regularly visit farms that uphold a high standard of operation and treat their workers with great respect. In no way do I wish to harm the farms that are operating fairly but to bring light to the ones that aren’t. This is why I offer up alternative places to shop that buy tomatoes from great farms. Thanks again for your comment and thanks for the hard work you do.

  18. DeAnn @

    It’s so easy to be out of touch with your food sources, most Americans just pick food up at Smiths or Wal-Mart without a second thought about where it came from. Unless you plant and harvest your own food you really don’t where it came from and what it took to get it to your table and what’s happened to it from seed to harvest. Great post as usual. Love that you used a dark back ground in your photos, the tomatoes really pop.

  19. Kelli

    Wow, I had no idea. Thank you for sharing. I’ll definitely be doing some research before I buy tomatoes. Beautiful photos, too!

  20. SallyBR

    Just wanted to add I’ll be publishing a post using heirloom tomatoes next week, probably around Thursday, and edited to add a link to your post…. Hope it’s ok with you, I’ll email you the link…

  21. Lizzy (Good Things)

    Such an interesting post. Provenance is front and centre in the food scene in Australia and you have highlighted the importance of this. Heirloom tomatoes are so beautiful… bring on Summer, I have seeds I wish to plant!

  22. Suzanne Perazzini

    I have seen this on many different blogs in the last two days and agree wholeheartedly if this is actually happening. I also read Julia’s comment above and was wondering how widespread this slavery is or if it is in fact quite limited as she mentions. Though, even if it is only limited, it still needs to be dealt with and eradicated.

  23. Aninas Recipes

    I think it is a great message. Thank you for a great recipe (again) so simple and versatile with absolutely GORGEOUS photography. You are really a great inspiration!

  24. Calantha

    If more people were like you and acted on the knowledge of the injustices of the world, our world might be a safer, happier, healthier place. 🙂

  25. Piper

    I love tomatoes but never knew this. I love that you gave us the info, and mentioned the proper places to shop for them. I’ve got to make that blue cheese dressing too!

  26. beleye

    this is so beautiful! All these tomato colours on black! I’m speechless and I urgently want to improve my photography skills. Thank you for this great motivation!

  27. e / dig in

    at first i thought, wow, gorgeous pics of real tomoatoes – it’s winter here in hobart so i am really homegrown summer tomatoes (in fact, i just posted about it). but then i started to read – i had no idea that happens in america. tomatoes and slave labour! it makes me wonder what the situation is here in australia. thank you for an illuminating post.

  28. supercaliveggie

    Your blog and your pictures are amazing! I usually scrub one clove of garlic on the bread ”Tomato Toast with Basil” (that I call bruschetta ’cause I’m italian) for the flavour, it’s very good. Thank you for your posts!

  29. Christy

    Wow, I need to take some serious time to spend in this post! The recipes, the photos…! (I’m a new fan, can you tell? 🙂 The tomato toast with basil butter sounds divine, think I’ll have to make it while they’re still good.

    Also, as an amateur food photographer and aspiring blogger, I love your site overall! Will definitely keep coming back 🙂

  30. Malika

    Hello there!

    Congratulation! So few people knows about what’s going behind the food…and indeed our purchase is power!

    You should check this could interest you a lot…you can have seeds of many many many variety of tomatoes and not only that…check the website. Everyone can grow nice seeds for nice food and especially the one who mak a living with…


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