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Organic, Inc.

Natural Foods and How They Grew
by Samuel Fromartz

Reviewed by Rachel Levin

Organic Inc

Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, forecast the state of the organic food industry when he said, "We're on our way to the organic Twinkie." The very notion that a Twinkie, in all of its mass-produced, partially-hydrogenated splendor, could get slapped with the organic label is an object lesson in the tensions surrounding the rapid development of organic food production in America. In Organic, Inc., Samuel Fromartz traces the roots of the trend, ponders our national zeal for all things organic, and explores how an anti-industrial movement has come to be thoroughly embraced by big business. Fromartz enters the discussion from the vantage point of a business journalist, hobbyist home cook and organic consumer. His agenda is not to indict the industry but rather to report on its heterogeneous participants and social implications.

Each chapter uses a visit to a particular farm or farms as a springboard to examine the crucial issues. A chapter on a pioneering organic strawberry farm north of Santa Cruz, Calif., touches off a discussion of chemical pesticides and their potential dangers to humans and soil. A chapter on Earthbound Farms in Salinas, Calif.—which began as a two-and-a-half acre garden plot and now sells twenty-two million servings of organic salad each week—serves as fodder for the debate about whether the organic industry is betraying its founding ideals of “local” and “family owned.” Considering that discount retailer Wal-Mart has entered the organic arena with its own line of products, many farmers fear they will be undercut by big-volume producers. Yet Fromartz stresses that our desire for organic merchandise transcends such practices; as organic big business booms, so too will the unique branding of local, niche farmers. With such balanced analysis and well-researched insights, Organic, Inc. is the perfect primer to prepare you for the age of the organic Twinkie.

(Updated: 09/04/08 HC)

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