American Proscenium

The Food Crisis

These are bad times to be an eater in America, as anyone who has suffered sticker shock at the supermarket can tell you.  The cost of necessities such as bread, milk, and eggs has risen steadily in the last two years—by as much as 30 percent in some parts of the country.  Vegetables, fruits, meats, cheeses—all are climbing.  Even that most sacred of goods, beer, is skyrocketing in cost.

In part, the rise in food prices is a function of the cost of gasoline.  Food travels a long way—1,200 miles, on average—to reach American stomachs.  It does so because American manufacturers, giddy at the bounty wrought by the Green Revolution and the advent of jets and container ships, long ago taught American consumers to abandon the idea of seasonality.  We have come to expect bananas, oranges, tomatoes, corn, and the like to be available year-round, requiring the transportation of strawberries from Chile, citrus from South Africa, tomatoes from Ecuador, hothouse lettuces from France.

Our farmers return the favor.  Near my home in the Arizona desert stands a vast complex of greenhouses.  Its name, EuroFresh, tells the story, for those greenhouses, 164 acres devoted to tomatoes alone, provide much of the produce consumed on the continent in wintertime.

Why European greenhouses do not grow food for Europe, and American greenhouses for America, is a complex matter of international trade, treaties,...

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