Come, Mister Tally Man

A few years ago, I was walking through the fruit section of my local co-op. I was in upstate New York, so it was no surprise that to my left I saw apples and berries. But set out on a little table in the middle I also saw some bananas, hailed as local grub from a small farm outside of Buffalo.

The bananas were hideous. They did not look yellow, or even green, or any color I’m used to seeing, for that matter. They were tiny, too, and very bruised.

I passed them up, wondering what kind of interesting hippie lady would put in the effort that it must take to grow bananas – BANANAS! – in upstate New York. Why would she do such a thing with her life? Doesn’t it bother her that her crop looks almost inedible?

The vision of those poor little bananas made me wonder why, exactly, an alternative was necessary. Why couldn’t I just enjoy the bananas from the grocery store? They are beautiful and taste pretty good, especially the organic ones. They go great in cereal, on sandwiches, in shakes.

Buying bananas from the store might not be all that bad, if done wisely. But there was a reason my (presumably) hippie friend spent all that time making Buffalo into a tropical climate for her bananas.

The banana industry is one of the most corrupt industries in the world, with thousands of people – even entire nations – affected every day. Run almost entirely by large corporations with powerful lobbies, the people in and around banana plantations have very little defense against farming-related disease, extreme poverty, and ultimately being forced to migrate their families from their homelands.

This week we’ll be talking about bananas – the most popular fruit in the world – and the role of this otherwise perfectly innocent fruit in forced migration and the longing for home.

Don’t worry – the hope is not that any reader will feel inclined never to eat a banana again. The hope is that someday, somehow, we can enjoy this beloved fruit without causing murder, malformation and towns full of refugees.

Join in!

Have you heard anything about the banana industry before? What have you heard?

4 Responses to “Come, Mister Tally Man”
  1. Darrell says:

    Please consider General Smedley Butler’s great book “War is a Racket” available for free on the internet. It has lot’s of good banana stories.

  2. Justin says:

    Are there some good books on the banana business?

    • Joanna Miller says:

      If you search Banana Industry on Amazon, you’ll find a number of interesting books, some more scholarly than others. One of the most popular out there right now is Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World, by Dan Koeppel – but this book gives more of a history than current events.

      Most of the best work out there on the current issues in the banana industry is coming from academic groups and journals, so I would also look there. Particularly through labor studies and natural resources programs.

      Human Rights Watch has also done some reporting on the industry, especially in Ecuador –

      Lastly, a great resource that is just coming out right now is the documentary films Bananas! by a UK team. It is one of the most current records of what is going on in South American banana communities. It is about to premiere in Los Angeles and will hopefully be available to us non-LAers soon.

      I know these aren’t all books, but hopefully they help anyone looking for more info.

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