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Organic, Inc.: Natural Foods and How They Grew Hardcover – April 10, 2006


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1 edition (April 10, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151011303
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151011308
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,041,970 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In recent decades, organic food—the idealistic, natural alternative to industrial agribusiness and processed packaged foods—has grown into a multibillion-dollar business. Fromartz's portrait of the adolescent industry reveals that that success has prompted an epic identity crisis. Big corporations like Kraft and General Mills own the bulk of the market, and half of all organic sales come from the largest 2% of farms, alienating those most committed to producing chemical-free fruits and vegetables on small family farms, and selling them locally. Business journalist Fromartz uncovers the trailblazers' tactics: how Whole Foods Market developed a religion of "moral hedonism," how Earthbound Farm launched a revolution with bagged salad mix and how Silk soy milk became "the number one brand in the dairy case, among all milk and soy milk brands." But if big business is now the muscle of the organic industry, Fromartz demonstrates that small growers remain at its heart. Fromartz's profiles—of pioneers who sell their produce at farmers' markets and foster cooperatively-owned, local distribution networks—deftly navigate the complexities of pesticide issues, organic production methods and the legal controversies surrounding organic certification. This is a pragmatic, wise assessment of the compromises the organic movement has struck to gain access to the mainstream. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Although initially attracted to organic food from his encounters with it as a cook, business journalist Fromartz scrutinizes this ever--growing industry from an economic perspective. He focuses on the raising of strawberries, a fruit perpetually in high demand nationwide. Citing the example of a California grower who grew berries both conventionally and organically under virtually identical conditions, Fromartz declares organic farming to be indeed economically viable. Fromartz also examines the use of chemical pesticides, initially lauded as agriculture's great savior until the appearance of Rachel Carson made public their baneful long-term effects. Fromartz finds a different but similarly successful road to economic success in the story of Earthbound Farms, whose leafy mesclun mixes now appear in markets all over the country. Lest today's organic food producers become complacent, Fromartz recounts the tale of Kellogg, a company whose founders cherished lofty aims of spreading health and nutrition but who ironically ended up promoting mass-market, sugar-laden cereals quite contrary to what they had originally envisioned. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Samuel Fromartz is a business journalist who began his career at Reuters in 1985. His first job was writing the "news ticker" that ran in New York City's Grand Central Station, condensing entire stories to 22 words (not unlike blogs today but without the personality). He then covered virtually every aspect of business, working as a correspondent and editor in New York and Washington, D.C. He left Reuters in 1997 to pursue a freelance career. His work has since appeared in Fortune Small Business, Inc., Business Week, The New York Times, and many other publications. His story on a bankrupt restaurant chain was published in Best Business Stories of the Year 2002 and in 2006 his book, Organic Inc. was published. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he currently lives in Washington D.C.

Customer Reviews

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Goes well with a dose of Michael Pollan and Marion Nestle.
D. patton
The problem seems to be that the organic movement itself is being challenged by the very agribusinesses it once eschewed.
Bright Wings
I recommend this highly readable and informative book to everyone.
Malvin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Malvin VINE VOICE on September 23, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Organic Inc" by Samuel Fromartz offers a good introduction to the natural food movement. Written primarily for a popular audience, the book combines research with short histories, case studies and profiles of prominent personalities and companies that have shaped the industry. Although the author's frequent interjections about his own personal experiences and infatuations with organics becomes somewhat annoying, overall the book succeeds in granting insight into the organic movement, its foundational ideals and the possibilities for the future.

Mr. Fromartz provides a brief history of organic farming as an alternative to a deeply flawed agro-industrial production system. We learn that organic methods were developed for ideologically diverse reasons but tends to produce nutritionally superior foods when compared with conventional farming practices. Although yields are usually smaller, the author discusses how organic strawberry farms in California are an example of how organics can outperform when allowing for decreases in energy and fertilizer input.

Mr. Fromartz profiles some of the small organic farmers whose deference to health, environment and community were shaped by the 1960s counterculture. A small but vital network of farmers, distributors and retailers supported a fledgling movement that defined itself by remaining outside the conventional food system. The author describes how such farmers often devised creative marketing strategies by catering to specialty restaurants or selling their produce directly to the public at farmer's markets.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Bright Wings on July 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Can big agribusiness and local organic farming co-exist and thrive? Samuel Fromartz' new book, Organic, Inc., is a fascinating journey through American agricultural movements, starting around the turn of the century, when farming was still a small-town venture and tracing its development into agribusinesses whose products are now found on most American tables - and the movement into locally grown, organic foods, which represents not so much a return to the past as a return to wholeness and healthy living.

The problem seems to be that the organic movement itself is being challenged by the very agribusinesses it once eschewed. There are really few ways to farm sustainably (which will in most cases mean organically and without genetically modified foods or chemicals) AND use the systems that have come to mean "factory farms" - livestock confined for their entire lifetimes in areas so small they cannot turn around or lie down (chickens, for instance, and pigs), never mind see the sunshine or walk around and enjoy fresh air, eating what they would eat if humans were not around.

Agrisystems, as they exist today, are basically unhealthy - and unsustainable. But they are profitable, and make it easy for "food" (if you want to call it that) to arrive at your table packaged neatly and processed to death. Rare are the children being raised today who knows what "food" looks like in its natural state. Do they know what a carrot or beet looks like, while it's growing in the ground? Do they know that the hamburger they eat comes from a being that has a face and makes sounds, and may (depending on your viewpoint) be sentient?
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Armchair Interviews on July 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
When you think of organic foods, do you mentally picture aging hippies in co-ops, small roadside stands, and stores with counter-cultural values? That image was probably valid until the 1980's, but has rapidly been displaced since.

Organic foods sales grew at 20 percent per year during the 1990s, attracting the attention of the food business. In the process, organic went mainstream and became an accepted niche market at grocery chains and even big-box retailers such as WalMart and Target. The author's real question is whether this represents "progress" or "problem" for fans of simpler lifestyles and all things organic.

The documented answer is some of both. Fromartz is a highly accomplished business journalist who takes a (mostly) unsentimental look at the business of marketing organic foods. Interviewing small and large merchants plus the `man on the street,' Fromartz discovers that organic is profitable and growing, yet at the same time poses a risk to traditional fans who are unlikely to shop at big boxes for the food they know and love. While the mainstream consumer `discovers' organic, the core organic customer may be wondering if she can trust anyone, anywhere, any more. This dilemma, the author notes, resembles putting up "a neon sign for an organic Twinkie."

After an entertaining and excellent investigative look at the business of organic, Fromartz holds out hope that both kinds of organic - mass market and small market - may find ways to thrive. For the core customer, related values like humane treatment of animals, fair market pricing, and sustainable agriculture may become more relevant indicators of value than the simple phrase `organic.
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