Episode 1: The 100-Year-Old Nogales Produce Sector
Hosts: Ali Berlow and Hannah Semler
Guests: James Martin of Wilson Produce LLC and Jamie Chamberlain of Chamberlain Distributing Inc.
Six billion pounds of fresh produce enters into the U.S. through Nogales, Arizona each year destined for the U.S. market; this has been steadily growing over the past 100 years. With some digging, we soon find out that this very efficient food system, able to provide such enormous quantities of nutritious food, essential for human health, representing 84% of fresh produce on our shelves in winter, does not always make it to sale.
To understand the produce rescue effort at Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, that redistributed 100 million pounds the past three years, we first take a look at the businesses in Nogales. This is the second largest trade port between US and MX (second only to Pharr/McAllen, Texas) and its rich history, and the personalities running businesses there, will change your thinking around how this country feeds itself forever.
We speak with Jaime Chamberlain, of Chamberlain Distributing, and James Martin, of Wilson Produce, to understand their role in our food system, as they trade in nutritious fresh produce grown in Mexico to feed people all over the U.S and Canada. Perspectives on the importance of their contribution range from proudly stating that the U.S. has the cheapest fresh produce in the world, therefore making it most accessible to people, all the way to wanting to ensure that the produce being grown is done so with regenerative organic quality standards, and with as little waste as possible.
Season 1: The Nogales Arizona Port of Entry: a food rescue perspective.
Feeding the U.S are farmers, distributors and food banks working across the U.S.-MX border, to provide 84% of our country’s fresh produce in the winter months. Produce rescue efforts in Nogales led by Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona have redistributed 45 million pounds of that (at least) to our food insecure populations in the US every year for the past three years. In Season 1 of What is American Food? we follow from the Farm in Mexico, to the Distributor in Nogales, to the Community Food Bank in Nogales and Tucson, and the people impacted by this food.
How Mexico is inextricably linked to our nation’s food security story, is widely unknown or misunderstood. The amount of produce, but also the number of people touched by the millions of pounds of produce being moved, creates a new narrative about the value of the food we eat (and don’t eat) in the US. The Nogales Port of Entry, and the farms in Mexico feeding this country through Nogales, are a part of our US food system.
The podcast storytelling around Nogales will help create a common understanding of why Mexico-grown produce cannot be left out of conversations during current and future emergency responses to public health crises, such as COVID-19. Future chapters of What is American Food? audio and web content will cover other aspects of the North American food system, telling our collective story of “American” food, and how regional and local systems work to feed us as well.
Audio Editing and Engineering: Ian Carlsen