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Satisfactory Tomatoes, and Not So Hard Times

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

An infamous book by the title "Hard Tomatoes, Hard Times" (Hightower, 1972) pointed to how industrial food just did not taste very good, and, that farmers and others in agribusiness had extremely low, and often negative, profit margins.

This book was an indictment of the US Land Grant University System, which going back t0 1862 when the Land Grant Universities were first created (with additions represented in Research and Extension later), basically bears the bulk of the responsibility for the nature of the food we eat, and, to some extent, for the profit that can be made while producing and distributing it. What lessons have we really learned?

Land Grant Universities... and each US State has one!... are largely responsible for the kind of food products we find on our tables every day. Food related research on animals, plants, chemicals, fertilizers, machinery, food processing... virtually every dimension of the food system... has come out of these Universities, and, from the many individuals who were trained in them, who now work for private entities in the agricultural and food sector.

A reasonable proposition from the Metaeconomics Framework (MEF) and Dual Interest Theory (DIT) needing empirical test is that Hard Tomatoes arise because of the lack of sufficient Empathy by the producers with the consumers. Another reasonable proposition is that Hard Times arise because of the lack of sufficient Empathy by the consumers with the producers. Producing better tasting food, which would also generally require higher food prices, made possible in an Empathy based shared Other-interest agricultural and food economy, would be more likely to produce both more Satisfactory Tomatoes and Not So Hard Times. This is ultimately about finding better balance in Market&Government. MEF and DIT suggest that the US Land Grant Institutions also need to see the role of Empathy, the shared Other-interest, and not just the Self-interest in making more Profit in the food supply and in inexpensive food to meet food demand.


Hightower, J. Hard Tomatoes, Hard Times: The Failure of the Land Grant College System. Washington, D.C.: Agribusiness Accountability Project, 1972.

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