Consuming Nature: Fresh Fruit, Processed Juice, and the Remaking of the Florida Orange, 1877-2014

2018-08-28T19:37:33Z (GMT) by Robert Hutchings
<div>This dissertation complicates popular and academic perceptions of</div><div>agribusiness as a hegemonic and environmentally destructive force. Using Florida’s</div><div>orange industry as an example, I focus on the life cycle of oranges—their production,</div><div>distribution, and consumption—and the interrelated activities of the people involved</div><div>in each stage. I argue that agribusiness is heavily dependent upon and constrained by</div><div>the attitudes and behaviors of different groups of people within and outside the</div><div>industry, and, because all of these interactions revolve around a commodity subject to</div><div>the whims of nature, that nature ultimately sets the parameters of the agricultural</div><div>enterprise.</div><div><br></div><div>During the first half of the twentieth century, distributors of Florida oranges</div><div>exercised their influence over the people in the production stage by transporting and</div><div>storing fruit according to their own cost-benefit analyses. In the process, they often let</div><div>fruit spoil at producers’ expense. Consumers exercised influence through their buying</div><div>power. Their decision to buy or not buy was rooted in assumptions about quality,</div><div>novelty, and exoticism, and these assumptions often more closely matched</div><div>Californian growers’ environmental realities than Florida growers’.</div><div><br></div><div>As a consequence of these two forces, Florida growers viewed the 1945</div><div>development of frozen concentrated orange juice as a technological fix to joint</div><div>environmental and market dilemmas. The juice was an enormous success with</div><div>consumers, and growers responded by exponentially expanding acreage. Yet, the fix</div><div>was ultimately a mixed blessing for growers. Juice processing companies, most of</div><div>which were owned by large national food corporations, took over the orange industry</div><div>and transformed growers into de facto employees. Equally significant for both</div><div>processors and growers was the fact that frozen juice necessitated constant</div><div>refrigeration to prevent spoilage, leaving them more reliant upon distributors than</div><div>ever before. It was also very capital intensive and thus they were more reliant upon</div><div>consumers than ever before as well. As a result, although Florida’s orange industry</div><div>became a multi-billion-dollar entity, the shift to frozen orange juice paradoxically</div><div>amplified rather than mitigated growers’ and processors’ struggle to make nature</div><div>profitable.</div>