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Organic, Inc.: Natural Foods and How They Grew

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  262 ratings  ·  37 reviews
Who would have thought that a natural food supermarket could have been a financial refuge from the dot-com bust? But it had. Sales of organic food had shot up about 20 percent per year since 1990, reaching $11 billion by 2003 . . . Whole Foods managed to sidestep that fray by focusing on, well, people like me.

Organic food has become a juggernaut in an otherwise sluggish fo
Paperback, 336 pages
Published March 5th 2007 by Mariner Books (first published March 5th 2006)
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3.61  · 
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 ·  262 ratings  ·  37 reviews

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Sep 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
The search for organic products is no longer the concern of hippies, religious devotees or strident activists. Recent food scares about alar and BSE (mad cow disease), e.g., mean that many people are taking very sharp looks at where and how their food is prepared. Because of these concerns, the organic market now means big business and supermarkets, corporations as well as farmers all want their share.

Mr. Fromartz is a business journalist and his dedication to his subject, which spanned two year
Dec 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The story of how organic has grown from a movement to an industry has become almost cliché. Still, Sam Fromartz is able to plow fresh ground with Organic Inc. By beginning and ending the story with the Harvey case, he frames the dilemma that organic faces quite well. It is not just a matter of scale or money. It is also a question of what kind of change organic wants to create. Fromartz captures with respect the original vision of organic, and at the same time clearly explains the reasons for th ...more
Feb 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
I have always given "organic" food a big thumbs up! I love it when it is priced so I feel I can afford it. I understand that it is better. I encourage the husband toward organic gardening. In short,I'm a fan.

Yet I didn't really know what it meant. More importantly, I didn't know what it meant to not be organic. I'm learning and I love it.

This book is about the business of organic farming. It has a lot of numbers. Numbers don't really work for me. But I am trying. I started reading two days ago
Mark Desrosiers
Oct 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: People who care about what they eat
Shelves: food
Fascinating history: I was unaware that the organic movement had a founding father in Sir Albert Howard, nor that J.I. Rodale and his Prevention magazine were under constant attack from the American Medical Association.

Scary chemical tales: I'll never eat a non-organic strawberry again after discovering that (non-organic) farmers pump the equivalent of tear gas into the soil to drive away pests.

Frustrating economics: the larger story seems to be that organic production is largely incompatible wi
Oct 17, 2009 rated it really liked it
Very readable history of the organic food industry puts a face on some of the key people involved. Fromartz also clearly lays out the debate between organic purists and those whose primary mission is to get organics to the masses. A must-read for anyone who wants to understand the issues and arrive at an informed opinion about where the industry should go from here.
Aug 28, 2011 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jonathan Kauffman
Sep 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Sam Fromartz traces organics from their countercultural roots to a multi-billion-dollar industry, from noble ideals to complex regulations (and compromises).
Marta Veenhof
Jun 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Overall a decent book, dense at some points. Some favourite quotes:

"Wendell Berry said, "It is, of course, one of the miracles of science that the germs that used to be in our food have been replaced by poisons.""

Page 194 - "Environmental groups, which since the 1970s had pressed for clean-water and clean-air laws and stringent regulations over pesticides, raised awareness about the value of organic food. Consumer groups mobilized grassroots campaigns to protect the organic sector whenever it wa
Leonard Harpster
Jun 21, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book focused primarily on the culture and personalities of the people that made organic food trendy in the 1970s, but was light on the science separating organic food from non-organic. I was less interested in the characters and specific company names than in the broad trends in what we eat. Is our diet getting better or are there misteps in the food supply that are contributing to the massive shift to an unhealthy populace that is currently proceeding? I didn't expect this book to answer t ...more
Jan 26, 2010 rated it liked it
Yay, I'm finally finished this one after a cycle of reading some and then re-shelving it!

Fromartz pursues the topic with painstaking efforts to remain unbiased and detail-oriented. His work confirms my premonitions about the nebulous policy-making and the elusive customers surrounding the organic industry. But at the same time, Organic Inc. serves as an education for those of us not only interested in the hard-earned history and personal successes at the core of the industry, but the forces at
Apr 29, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, garden
Loved learning about the origins of Earthbound Organic (and bagged salad in general) and soy milk and a bit about Whole Foods.

Lost a star for the sections on regulations and various organic governing bodies which totally lost me - there were too many acronyms that were too similar and it was all super uninteresting and hard to read.

Would love an overall update because I'm sure things have changed quite a bit since 2005 (and 2007, when the author wrote an updated afterword for the paper release)
Jan 13, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: great-nonfiction
I found this book fascinating. I loved the narrative framework and the ocean of information. Fromartz is a pretty brilliant writer. On a personal note, I wasn't anticipating my own conflict over the food I buy. Neither did I ever consider the political, moral, historical or enviromental implications of my ingredient choices. I found this book surprisingly thought-provoking and, fittingly, very fresh. I'd like to reread it with Ben sometime.
Meg Funk
Oct 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I rarely give a book 5 stars, but this one was really informative. At times it was slow moving, because of all the heavy concepts and history, but it really did break down when and how organic farming started and gave me a whole new appreciation for the Farmer's who grow our food! If you like to hear the story behind products, love organic food or Farmer's Markets you need to read this!
Nov 03, 2009 rated it liked it
This was a very enjoyable book to read about the Organics industry and how it started, boomed and ended up in Wal-Mart. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the organics movement, food or industry. Most interesting was how the author chronicled how the movement became an industry, and challenged the reader to wonder (or at least contemplate) if that is all bad.
May 11, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2009, nonfiction
A fairly good overview of the history and factors in the growth of the movement around organic food including various controversies. He even manages to get in some slight discussion of class issues. He does a decent job of maintaining a neutral perspective, and depicting the disagreements between the business perspective and the small farm/locovore one as well.
Aug 25, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is not a book about the merits of organic farming or food. Well, maybe a little, but the author's goal is not to preach the organic gospel. Instead, he lays out the history and market forces that created the organic industry while giving us a deep look into the inner workings of the farming and food packaging industries and their tangled relationships with government regulation.
Apr 04, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who shop at Trader Joe's and Whole Foods
Recommended to Shannon by:
Shelves: 2008
I thought this would have been written by a die-hard organic food enthusiast. But Samuel Fromartz is a lot like me -- he wants to do the right thing to support farmers, the environment, and his health, but he's to going to cook every meal with food hand-selected at the farmer's market. Overall, a well-researched, thorough look at the organic food industry.

Mar 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
I basically read this book on a plane on my way back from France, w/ like 2 chapters left. It was really good, it talked about everything relating to organic, the standards & how it became to be what it is. The whole process, what it really means & what farmers have to go through. It was pretty damn interesting to see some of the things they threw out there, like organic twinkies. Silly.
Apr 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle
It's always a pleasure to read a well-written book about something dear to my heart. If I were teaching a seminar on contemporary American agriculture and the way our society eats, this would be at the top of the reading list along with Pollan, Kingsolver, and "Righteous Porkchop." Not exactly a revelation, but informative and interesting, as well as a quick read.
Ethicurean Reads
Oct 26, 2008 rated it liked it
Ethicurean post: Organic, Inc. - A Cheeto by Any Other Name

Chronicling the growth of a cultural movement from its genesis as an ideal vision of farming, food and health to a multibillion-dollar industry. A tale of what happens when ideals meet the marketplace.
Nov 21, 2009 rated it really liked it
After reading this book I feel I am now a more informed organic consumer. Before reading this book I had my thoughts on what organic is: local, sustainable, fresh, pesticide/antibiotic free food. I now also understand the basics of the history of the organic movement and the struggles that it still faces.
Nov 11, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: food-essays
I usually read about organic from the radical movement perspective, so it was refreshing to learn about the business aspect of big organic.

Informative, but I couldn't help thinking that I had read this all somewhere else before.
Jan 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people in a love/hate relationship with m. pollan
alice waters used to think 'organic' read 'healthy,' i.e. gross and resisted the label on her cooking.
mesclun mix is french !
some farmers cannot resist the temptation to get huge. others cannot stand it.

i like food gossip. this book is full of it. full !
Jan 19, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Venessa, Amelia, Wanda
B+ I was surprised at how much I ended up liking this book. He is truly interested (and makes truly interesting) how organic foods and the industry grew from something so small to such a huge thing…really fascinating stuff in here. A good read for anyone interested in organic and natural foods.
Jul 12, 2014 rated it liked it
As someone who tries to eat a healthy diet, I found this book filled with lots of interesting tidbits about how the organic food industry got started. I got it from the library, but I kinda wish I had bought it, since it's a book I could see myself referring back to for information.
mis fit
Mar 06, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: food
Lots of interesting stuff in here-- it is a quick and entertaining read. Useful for thinking about consumer choices and the relationship between markets and ideals.
Martha Fiorentini
May 24, 2016 rated it liked it
Interesting story regarding organic foods origins
Michael Harrington
Interesting read. Mostly stuff I already knew, but does provide background into the business of organic food in America.
May 27, 2007 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Has several good insights on the Organic food industry but is in a very hard to read format.
Jun 21, 2010 added it
Shelves: did-not-finish
I'm on page 69 of 336 of Organic, Inc

It wasn't bad. I prefer fiction generally. I may go back and finish it sometime.
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