There must be a better way. Reuters/Francisco Bonilla

It's a loss to farmers and consumers alike.

Nogales, Arizona, is the largest inland food port in the world. Much of the fresh produce trucked up the "food superhighway" of Mexico's west coast comes through there—and a shocking amount of it doesn't travel much farther, dropping into local landfills instead of being sent to consumers.

It's a loss to the farmers who harvested the food and to the consumers who would have eaten it, argue filmmakers Jesse Ash and Phil Bucatello, who made an eight-minute documentary featuring Gary Paul Nabhan, a former MacArthur fellow and advocate for sustainable food reform. The film opens with footage of just-ripe tomatoes being bulldozed.

"If the Florida tomato prices drop on a certain day," Nabhan narrates, "120,000 pounds [of tomatoes] might be thrown into a landfill" in Nogales, while much smaller quantities might end up in food banks or in livestock feed.

Cut to Yolanda Soto, the CEO of Borderlands Food Bank: Borderlands "rescues" between 30 and 40 million pounds of produce each season and distributes it to rural residents, providing fresh fruits and vegetables at less cost than the nearest grocery stores. "Vegetables are expensive," says Soto, and the area has "a very, very high rate of diabetes."

Nabhan is perturbed that this is happening in southern Arizona, where high rates of food insecurity coexist with significant biodiversity: "If we can't use that biodiversity to make life better for the very people who live here, something is wrong."

About a quarter of the produce Americans eat comes through U.S.-Mexico border towns. Beyond changing wasteful practices in the produce-trade supply chain, Nabhan wants to see more people growing their own food.

Nabhan spearheads Native Seeds/SEARCH, a "grassroots movement to preserve the agricultural legacy of southern Arizona," which stores and distributes ancient crop seeds to local farmers and community gardens.

"Man in the Maze," embedded above, won the Bill and Melinda Gates-sponsored Sundance Institute Short Film Challenge in 2015.

This post originally appeared on Quartz, an Atlantic partner site.

More from Quartz:

Happiness Is a Great Measure of Success, But How Do We Measure It In an Unequal World?

Watch: Arctic Sea Ice Levels Dropped To a Record Low

The Science of Why Stepping on Legos Makes You Want to Die

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A cat lays flat on a bench at a park on the outskirts of Tokyo.
    Life

    Why Don't Americans Use Their Parks at Night?

    Most cities aren’t fond of letting people use parks after dark. But there are good lifestyle, environmental, and safety reasons to reconsider.

  2. A photo of a cyclist on the streets of Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood.
    Equity

    Can Historic Preservation Cool Down a Hot Neighborhood?

    The new plan to landmark Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood aims to protect more than just buildings: It’s designed to curb gentrification.

  3. Design

    What Cities Can Do to Help Birds and Bees Survive

    Pollinators—the wildlife that shuffle pollen between flowers—are being decimated. But they may still thrive with enough help from urban humans.

  4. Detail of a Brutalist building.
    Design

    Can This Flawed Brutalist Plaza in Boston Be Fixed?

    The chain-link fences are finally down at Boston’s long-closed Government Services Center, thanks to some clever design updates.

  5. a photo of a woman covering her ears on a noisy NYC subway platform
    Life

    My Quixotic Quest for Quiet in New York City

    In a booming city, the din of new construction and traffic can be intolerable. Enter Hush City, an app to map the sounds of silence.   

×