.Local Teacher Takes on Industrial Agriculture

Former elementary school teacher Mary Flodin remembers getting the flu every fall. Or at least she thought it was the flu. 

So did many of her coworkers at Pajaro Valley Unified School District. Eventually, they realized that they were all getting sick when farmers began fumigating neighboring berry fields. Then, school employees and students started coming down with a rare bone cancer, one that also affected farmworkers nearby, Flodin says. She also heard reports of spikes in miscarriages, autoimmune disorders, rashes and endocrine-related health problems. 

Flodin, who’s now retired, wrote a novel, Fruit of the Devil, based on a true story about the dangers of pesticides. “We became activists, and it’s a story about all of that,” she says.

She is hosting a book launch event at the Santa Cruz Food Lounge on Friday, Nov. 8—with two friends, musician Elise Ferrell and Ann May, a local artist and quilter. 

You write that it’s a ‘cli-fi’ eco thriller. Does that have to do with climate change?

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Yes, it does. And it is an academically recognized genre. But the New York publishing industry has been slow to figure it out. It means exactly what you think. It’s fiction that deals with climate change, and often has a science-fiction/fantasy edge to it.

Do you have a message for berry lovers?

Absolutely. Strawberry is a wonderful fruit. It’s nutritious and delicious, and people should eat strawberries. But it is meant to be a seasonal fruit, and people should buy strawberries locally in season from organic growers. And please avoid commercial berries. 

We are in acute climate change crisis, and we need to change all of our human systems to sustainable systems. And that that includes our agricultural systems. We must transition to an ecologically sustainable, socially and environmentally just method of growing, distributing and consuming our food.

Mary Flodin will launch ‘Fruit of the Devil’ on Friday, Nov. 8, at 5pm at the Santa Cruz Food Lounge, 1001 Center St., Santa Cruz.


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