tomatoes and tomorrow

Serious backyard gardeners here in Whitehorse, who carefully watched the temperature in their greenhouses, already had metre-high tomato vines by May .

Serious backyard gardeners here in Whitehorse, who carefully watched the temperature in their greenhouses, already had metre-high tomato vines by May 1.

I complimented a couple of them in the downtown area as I walked my route picking up bags for the Whitehorse Food Bank during the last ecumenical food drive eight weeks ago. By now their first fruits should be well set, maybe even coming close to the table.

The late Richard Stuart, a noted Parks Canada historian, once told me the rich, unglaciated soils and long hours of summer sunlight around Dawson City made it the tomato capital of the territory a century ago. As I recall, he even mentioned it counting as a Yukon export, with the treasured fruit crated onto steamboats headed downstream for Alaskan markets.

Growing your own tomatoes, like gardening in general, links you to the soil. In an increasingly food-aware world, this might be a good starting point for getting a grip again on those first principles focused around family, community and stewardship of our environment that our global economic system seems to have woefully strayed from.

A recent BBC interview introduced me to a tomato-processing company trying to incorporate those first principles into its business. The Morning Star Company, founded in 1970 by Chris Rufer hauling tomatoes with his truck to California canneries, now accounts for “over 25 per cent of the California processing tomato production, supplying 40 per cent of the US ingredient tomato paste and diced tomato markets, with sales of approximately $350 million.”

This rags-to-riches story would be interesting, but not important if not for the Morning Star Company’s management model captured in part by its vision statement: “To develop and implement superior systems of organizing individuals’ talents and efforts, to achieve demonstrably superior productivity and personal happiness.” Its website goes further, highlighting their innovative self-management model.

As Rufer defines it, “Self-Management is the organizational philosophy represented by individuals freely and autonomously performing the traditional functions of management (planning, organizing, coordinating, staffing, directing, controlling) without mechanistic hierarchy or arbitrary, unilateral command authority over others.

“For Morning Star colleagues to be self-managing professionals, initiating communications and the co-ordination of their activities with fellow colleagues, customers, suppliers and fellow industry participants, absent directives from others.

“For colleagues to find joy and excitement utilizing their unique talents and to weave those talents into activities that complement and strengthen fellow colleagues’ activities. For colleagues to take personal responsibility and hold themselves accountable for achieving our Mission and shaping the Tomato Game.” (www.morningstarco.com)

The egalitarian, community building Morning Star approach fundamentally challenges the “grab with both hands” and “damn the human or environmental consequences” model notoriously pursued by many top executives.

“We should be thinking deeply,” argues Professor Kevin F. Hallock of Cornell University in a May article in Workspan (www.ilr.cornell.edu) when contemplating the fallout from the corporate pay disaster linked directly to the global financial meltdown, “about why 1) hourly earnings of workers at the bottom have been incredibly flat for the last generation, 2) only the top five per cent of workers have seen large earnings over that time, and 3) even against just these highly talented folks, the CEO pay ratio has doubled.

“But most importantly,” Hallock concludes, “we should be thinking about what, or whether these numbers forecast about future regulatory pressures and economic sustainability in the United States and other free-market economies of interest.”

Our backyard tomato, and those of the Morning Star Company, aren’t that different, nor are arguably the “putting people first” principles that underpin them.

Our national and international political and corporate leaders have some catching up to do.

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact pazypan@yukon.net.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25 after two masked men entered a residence, assaulted a man inside with a weapon and departed. (Black Press file)
Two men arrested after Dawson City home invasion

Dawson City RCMP are reporting a break and enter on Feb. 25.… Continue reading

Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn speaks to reporters at a news conference in Whitehorse on Dec. 21, 2017. New ATIPP laws are coming into effect April 1. (Chris Windeyer/Yukon News file)
New access to information laws will take effect April 1

“Our government remains committed to government openness and accountability.”

City council meeting in Whitehorse on Feb. 8. At Whitehorse city council’s March 1 meeting, members were presented with a bylaw that would repeal 10 bylaws deemed to be redundant or out of date. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Out with the old

Council considers repealing outdated bylaws

A bobcat is used to help clear snow in downtown Whitehorse on Nov. 4. According to Environment Canada, the Yukon has experienced record-breaking precipitation this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon will have “delayed spring” after heavy winter snowfall

After record levels of precipitation, cold spring will delay melt

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted online. (Black Press file)
Yukon youth being extorted online

Yukon RCMP say they’ve received three reports of youth being extorted on… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

Most Read