Editor’s Desk: FERN, busy-bee edition!

Illustration by Delphine Lee.

By Theodore Ross

It’s been a productive time at FERN HQ, with lots to share. (Editor’s Note to the Editor’s Desk: FERN is a remote workplace; our “HQ” is Slack.)

We’ve published two more stories in the Farm Bill Fight, our special series in partnership with Mother Jones:

  • The farm fill hall of shame,” by Claire Kelloway, looks at pivotal moments in the history of the farm bill. Racial injustice, the rise of Big Ag, the creation of a farming nanny state, and the spread of climate denial — each of these issues has a backstory, Kelloway writes, “some ill-fated and others shameful.”
  • In “The essential workers missing from the farm bill,” FERN staff writer Teresa Cotsirilos argues that “Congress has had many chances to bolster labor protections in the 18 versions of the farm bill it has passed since 1933, [but] it has instead largely ignored the needs of the workers who plant, tend, harvest, and process the nation’s food.”

From North Carolina, Duncan Murrell delivers a deeply reported — and surprisingly heartfelt — feature, “Growing tobacco in the United States no longer makes sense,” co-published with The New Republic:

“Tobacco is a crop with few redeeming qualities,” Murrell writes. “You can’t eat it, you can’t build houses with it, you can’t feed hogs with it, and the billion-plus people who smoke it … end up dying by the millions each year.” Yet we do. Murrell explores the economics, history, and heritage that pushes tobacco growers to keep raising this deadly crop–and what will make them stop.

Finally, there are two installments on REAP/SOW, FERN’s podcast feed, that were part of the special food issue we produced with Switchyard, a new literary magazine and audio show from the University of Tulsa and Public Radio Tulsa:

  • The Sioux Chef’s decolonized cuisine from the Switchyard Podcast” is an interview that I did with Sean Sherman, co-owner of Owamni, a James-Beard-Award winning restaurant in Minneapolis that is decolonizing food by using Indigenous ingredients and cooking techniques.
  • In “Weaponized food from the Switchyard podcast,” longtime FERN contributor Ted Genoways interviews Jori Lewis and Siddhartha Deb, two writers who took on popular foods and their fraught cultural history — the racist legacy of watermelon, and the Hindu nationalist politics of beef in India.

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