Editor’s Desk: FERN’s very good night

Crab fishermens’ pots sit idle outside of the community of St. Paul since the crab crash and subsequent closure of the fishery. Photo by Nathaniel Wilder.

By Theodore Ross

There are good nights as an editor, and then there are really good nights. Say, for example, when you attend the James Beard Media Awards in Chicago, are a finalist three times in two categories, and win twice. One of those is for Foodways, an article by Julia O’Malley published in partnership with Grist, and even better, one of the other finalists is a story by Jori Lewis that you published in partnership with Switchyard. AND then, you are named winner of the 2024 James Beard Award for Best Food Coverage In A General Interest Publication, for the special food issue you did with Switchyard – and then you go to bed!

It’s good stuff. Or, as I told Switchyard editor Ted Genoways in Chicago, “I’ll be humble tomorrow.”

Well, it’s a couple of days later, and here’s how I think about those awards now. They are a testament to the hard work and talent of many people working toward a single, shared goal. There’s Genoways and Mary Anne Andrei at Switchyard and Katherine Lanpher at Grist; there’s Julia O’Malley and her expertise on salmon; all the things that Jori Lewis knows about the watermelon; Siddhartha Deb’s understanding of eating beef in India; Dan Charles’s knowledge of pesticides and bees; Sean Sherman’s insights into Indigenous cuisine; Tom Colicchio’s life; and more.

I’m grateful that we were recognized. It tells me something I already know: that the support we get from our readers is going toward something that works. It also tells me that partnerships and nonprofit media are a vital part of the present and future of journalism, and that’s not just something I know – it’s something I believe. And finally, it means that smart, rigorous, refined, in-depth reporting on food and the environment matters.

But this kind of work requires your financial support. Nearly half of our budget comes from donations from people like you. Without them, FERN can’t exist. Here’s a request for those who haven’t yet become a monthly supporter of our work. If you’ve connected with even just a few of the stories we’ve published this year, we invite you to join us today to keep our work going as we seek to raise $25,000 before the end of June. And now we invite you to dig a little deeper into your pockets so that we can continue to dig deeper into the food system. Please give now.