Editor’s Desk: Hot Farm wins award!

By Samuel Fromartz

Two years ago we made a fateful decision: When a funding opportunity arose to explore climate change in the Mississippi River Basin, we thought, What about a podcast? This wasn’t an obvious choice because we’d never done a podcast, but we forged ahead anyway. The result was Hot Farm, our four-episode series released this past spring. Yesterday, Hot Farm won the Insight Award for Explanatory Journalism from the Institute for Nonprofit News — a network of hundreds of nonprofit news organizations. For those of us watching the online presentation, a virtual cheer went up. With more than 90,000 downloads, broadcasts on nearly 40 public radio stations, and now this award, the bet paid off. 

If you haven’t given Hot Farm a listen, the series looked at how climate change is coming for your food. In the American Heartland, farmers are battling increasingly severe weather, with epic floods and heat. We talked to farmers big and small across the political spectrum, and heard about what they were facing. “The podcast takes listeners inside the lives of farmers who are trying new things to address climate change with great reporting and front-line storytelling,” INN said. Special thanks to lead producer Eve Abrams, editor Alison MacAdam, and reporter/producers Dana Cronin, Rachel Yang, and Travis Lux. We also thank the Walton Family Foundation for their support of this project.

For one historically Black California town, a century of water access denied

The town of Allensworth, California. Photo by Craig Kohlruss.

Among FERN’s recent stories, I also wanted to draw your attention to a piece about the oldest Black town in California that has been struggling for a century for water access. Reported by FERN staff writer Teresa Cotsirilos, in collaboration with KQED’s The California Report, it tells the long sordid water history of Allensworth in the Central Valley and how its current leaders are working to finally get reliable access to clean water.

Teresa, by the way, was a finalist for an INN Breaking Barriers award, for her story on farmworkers who toil in fire zones in California. Following that story and pressure by advocates, Sonoma County revised its guidelines for farmworkers, banning the harvest of wine grapes within fire areas. We produced that story in collaboration with Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting.