Editor’s Desk — Staff writer Leah Douglas’s next move

This week we wrapped up the mapping project of Covid-19 outbreaks at food-production facilities and farms around the nation. This nearly 18-month-long project, spearheaded and updated almost daily by staff writer and associate editor Leah Douglas, came to an end largely because of a lack of reliable data. As Leah explains, companies and states have decided to keep much of their data secret, even with the rise of the Delta variant. But to date she has counted nearly 100,000 cases and 466 deaths among food system workers.

The timing also coincides with another milestone — Leah is moving on after three years at FERN to become an agriculture and energy reporter at Reuters. As an editor, I will miss her contributions, but I’m also gratified with how she developed as a reporter during her tenure here, preparing her for her next step at a global news organization.

Leah produced a good portion of the coverage that is now associated with FERN, whether on worker rights issues, ag concentration, or the challenges faced by Black and other farmers of color. She created her own beat at FERN and literally mapped it out in the case of our Covid-19 tracking project. We intend to build on her work with new staffers (we have two full-time openings).

We wish her the best of luck down the road. In the meantime, the Covid mapping project will remain live on our site.