Editor’s Desk: The farm bill animated, a first for FERN

Dear reader,

Truth be told, we’ve been swamped at FERN lately — which is a good thing! In just the past week, we’ve published a slate of stories and released our first video animation that explains the contentious farm bill now working it way through Congress.

What is the farm bill and why does it matter?” In just over seven minutes, we answer those questions and show how the compromises that made the bill work for decades are breaking down, threatening to pull the whole thing apart. The piece was reported by Bridget Huber, a regular FERN contributor, and our design, illustration and animation team made it an especially rich piece. We hope you’ll take a look.


As for our stories, we kicked off this run with Ben Goldfarb’s poignant report from Mexico, “The end of the panda of the sea,” published by Pacific Standard. It tells the story of the vaquita, a porpoise found only in the Gulf of California that seems headed for extinction—probably this year. The tragedy is compounded by the fact that the vaquita is simply bycatch for desperate fishermen chasing totoaba, a neighbor of the porpoise whose bladders sell in China for tens of thousands of dollars.

Next up, we headed to Puerto Rico, where Audrea Lim describes the agro-ecology movement to remake farming on the hurricane-ravaged island. “Can farming save Puerto Rico’s future?” was the first in a series we’re doing with The Nation on the various ways communities are adapting to climate change around the world.

From rural Puerto Rico, we went inside New York City’s high-tech world of indoor urban farming in a piece with Edible Brooklyn, “Will high-tech indoor agriculture transform local food?” Rene Ebersole asks whether these farms can move beyond supplying high-end restaurants. And if so, what will the impact be on local farms? While these ventures seem a promising way to feed our cities, there are no easy answers.

If you like this kind of journalism, please consider a gift to support it. FERN is in the midst of its mid-year fundraising campaign, and any donation — especially a recurring monthly amount — would help. Our video alone cost several thousand dollars. But we thought it a worthy investment, because it unpacked a complex issue at the heart of our food system. We need to raise $10,000 between now and the end of June to boost our editorial spending on the kinds of deeply reported, powerfully written stories on food and agriculture that you look to us to provide. Please, donate now.

Best regards,
Sam Fromartz
The Food & Environment Reporting Network