FERN’s Friday Feed: A farmworker dies; his family wants answers

Welcome to FERN’s Friday Feed (#FFF), where we share the stories from this week that made us stop and think.

The tragedy of one farmworker’s death from Covid-19

The Texas Observer and FERN

Marco Antonio Galvan Gomez, a 48-year-old husband and father from Guanajuato, Mexico, had spent eight years as a seasonal guestworker at Larsen Farms, one of the biggest potato producers in the nation, when he died of complications related to Covid-19 on July 20, as Dana Ullman explains in FERN’s latest story. He had spent the previous 12 days struggling to keep working despite suffering from fever, aches and shortness of breath; Larsen officials denied his request to return home to Mexico, and Galvan got no medical treatment from local health officials.

A novel, and a biscuit recipe, evolve together


As Caleb Johnson was writing his first novel, he was also trying to recreate his late grandfather’s legendary biscuit recipe. Both efforts faltered, as Johnson tried too hard to remain true to history. Then he stopped trying. “I … altered things on the fly. I fiddled with the ratio of flour to butter to shortening. I worked the dough less, gently folding it so the biscuits grew tall and tilted as they cooked,” he writes. “I began to write my novel this way, too … I accepted the notion that memory is not static. Like a good recipe or novel, it changes along with us. And so do the results.”

A Kansas diner’s dilemma: Reopen, or keep feeding the hungry?

The Washington Post

“When Covid-19 shut down Ladybird Diner in [Lawrence, Kansas] owner Meg Heriford and two former employees began making sack lunches for anybody in town who needed one,” writes Annie Gowen. “The need was acute — the homeless population had been increasing even before the pandemic, and 9,100 people in the county out of work.” As the city started to reopen, “Heriford faced an agonizing choice — should she try to reopen Ladybird Diner as it was, and if so, what about the people she’s feeding — the newly destitute families who come shyly, pushing their masked kids to the front of the line?”

With obesity rampant and Covid deaths rising, Mexico moves to ban junk food


“More than 70,000 Mexicans have died from COVID-19, the world’s fourth-highest recorded death toll,” writes James Fredrick. “Two-thirds of those who died in Mexico had an underlying medical condition such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular problems, according to Health Department officials. That has led to a new urgency to change diets so that the younger generation doesn’t suffer those ailments.”

Emails suggest meat industry shaped Trump’s executive order


“In late April, as COVID-19 raced through meatpacking plants sickening and killing workers, President Donald Trump issued a controversial executive order aimed at keeping the plants open to supply food to American consumers,” write Michael Grabell and Bernice Yeung. “[E]mails obtained by ProPublica show that the meat industry may have had a hand in its own White House rescue: Just a week before the order was issued, the meat industry’s trade group drafted an executive order that bears striking similarities to the one the president signed.”