FERN’s Friday Feed: Can a snail save coffee?

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

The New York Times

“It’s not exactly what you want to think about when you’re sipping your morning coffee or waiting for your favorite pour over. But a potential solution to one of the biggest threats of coffee production has been found in the bright orange excrement of a voracious gastropod called the Asian trampsnail,” writes Maria Cramer. “It turns out that the invasive snail species is a greedy consumer of coffee leaf rust, a crippling pest that has threatened coffee production for decades and shut down small coffee plantations.”

What don’t we want to eat in a crisis?


“As with many crises, one way we’ve measured these early weeks of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak has been in supermarket lines and emptied shelves,” writes Aaron Mak. “But there are a few consumer attitudes that even a run on supermarkets cannot erase: Some foods are just that unappealing.” In their shopping trips, Slate staffers observed chickpea pasta, chocolate hummus, kidney beans, and plant-based meats lingering on the shelves.

The cloud of suicide hanging over Midwest farmers

USA Today Network and Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting

American farmers are “saddled with near-record debt, declaring bankruptcy at rising rates and selling off their farms amid an uncertain future clouded by climate change and whipsawed by tariffs and bailouts. For some, the burden is too much to bear,” write Katie Wedell, Lucille Sherman and Sky Chadde. “The problem has plagued agricultural communities across the nation, but perhaps nowhere more so than the Midwest.”

The Rumpus

“My pregnant grandmother walked through miles of man-made bombs in North Korea to reach the south,” writes Maria T. Allocco. “Once a wealthy woman, she now wore her remaining possessions. A local South Korean woman allowed my grandmother to enter her empty shed. There, my grandmother gave birth to my mother. The woman made my grandmother miyuk gook (seaweed soup). Fed it to her. It is tradition to serve seaweed soup to new mothers. Also to loved ones on birthdays. Both birth and survival are miracles.”

Do we have the will to raise livestock on grasslands?


“We have the knowledge and the tools we need to fix agriculture. We can imagine and point to examples of an agriculture that fosters healthy people, communities and ecosystems,” writes Randall D. Jackson. “What’s been lacking is courageous leadership at all levels of government to create, support and fund programmes that catalyse transformative change to perennial grassland agriculture.”