FERN’s Friday Feed: Can grazing save the grasslands?

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

In Oregon, ranchers and conservationists work to save a treasured prairie

FERN and The Guardian

In eastern Oregon, an experiment is underway to determine whether conservationists and ranchers, two groups often at odds, can work together to stave off development, support ranch economies and preserve biodiversity on the Zumwalt Prairie, America’s largest remaining bunchgrass prairie. “Cattlemen and conservationists are not natural allies,” writes Lynne Curry, in FERN’s latest story. “[The Nature Conservancy] is attempting to bridge this divide by using science to demonstrate that the goals of livestock producers and conservationists can coexist—and make the entire Zuwalt ecosystem healthier in the process.”

How the Japanese got umami


“Most of the world will not have heard of Japan’s indigenous people, let alone their food,” writes Ellie Cobb. “The Ainu are the original inhabitants of Hokkaido, who have called this island and parts of the surrounding region their home for many thousands of years, living on and with the land. Unlike the Japanese, who practiced rice farming, the Ainu traditionally hunted, foraged and fished. Their food culture was rich and vibrant – and had a distinct and lasting impact on Japanese cuisine. ‘Without Japan’s indigenous people, you wouldn’t have that Japanese taste that’s so famous,’ said Remi Ie, Director of Japan at Slow Food International.”

Will Wisconsin’s farmers stick with Trump?

The New Yorker

“As rural Wisconsin’s fortunes have declined, its political importance has grown. Trump won the state by less than twenty-three thousand votes. If the 2020 election is close, Trump could lose Michigan and Pennsylvania—the other Rust Belt states he flipped in 2016—and still win a second term by holding Wisconsin,” writes Dan Kaufman. “In June, as Trump’s poll numbers dropped nationwide, the Washington Post reported that his campaign advisers were losing hope for Michigan and Pennsylvania, and would focus on holding Wisconsin.”

A microwaved meal in a Michigan prison to honor George Floyd

The Counter

As global protests broke out in response to the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, Michael Thompson, an inmate at the Muskegon Correctional Facility in Michigan, “wanted to gather with others to … pay tribute to a man’s too-short life, and condemn the unjust conditions that ended it. As the unrest continued outside, Thompson came up with a way to mark Floyd’s death inside: a special meal that he’d share with the inmates in a ‘celebration’ honoring Floyd’s life.” Their mise en place? One microwave, some empty popcorn bags and a few plastic knives.

In Washington State, 24 billion cherries and not enough people to pick them

The New York Times Magazine

For years, the tree-fruit industry in Washington — like the salad industry in California, the blueberry industry in New Jersey, the tomato industry in Florida and countless other sources of the things that we eat — has been struggling to find the workers it needs to keep producing food. Across the country, the number of farmworkers is dwindling. Then this year the coronavirus hit. “Piled on top of everything else, this is enough to take people to their knees,” said Karen Lewis, a tree-fruit specialist for the agricultural extension service of Washington State University.”