FERN’s Friday Feed: Costco samples, American food primer

FERN’s Friday Feed: Costco samples, American food primer

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

A love song to Costco


“While my parents and their friends peruse the enormous shelves, I prowl the sample stands. This is one of the only times I get to eat American food. My parents don’t patronize American restaurants out of a combination of fear and disdain,” writes Yuxi Lin. “For a while at lunch I was dumping out the fried rice my mother cooked because the white kids said it looked funny, but I quickly ran out of allowance money to buy chicken nuggets. I make a beeline for the old ladies in hairnets doling out cut-up Hot Pockets or lone nachos with salsa. More than anything, I lust after the microwavable cheese-filled pierogies. ‘Trash food,’ my mother calls them. I tell her that I aspire to be a trash can.”

How the oyster shuckers became oyster farmers

Modern Farmer

“On that April day, when they pulled their farm’s inaugural baskets of bivalves from the warming waters, [Bryan] Rackley was astonished that they’d successfully grown any of the mollusks to maturity,” writes Jennifer Kornegay. “‘We’re so new at this, I was kinda amazed we kept them alive. Then, Matt was driving them back to Kimball House for their debut and got a flat tire, so that was stressful,’ he says. ‘And when we got to the restaurant with them, I had daydreamed about cheers and showers of Champagne, but nope. It was a busy night. We got to work like usual—shucking and serving hundreds of oysters. Only this night, some of those oysters were ours. That was pretty special.’”

The fight to take Hawaiian agriculture back from the GMO giants

The Guardian

“Rain clouds cover the peaks of the west Maui mountains, one of the wettest places on the planet, which for centuries sustained biodiverse forests providing abundant food and medicines for Hawaiians who took only what they needed. Those days of abundance and food sovereignty are long gone,” writes Nina Lakhani. “Rows of limp lemon trees struggle in windswept sandy slopes depleted by decades of sugarcane cultivation. Agricultural runoff choking the ocean reef and water shortages, linked to over-tourism and global heating, threaten the future viability of this paradise island. Between 85% and 90% of the food eaten in Maui now comes from imports while diet-related diseases are soaring, and the state allocates less than 1% of its budget to agriculture.”

‘Peecycling’ our way to sustainable agriculture

The New York Times

“In the rural county where I live,” writes Robert Leonard, “[w]e simply don’t have enough people … to fill the open positions. One local manufacturer told me last week that all three shifts are in full operation for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, and that he desperately needs more workers. The story is the same in many parts of rural America, where most of America’s domestic production of food, fuel, and fibers … comes from. Much of this labor is seasonal. Without labor, companies die. While the entire country is suffering from a labor shortage, rural America is particularly hard hit, in part because many rural Americans are moving to larger metropolitan areas. We need immigrants. Every rural manufacturing leader I have spoken with, regardless of party affiliation, wants immigration reform.”

Cognitive dissonance in America’s dairy land

Washington Monthly

“Farmers respect hard work, family, devotion. With few exceptions, the Mexicans they hire share these qualities. Mexican fathers milk cows while trying to parent misbehaving sons living 2,000 miles away with their mothers. Immigrant hands send wages home to build houses they hope to move into one day when they can return to their country. They work six- and seven-day weeks for years on end, doing jobs no American will do for the low wages the farmers pay,” writes Brian Alexander. “[Ruth] Conniff’s farmers marvel at all this. Some come not only to respect the immigrant laborers, but also to love them. But Conniff also makes the perversity clear, both explicitly and by implication. Farm owners twist in the convoluted political gymnastics that enable them to vote for Trump in 2020 while also supporting their workers’ ability to live in the United States despite being here illegally.”