FERN’s Friday Feed: How black farmers were stripped of their land

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

The Atlantic

“Unlike their counterparts even two or three generations ago, black people living and working in the Delta today have been almost completely uprooted from the soil—as property owners, if not as laborers,” writes Vann R. Newkirk II. “Owners of small farms everywhere, black and white alike, have long been buffeted by larger economic forces. But what happened to black landowners in the South, and particularly in the Delta, is distinct, and was propelled not only by economic change but also by white racism and local white power. A war waged by deed of title has dispossessed 98 percent of black agricultural landowners in America.” For more on this issue, read FERN’s 2017 story on heirs property, published with The Nation.

“Over the past two decades, the 2 degrees Celsius number has emerged as a critical threshold for global warming,” write Steven Mufson, Chris Mooney, Juliet Eilperin, and John Muyskens. This estimate has felt far-off to many. But the warming has already arrived in part of the United States. “Today, more than 1 in 10 Americans — 34 million people — are living in rapidly heating regions, including New York City and Los Angeles. Seventy-one counties have already hit the 2-degree Celsius mark.” Higher winter temperatures in states like New Jersey and Rhode Island are the first harbingers of climate change to come.

The arrival of rosé strawberries

The New Yorker

Driscoll’s has developed a “millennial pink” strawberry, hoping to capitalize on the demographic’s alleged love of all things rosé. “In strawberries, red means ripe. Red means sweet. White or pink strawberries, we tend to think, are sour, unripe, a coming cramp,” writes Dana Goodyear. But the flavor of the rosé berry is “subtle, a floral, peach perfume, the kind of taste you hunt for by eating more, one you can smell as much as you can taste.”

The impacts of Hurricane María on Puerto Rico’s diet


“After María, people got used to eating easy-to-make, less expensive, processed foods. We became accustomed to the lack of items like plantains, breadfruit, and fresh pigeon peas, and we created new menus without realizing the long-term impacts this behavior would have,” writes Salvador Gómez-Colón. “Conversations about natural disasters often focus on the crippled infrastructure and a lack of access to water and electricity. We overlook the effects natural disasters have on our culture and identity. To satisfy its needs in a time of crisis, Puerto Rico modified its menus. Most of us don’t realize how far we’ve strayed from how were our meals were nearly two years ago.”

Are the banana’s days numbered?

National Geographic

A fungus that threatens banana plants has arrived in the Americas, setting off a panic about the future of one of our favorite fruits. “Banana agriculture is itself partly to blame for the potential of the fungus to spread,” writes Myles Karp. “Commercial plantations grow almost exclusively one clonal variety, called the Cavendish; these plants’ identical genetics mean they are also identically susceptible to disease. The practice of growing crops with limited genetic diversity—technically called monoculture—aids in cheap and efficient commercial agriculture and marketing, but it leaves food systems dangerously vulnerable to disease epidemics.”