FERN’s Friday Feed: How hops rescued American beer

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

How hops became the star of American brewing


“The past 15 years have witnessed a spectacular surge in craft brewing in the United States; more than 85 percent of Americans now live within ten miles of a brewery. U.S. beer culture, once a punchline, has become the most vibrant on earth,” writes Christopher Solomon. “The hop industry has been a beneficiary and driver of this renaissance. Hops once were considered a drab ingredient, tossed in mainly to preserve the beer, thanks to antibacterial properties of the resins found in hop flowers, which are also called cones. Today, hops are the star of American brewing.”

The problem with making nature pay for itself

Anthropocene Magazine

In the early 1990s, “bioprospecting” promised to deliver life-saving drugs, new income sources, and a halt to deforestation. Giving pharmaceutical companies access to “indigenous organisms for their therapeutic potential,” the thinking went, would raise the standard of living for the desperately poor people who lived in the rainforests where much of this biodiversity existed, allowing them to stop carving farmland from forests. A win-win-win. It was an early example of the effort to integrate conservation and development, and it failed miserably. “Bioprospecting disappointed,” writes R. David Simpson, “because advocates hoping to align economic forces with conservation didn’t appreciate how economic forces work.”

Your food isn’t ‘natural,’ and it never will be


The fear of food adulteration was a problem in the past, it’s a problem today, and will be a problem tomorrow, writes Benjamin R. Cohen. “Pure food crusaders thought they had solved it for good; we probably think we’ll solve it now. They didn’t, and we won’t. Adulteration’s presumed antithesis, purity, is a dreary if not constant pursuit.”

The ‘grinding moral calculus’ of deciding to dine indoors. Or not.

The New Yorker

“Many would-be diners fear that going to restaurants is an un-worthwhile ethical compromise, one that potentially imperils their own health and that of the workers who make sit-down restaurant meals happen,” writes Helen Rosner. “I’ve seen chefs and restaurateurs lash out on social media at those whom they deem insufficiently supportive of the industry’s return … I’ve found a measure of relief in a simple piece of advice passed along by a friend: pick three businesses that matter to you and your community—a manageable number—and then pour everything you can into making sure they come out O.K. on the other side.”

South’s patchwork health system failed farmworkers

Southerly and The Daily Yonder

Even before the pandemic, migrant farmworkers in the South were at the mercy of a “patchwork healthcare system” that left them largely without adequate information and services. So it’s not surprising that they “have been largely overlooked in public health responses to the pandemic,” writes Timothy Pratt. “This insufficient healthcare infrastructure has made it difficult to slow the spread of Covid-19 in rural areas of the South. Tests are hard to access. Contact tracing is nearly absent. Living and working conditions for farmworkers can make it impossible to quarantine or isolate. Federal and state regulations on safe working conditions are lax.”