Enviva's wood pellet factory near Garysburg, North Carolina. Photo credit: George Steinmetz.

FERN’s Friday Feed: It’s not easy going green

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


U.S. forests fuel EU demand for ‘green’ energy

FERN and The Weather Channel

Wood pellets, once a merely residential product, fueling wood stoves and backyard smokers, now power massive electric utilities in Europe and the UK, where the government has subsidized the transition from coal and other fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. These pellets, produced from timberland in the American Southeast, are billed as a “carbon neutral” energy source, like solar or wind. But as Carson Vaughan reports in a new FERN story, the science on that is anything but settled.

Raisin hell

The New York Times

When Harry Overly was hired to run Sun-Maid, the country’s leading raisin producer, his goal was to get young people to eat more raisins. Instead, he ran headlong into an industry riven with hostility, suspicion, and a singular drive to raise prices—in any way possible. “What I figured out fast was that this was not an industry which was interested in figuring out how you grow the size of the pie,” he said. “It is one where they figure out how they just steal different slices of the pie from each other.”

You’ve got climate-change questions, the Times has answers

The New York Times

The global food system is responsible for a quarter of all human-generated greenhouse gases each year. So what you eat, and how that food is produced and transported to your plate, plays a role in the climate-change crisis. The Times uses its entire food section this week to unpack all manner of questions, from “Should I worry about whether my produce is local and seasonal?” to “How much impact do milk and cheese have on climate change?”

Toronto restaurant’s food-waste fix? Cut prices till you sell out.

FERN and NPR’s The Salt

Every Sunday at 5 p.m., the Farmhouse Tavern launches a series of “eight hourly food and drink discounts designed to attract and retain customers,” writes Jonathan Bloom in a new FERN story. “The goal is to sell out of perishable food and open bottles of wine so that Farmhouse can shut up shop with an empty refrigerator for the three consecutive days it is closed.” Says owner Darcy MacDonell: “It became clear that we would likely always struggle to get diners in after a certain point on Sunday evenings. I hate freezing stuff, and I hate throwing food out, so we needed to find a solution that would help us use up as much as we could before closing.”

‘The best food city you don’t know about’

Los Angeles Times

“For a city its size,” writes Lynn Yu—bigger than L.A., New York and Chicago combined—Chongqing “has somehow avoided the effects of globalization. It remains one of the most insulated food cultures for a major megalopolis.” No McDonald’s, no Italian restaurants. You eat what they eat, which means fiery hua guo (hot pot), suan la fen, a “sour and spicy bowl of sweet potato noodles, topped with fried peanuts and pickled vegetables,” and whatever the ubiquitous street vendors are saucing up, from pig ears to tofu.