FERN’s Friday Feed: Let them eat … eh, nevermind

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

Why are GOP governors taking food out of the mouths of poor kids?

FERN and Mother Jones

“When I spoke to Mandi Remington in late January, she had $7 in her bank account and had run out of milk. At times like these, which happen toward the end of most months, she cobbles together ‘stone soup’ from what’s in the house, she said, or feeds her three children and then makes her own meal from whatever is left on their plates. So when she found out that Iowa, where she lives in Iowa City, is among the 15 states that decided not to participate in Summer EBT, a new federal food program that would have sent her $40 a month per child while they were out of school, ‘it was extremely frustrating,’ she said. Iowa wasn’t the only state to refuse the funds: Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, and Wyoming opted not to enroll by the early January deadline. All of those states have one thing in common: They are helmed by Republican governors.”

The farm bill hall of shame

FERN and Mother Jones

“The farm bill is among the most important pieces of legislation that Congress is more or less obliged to pass. Yet to all but a handful of people whose job it is to parse its every incremental gain or loss, it is largely inscrutable.” As Claire Kelloway writes, “Every five years we’re treated to bitter fights over things like the use and abuse of agricultural subsidies; attempts to defund SNAP; the notion that environmental stewardship should guide farm policy as much as increasing production; and how (and sadly whether) to build equity into an agriculture system with a racist history. But the backstories to these fights, some ill-fated and others shameful, can provide important context and help to clarify exactly what’s at stake. Over the last 90 years there have been several key farm bill moments, the consequences of which shape the debates ongoing today.”

What the neighbors think

Ambrook Research

“At the time of Leroy’s passing last January, we had lived in Iowa for five years, moving back to John’s family farm after decades in the Bay Area. We had transitioned the farm from Leroy’s leadership to ours,” writes Beth Hoffman. “Suffice it to say that life — and farming — were challenging. We were trying things on the farm that weren’t just new to us and Leroy, they were largely new to the area’s conventional farming community. As a result, there were numerous false starts and giant failures, alongside our wins … As the five years quickly passed, it was clear that — although we were now two exhausted mid-50-year-olds — the land was happy about the transition, as were the animals … But what did the neighbors think, my family, friends, and book readers always wanted to know. How did they react to our grass-finished beef ways, our no-chemical crops, our weed-eating goats? Did the community look at us askew because I came from the city and our farming techniques were so unconventional?”

Tasting Indian Creek

Oxford American

“I lived on Indian Creek with my grandparents after my mother suffered a nervous breakdown. Within my family unit … I felt like I belonged to no other place and to no other people,” writes Crystal Wilkinson. “This was, of course, due to the stories my grandparents told and a deep generational sense of belonging to the land … [M]ost of my memories of [my grandmother] are nestled in the growing, the cooking, the preservation of food. Hoeing the garden. Stroking the long necks of the yellow squash. Stirring butter beans in a pot. Pouring hot bacon grease over new lettuce, onions, and cucumber. Canning runner beans. Every morning of my childhood, my grandmother donned an apron and cooked breakfast. Slow. Precise. Deliberate. She equated food with love, and she cooked with both a fury and a quiet joy. She fried bacon, sausage, or country ham. She scrambled eggs. The eggs came from our chickens. She made biscuits from scratch. The lard was rendered from our pigs. The milk from our cows. She rolled out the dough and threw flour into the air like magic dust. She churned butter, made the preserves from pears, peaches, or blackberries that she had harvested herself.”

Save the whales, sure, but what about the sardines?


“Last fall, I found myself on a whale watching tour of the waters around New York City,” writes Russell Jacobs. “It was a perfect day, weatherwise, and we saw a lot of whales … At one point, when a section of the water began to boil with baitfish, our tour guide announced that we might see a lunge — a dramatic feeding behavior in which a whale leaps out of the water from below, perfect for photo-ops and close looks … As the fish continued to froth at the surface, Riverkeeper’s habitat restoration manager, George Jackman, borrowed the microphone to help everyone see the forest for the trees. Menhaden are, Jackman announced, ‘the most important fish in the sea. They’re the linchpin that converts phytoplankton into a biomass that brings striped bass, bluefish, porpoises, tuna, and whales around.’ Not that you would know it. Throughout most of the history of modern conservation, smaller ‘forage’ species—schooling fish like herring, anchovies, and sardines—have been more or less ignored.”