FERN’s Friday Feed: The shadow of hunger

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

I escaped poverty, but hunger still haunts me

The New York Times

“Paradoxically, the worst of poverty’s afflictions becomes a tool for managing it,” writes Bertrand Cooper. “When I was poor, I would skip meals to buy inhalers for my asthma. I would skip meals to pay for car repairs. I would skip meals to support my partner’s education and my own (and she’d do the same). Since you can get by with very few clothes, and rent is not something that can be adjusted on a whim, food costs are the easiest lever to pull.”

A family works together to fill the freezer

High Country News

“For weeks that fall, we had been boating upriver or taking four-wheeler rides looking for moose, but each day we came home with less food than we left the house with,” writes Laureli Ivanoff. “No meat. No bones. No fresh tongue and heart for the next day’s soup. We still had some meat from the moose Timm had harvested the year before, but it wasn’t enough to last another winter. Finding this moose was like gaining possession of the basketball with 15 seconds left in the game when your team is one point down: excitement, matched by the hope that you don’t screw things up.”

The ‘lost crops’ of America complicate ag’s origin story

The Atlantic

“The lost crops tell a new story of the origins of cultivation, one that echoes discoveries all around the world,” writes Sarah Laskow. “Archaeologists have now identified a dozen or more places where cultivation began independently, including Central America, Western and Eastern Africa, South India, and New Guinea. Even in the Fertile Crescent, the old story of a single agricultural revolution does not hold. People there domesticated more than one kind of wheat, and they did it multiple times, in disparate places. The agricultural revolution was both global and fragmented, less an earthquake than an evolutionary shift.”

Historic abuse in the onion fields of Georgia

The Bitter Southerner

“Last fall, as Vidalia onion farmers tucked their seedlings into winter beds, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia unsealed a 54-count indictment in USA v. Patricio et al detailing felony charges for two dozen conspirators accused of mail fraud, international forced labor trafficking, money laundering, and witness tampering,” writes Shane Mitchell. “The exploitation of farmworkers and fraudulent misuse of the H-2A visa program were core to the charges. The indictment stated that over the past seven or more years the Patricio organization mailed false petitions seeking employment for over 71,000 foreign laborers and illegally profited over $200 million from the scheme.”

Undocumented workers, outlaw farmers, an illegal industry


“If you buy marijuana illegally somewhere in the U.S., there is a very good chance that it was grown by people like Isabella, Maria and Leticia. The women exist in one of the deepest cracks in U.S. labor law: undocumented agricultural workers at an off-the-books worksite in an illegal industry,” write Natalie Fertig and Eleanor Mueller. “Legalization was supposed to squelch the illicit marijuana market. Instead, it’s thriving in places like southern Oregon, where illegal weed farms are camouflaged beside their legal counterparts … The murky legal environment has made this region and others … magnets for human labor trafficking.”