FERN’s Friday Feed: Who’s taking American jobs?

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

Americans want forestry jobs, but they also want to get paid

FERN and High Country News

“Tree-planting, like thinning timber, picking cherries or peaches, milking cows, tending strawberries in pesticide-laden fields, and so on, [have all been] declared jobs Americans won’t do,” writes Hal Herring in FERN’s story with High Country News. “Manual labor, even skilled manual labor, has become the province of desperate men and women imported from foreign lands.” But Herring, who planted trees in the West on a forest crew during much of the 1990s, argues that it’s not for lack of interest that U.S. citizens rarely take forestry jobs. Republicans, he says have tried to strangle the Forest Service’s budget, making it ever-more difficult to pay the fair price that Americans used to earn. Instead, the agency goes with the lowest bid, almost always a contractor who hires foreign workers on H-2B guestworker visas.

Cuba’s organic revolution

FERN and The Guardian

In Cuba, a movement of rural, organic farms is trying to both feed the island’s people and heal its soil, writes Roger Atwood in FERN’s story with The Guardian. In recent years, Cuba has been romanticized as an island full of urban farms, but in reality the government imports 60-80 percent of the nation’s food and farmers make abundant use of agro-industrial chemicals and synthetic fertilizers on their farms. But more growers are seeing the virtues of organic. “Numbering from 40,000 to a quarter of a million — depending on whom you ask and what exactly is meant by ‘organic’ (standards are not always known or consistently followed) — this movement of farmers sees locally grown, nonindustrial farming as a vital part of the solution to Cuba’s chronic food shortages,” writes Atwood. “Many of them consider organic farming nothing less than the future of Cuba’s socialist revolution; others see the potential for exports to European and eventually U.S. markets.”

Why the American media ignored 41 million hungry Americans

The Nation

When the Department of Agriculture published its annual report on hunger, the press did nothing. The number of food insecure Americans reached 41 million this year, more than the combined populations of Texas, Michigan, and Maine. But “this year’s report — released on September 6 and filled with worrisome trends — has been met with silence,” writes Eric Alterman. “I have not been able to find a single mention of it in the mainstream media: not one national television news program, major newspaper, or national radio show. NPR and the Associated Press have always reported on it in the past, according to Joel Berg, the CEO of Hunger Free America, but both ignored it this year.” Alterman blames the fact that as a country we’ve let Trump bombard the news, distracting us while “his own class of robber-baron cronies … quietly rape the earth, pollute our shared natural resources, and seek to destroy what remains of our personal freedoms and democratic norms.”

Eating like mom

The Fader

“As an adult I find myself regurgitating my mother’s ways while fighting to escape them,” writes the photographer Gioncarlo Valentine, who grew up in and out of homeless shelters, while his mother fed the family on food stamps. With meals so unreliable, Valentine says he learned to gorge himself when food was around and to eat late at night like his working mom. Today, as a gay black man, he intimately photographs his struggle with weight and a body that won’t obey.

Turning Flint’s tragedy into fashion


In response to the tainted-drinking-water crisis that is still playing out, artist Mel Chin “has teamed up with fashion designer Tracy Reese and the Queens Museum in New York City as part of his Flint Fit project that will turn water bottles from the city into raincoats, swimwear and other articles of clothing,” writes Roberto Acosta. The bottles will be gathered from homes and community centers in Flint, converted into thread and fabric at a factory in North Carolina and then returned to Flint where seamstresses will make finished products out of the material. “It’s about something that is empty, like a water bottle, fulfilling the potential of jobs and manufacturing that has also been lost,” said Chin.

Photo by Bruce Piepenburg (Hal Herring on the left)

Join us 11/9 for FERN Talks & Eats SF

We hope to see you at our upcoming FERN Talks & Eats event in San Francisco on the evening of 11/9, at the Ferry Building. In partnership with CUESA — the organization that operates the world-renowned Ferry Plaza Farmers Market — we’ll present “The Empty Plate: Fighting Hunger in the Age of Trump,” a spirited panel discussion about the state of hunger and food security under the current administration and what individuals, activists, and communities are doing to address it. Come to the panel and afterward enjoy a reception with bites from the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. There is also a VIP dinner the night before! Buy tickets now!

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