Our Impact

National Magazine Award finalist: Switchyard Food Issue

The Switchyard Food Issue is a finalist for a 2024 National Magazine Award in the category of Single-Topic Issue. This is one of two National Magazine Awards for which FERN is a finalist in 2024.

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National Magazine Award finalist: Alone on the range

Alone on the range is a finalist for a 2024 National Magazine Award in the category of Public Interest reporting. This is one of two National Magazine Awards for which FERN is a finalist in 2024.

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FERN Explains Why Federal Crop Insurance is Currently Flawed

In "Why are we paying for crop failures in the desert?," Stephen Robert Miller explains to readers that, although extreme heat is not going anywhere, year after year, Southwest farmers keep planting thirsty crops on parched land. Why? Because the American taxpayer keeps footing the bill for their losses.

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Why a Climate-Smart Ag Program is Complicated

In "Can Biden’s climate-smart agriculture program live up to the hype?," Gabriel Popkin looks at the reasons why there are both supporters and skeptics of a USDA program that plans to pay growers more than $3 billion to adopt practices — like planting cover crops and trees — in an effort to mitigate climate change.

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Using Fungi to Mitigate Forest Fires

In his story, "How mushrooms can prevent megafires," Stephen Rober Miller describes how thinning forests to prevent fires produces a lot of sticks and other debris, which in turn produces a fire risk. So scientists are using fungi to turn those trimmings into soil.

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Alaska Community Faced with Snow Crab Fallout

Over the last few years, 10 billion snow crabs have unexpectedly vanished from the Bering Sea. For her story, "A remote Alaska village depended on the snow crab harvest for survival. Then billions of crabs died.," Julia O’Malley traveled there to find out what the Alaskan villagers of St. Paul Island might do next.

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FERN Looks at Dark Side of Seaweed Farming

In "Climate savior or ‘Monsanto of the sea’?," Bridget Huber digs deep into seaweed farming, which is being hyped as a major weapon in the fight against climate change. But skeptics say the rush to build industrial-scale operations risks unintended consequences.

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FERN Investigates Police Killing of Meatpacking Worker

Officials at a massive pork plant with a history of labor violations called the cops on a disgruntled employee. Why did he end up dead?

In "A police killing on the packing line," Ted Genoways recounts the tragic details of the police shooting of a Sudanese refugee at a hog plant in Oklahoma, and the coworker who was fired for recording the incident on his phone.

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Louisiana Tribal Community Faces Climate Change

In "As climate change erodes land and health, one Louisiana tribe fights back," Barry Yeoman brings us to Dulac, Louisiana, where Devon Parfait, the new chief of the Grand Caillou/Dulac Band of the Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw, is getting reacquainted with a community that is in the midst of a climate crisis.

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Peach Farming with Ghosts

In Lisa Morehouse's audio story, "Peach farmer ‘Mas’ Masumoto talks about farming with ghosts," a collaboration with KQED's The California Report, we learn how labor and lessons can present themselves in the soil of grapevines and orchards, and the importance of passing these on to the next generations.

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California Town Aims to Remove Racist Water Policies

In "Facing the floodwaters in California’s San Joaquin Valley," a collaboration with KQED's The California Report, Teresa Cotsirilos digs into the deep-rooted struggles of the historically Black town of Allensworth. The residents there are trying to overcome a legacy of racist water policies and prevent a deluge from washing away their community.

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FERN Finds Most Child-Labor Violations in Nation’s Food Sector

For her FERN exclusive story, "The child workers who feed you," Teresa Cotsirilos dug into investigation data from the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division and found that more than 75 percent of recent child-labor violations were committed by employers in the food industry.

The agency uncovered more than 12,000 child labor violations in the nation’s food system between Jan. 1, 2018 and Nov. 23, 2022. Investigators found minors working illegally at vegetable farms in Texas and California, at dairy farms in Minnesota and New Hampshire and at poultry plants in Georgia and Mississippi. Children are involved in every step of the food supply chain, working illegally from farm to table.

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U.S. Policy Traps Migrant Workers in Southern Mexico

In "Our Mango Republic," a collaboration with The Nation, Esther Honig explains how countless people have been trapped in Tapachula, a sprawling Mexican border town where many of the migrants take jobs in agriculture. They are helping to bolster the region’s multimillion-dollar export industry—and harvesting the coffee, bananas, and mangoes destined for the very country responsible for keeping them here.

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Microclimates Could Help Pollinators Survive

In the FERN exclusive, "A chilling effect: How farms can help pollinators survive the stress of climate change," Lela Nargi explains that refugia are viewed as “relatively buffered” from climate change and a haven for vulnerable species. A refugium might be found in a sheltered valley along a river, with plenty of cover from trees. As extreme heat and drought wither plants, obliterate pollen, dry up water sources and make it harder for bees to function or find food — not to mention, threaten the human food supply — a refugium’s cooler, damper microclimate could help all manner of species survive.

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Midwest Tribe Partners with Historical Nemesis to Halt Sacred Plant’s Decline

In "The future of wild rice may depend on an unlikely alliance," published in collaboration with The Nation, Nancy Averett explains that when University of Minnesota researcher Crystal Ng won a grant to study wild rice in Ojibwe waters, tribal members reacted to her with anger. Ng spent a year listening to their concerns and now works closely with a tribal wild rice technician.

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Cell-Cultured Meat Poses Questions About Cancer

In "Lab-grown meat has a P.R. problem," published in collaboration with Bloomberg Businessweek, Joe Fassler explains that although leading scientists agree that cultured meat products won't give you cancer, the industry doesn't have the decades of data to prove it, so it's trying to avoid the question instead.

These cultured meat companies are desperate to avoid their products being fixed in the public’s mind as a bunch of lab experiments, but they also realize that an extended fight about the scientific technicalities of cellular profiles risks forging exactly that association.

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Why California’s Farmworkers are in a Food Crisis

In "Extreme weather means less food for California's farmworkers," published in collaboration with WBUR's Here and Now, Teresa Cotsirilos explains that farmworkers who harvest the nation’s food are paid so little that they can’t always afford to eat. Now extreme weather events — many of them fueled by climate change — are making matters worse.

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The Case of the Shrinking Salmon

In "Trouble at sea," a story published in partnership with bioGraphic, Miranda Weiss explores the reasons why Pacific salmon are shrinking in size. Hatchery salmon, from the booming aquaculture industry, routinely escape into the ocean, where they compete with wild salmon for a food supply already diminished by climate change.

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