Harvest Desk

At the beginning of Stephanie Danler's new Sweetbitter, there's an image of a girl, Tess, driving over the George Washington Bridge. We don't really know much about her. She's come to New York City to leave her past behind — a common experience. She falls into a job at a landmark restaurant, loosely modeled on Union Square Cafe.

­­­­­­American farms should be in full swing right now. But some farmers are running behind, waiting on work visas for planters and pickers from out of the country. The H-2A visa program is delayed for the third year in a row.

It sounds like the setup to a bad joke: A professor and a doctor walk onto a farm.

Kathleen Terrence, a pediatrician, kneels in an onion field outside Lisbon, N.Y., with a bunch of kids. As they prepare to plant some 30,000 onions, they're all taking tips from Mark Sturges — but he's no farmer, either. He's a literary critic.

By the time his first memoir, Fresh Off The Boat, came out in 2013, Eddie Huang was really hitting his stride. His New York restaurant, Baohaus — which serves gua bao, or Taiwanese hamburgers — was doing really well. His TV show, Huang's World, was taking him all over the world.

The Food and Drug Administration seems intent on bringing sugar out of the shadows.

Not only will food companies have to reveal, right on the package, how much sugar they've added to food; they also will have to call it by its real name.

Andrew Herrington slips on a battered green backpack, stashes a .308 bolt-action rifle under his arm and steps off a boat onto the steep, rocky shores of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

"It's about a half-mile that we're going to walk up to for those traps," he says.

In almost every circumstance, hunting is strictly forbidden at national parks. But there's an exception to that rule. Herrington's job is to hunt at Great Smoky Mountains National Park for an invasive and hugely destructive species: feral hogs.

Nigerian tomatoes are tasty and juicy. But a large basket of toms is now costing an arm and a leg. From about $10.40 three months ago, that price has rocketed 400 percent to a staggering $40, according to local media.

After several boom years while the rest of the economy struggled, farming is entering its third year on the bust side of the cycle. Major crop prices are low, while expenses like seed, fertilizer and land remain high. And that means farmers have to get creative to succeed.

Modern crop farms in the Corn Belt are sophisticated businesses. So put aside your notions of bucolic red barns surrounded by a few cows. And pull out your best business school vocabulary, because crops are commodities.

A slaughterhouse is a safer place to work than it used to be, according to a new government report. But data gathered by federal regulators doesn't likely capture all the risks faced by meat and poultry workers.

Whenever I'm out reporting in the field, I can tell many ranchers have a powerful connection with their cattle — it seems they can almost understand them. But researchers today are digging deeper to figure out exactly what cows are saying — and how they communicate through their moos.

I drove out to the research farm at the University of Missouri to ask cattle geneticist Jared Decker to share his expert insights.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

One of the country's largest pizza chains faces a lawsuit over alleged wage theft.

New York's attorney general accuses Domino's Pizza of systematically undercounting the hours worked by employees at its franchises.

The case could deliver big changes in the fast-food industry and beyond.

When you own a Domino's franchise there are some rules you just have to follow.

It was the tasting that revolutionized the wine world.

Forty years ago today, the crème de la crème of the French wine establishment sat in judgment for a blind tasting that pitted some of the finest wines in France against unknown California bottles. Only one journalist bothered to show up — the outcome was considered a foregone conclusion.

"Obviously, the French wines were going to win," says George Taber, who was then a correspondent for Time magazine in Paris. He says everyone thought "it's going to be a nonstory."

Roberta Siao, a Brazilian immigrant in London, found that her dual status as a foreigner and mother made it impossible to find work. Yet at Mazi Mas, a London-based pop-up restaurant and catering service focused on training and employing immigrant and refugee women, she has found more than just a paying job. She tells her story in her own words.

A 5,000-year-old brewery has been unearthed in China.

Archaeologists uncovered ancient "beer-making tool kits" in underground rooms built between 3400 and 2900 B.C. Discovered at a dig site in the Central Plain of China, the kits included funnels, pots and specialized jugs. The shapes of the objects suggest they could be used for brewing, filtration and storage.

It's the oldest beer-making facility ever discovered in China — and the evidence indicates that these early brewers were already using specialized tools and advanced beer-making techniques.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

A new label on some of the steaks in your grocery store highlights a production process you may never have heard of: mechanical tenderizing.

This means the beef has been punctured with blades or needles to break down the muscle fibers and make it easier to chew. But it also means the meat has a greater chance of being contaminated and making you sick.

The labels are a requirement from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that went into effect this week.

The new, redesigned "Nutrition Facts" label is coming. The Food and Drug Administration has announced that the new label will be required on most packaged food by July 2018.

Young people want meals that are quick — and also fresh and healthful and interesting.

But can they get all of that for less than five bucks?

Three weeks ago, Youth Radio and NPR asked you to send in pictures of the best meals you can purchase for five bucks or less.

Based on the submissions to the #5dollarchallenge, we're happy to report that a Lincoln can indeed buy quite a lot of deliciousness.

We're facing a kind of food revolution, and my generation is driving it.

Not so long ago, when fast-food giants reigned supreme, takeout meant cheap, quick, greasy meals. But a recent Goldman Sachs report found that people under 35 are now demanding food that's fresh and healthful — as well as fast.

Later this week, in hundreds of cities around the globe, from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, to Lancaster, Pa., protesters will "March Against Monsanto." Will they still march if there's no Monsanto?

Mention the concept of food waste, and for many people, it's likely to conjure images of rotting fruit and vegetables or stale meals unfit for consumption.

But a lot of the food that gets tossed out in America — some $162 billion worth each year, enough to fill 44 skyscrapers — is fresh, nutritious and downright delicious: think plump eggplants, bright yellow squashes, giant, vibrant-orange carrots with a crisp bite. The kind of beautiful produce that would be perfectly at home in, say, this giant vegetable paella made by celebrity chef José Andrés and his team.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Researchers in Arizona are fighting fire with fire. They're collecting new data on a wasp that may help slow the spread of citrus greening, a plant disease that has devastated millions of acres of citrus crops, particularly in Florida.

In a dimly lit hut made of mud and straw, a shaft of sunlight slices through a hole in the ceiling and lands on a bag of rice. Debendra Tarek, 80, pulls out a handful of the rough brown grains and holds them up to the beam of light.

His bare chest is sunken, and his eyes glow deep in their sockets. "This resists the saltwater," the village elder explains through an interpreter. This variety of rice, he says, allows his family to remain here on Ghoramara, the island where they were born.

Before I had a child, I only occasionally set foot in the many parks in our neighborhood. Now I spend so much time in them that I can tell you about every swing set, picnic table and unfenced patch of grass within a two-mile radius. Also the location and cleanliness quotient of every park restroom.

The National Academy of Sciences — probably the country's most prestigious scientific group — has reaffirmed its judgment that GMOs are safe to eat. But the group's new report struck a different tone from previous ones, with much more space devoted to concerns about genetically modified foods, including social and economic ones.

In the best of times, opening a new restaurant is risky. But doing it in Libya – where political conflict and economic crisis have reigned since dictator Moammar Gadhafi was toppled in 2011 — takes true courage.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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