Month: April 2020

Some local strawberry farms have stopped growing strawberries. Why?

Around this time of year, Whitted Bowers Farm, an organic and biodynamic farm in Cedar Grove, usually would have rows of strawberries planted, with their varieties written out on signs. There would be baskets at their small shop, ready for people to pick into. But like some farms in the area, Whitted Bowers has stopped growing strawberries. Three years ago was when they stopped their staple. Why? The weather has been too wet and too bruising – literally, for tender strawberries. “A lot of things have to go right over the course of a season to get a strawberry crop,” said Rob Whitted, who co-owns the farm with his wife, Cheri Bowers. “If you’re lucky enough to get fruit sometime in mid- to late-April, then you’re hoping it doesn’t rain for a month. If you get one of those three inches of rain periods, they’re basically gone.” According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, which is headquartered in Asheville, North Carolina experienced its wettest five-year period from 2014 to 2018, with an average of …

Piedmont Wildlife Center gets new leadership

In the small cabin that is the office of Piedmont Wildlife Center, there are a turtle and a rabbit. In a few moments, a Barred owl emerges, perched on the arm of Gail Abrams, formerly the long-time executive director of the nature education nonprofit.

Her name is Athena, and she blinks, looking sleepy to be brought out in daytime.

She came to Piedmont in 2011. One of her eyes is blind. As she perches, she looks only at Abrams. “She’s bonded to me,” Abrams said, herself donning a shirt with a print of owls.

Outside, the drizzly rain makes the greenery surrounding the small cabin lush and abundant, almost overwhelmingly so. Chickweed, leafy docks, an elderberry bush and other plants, both beautiful and harmful, dot the landscape.

Karen McCall, the new executive director of the center, sits on the front porch to talk about the center’s mission and look ahead.

Photo gallery: The coronavirus crisis through the eyes of a photographer

Terror. Exhaustion. Bewilderment. Disappointment. Sadness. Anger. Despair? Hope? What are the emotions that we have experienced during the past month as the coronavirus crisis spread around the world? All of these and too many others. As the world began shutting down in March, photographer Bernard Thomas went into the world with his camera. Using his decades of experience and memories of Durham as staff photographer at The Herald-Sun, Thomas took photos of his day-to-day impressions of Durham as the crisis unfolded. The result is a powerful collection of images of sadness and desolation. And yes, there is hope. To view individual images on separate screens, click on the thumbnails below.    

Bernie Sanders drops out of the race

Bernie Sanders ended his 2020 bid for the presidency suddenly last Wednesday. After a hard campaign, he recovered from a heart attack to lead the remaining Democratic candidates in February with a big win in Nevada. But then, suddenly, he dropped out. Less than a week later, Sanders has endorsed Joe Biden. After Sanders’ own press secretary said she would not do the same because Biden doesn’t support Medicare For All, Sanders said it would be “irresponsible” to not back him. In February, there was an outcry over Sanders’ old remarks about Fidel Castro. The outcry was less about that people were worried this guy was an actual Communist than they instinctively guessed that Sanders and his supporters were about different things now than they were in 2016 — less hopeful, more about power. With the trajectory Sanders was on, were he and his supporters really willing to be full-on Socialists without taking into account the context of the world, the real-life needs, of the people he was going to serve? By dropping out suddenly, …

Fears, stress as Asian restaurants focus on survival during coronavirus

At Gourmet Kingdom in Carrboro during a recent lunch hour, the restaurant is empty. A statewide shutdown on restaurants is in place because of the coronavirus. Outside on Main Street, the air is still and baking hot. People wander, beleaguered and stressed. Inside the restaurant, the air is cool – there is still some normalcy. David Yu, owner of Gourmet Kingdom, is rushing from phone to kitchen with takeout orders and back to the phone, stopping to grab containers of soups. “Business has slowed,” he admits, taking down the mask he’s been wearing to speak with a reporter. When asked if people have been nice to the restaurant, he replies, “I know what you mean.” “There are some regular customers. They’re all pretty understandable. They don’t have any hostility toward us. They understand business,” Yu said. “It’s definitely worrying,” he added. “It’s more worrying than for people who don’t own businesses. Everybody worries about their health, to not catch the virus. I’m worried for this business to survive.” Yu hopes the Paycheck Protection Program will …

Our awful job market, 2015-now

A few years ago, I was at a store and a salesman was helping me. I could see he knew the products well. He was friendly, and intuitive, and knew the products and also how people usually interacted with them. In the end though, I decided not to buy. On my way out the door, I saw the owner smiling. He was glad that man, who was young, probably in his 20s, did not make that sale. That was probably the worst instance I remember of there being managers and owners who are actually glad when their most talented young workers are not making them money. So where are workers with skills and talent supposed to go? The job market and unemployment numbers don’t tell the whole story. The official unemployment rates keep going down. North Carolina’s unemployment rate in February was 3.6 percent. The U.S. unemployment rate was 3.5 percent. For the past year, that figure has stayed below 4 percent. This cannot be true because even in the years before the financial crisis, …