Food and garbage

Celebrating the folks who grow our food, and the demise of the E-R’s gossip feature

While I was in college, I mostly lived on a farm that’s been in my family for more than 40 years. My Texas-born grandfather was an orchardist later in life—growing almonds and walnuts—and raised some cattle on part of the property. His father was a big Texas rancher, but for my granddad, his small herd was more of a hobby. I think I can safely attribute my love of horses to being around him when I was a little girl.

My grandmother grew all manner of produce on the farm. I remember very clearly helping her search for asparagus spears, and picking blackberries from trellises my grandfather had fashioned from fence posts and thick wires.

Both of my grandparents passed away many years ago, but my time around them instilled in me a desire to grow my own food. It’s probably why I have such a great deal of respect for farmers and ranchers, particularly the small operations.

This week, we’re paying tribute to the little guy in agriculture with our first-ever farm-to-table issue, or what I’ve been calling our “meet your farmer” feature.

More props, sort of: I wanted to give my former boss, Chico Enterprise-Record Editor David Little, some kudos for getting rid of the garbage on page 2A—the Tell It to the E-R feature.

I remember many, many years ago—probably close to a decade ago—asking David why he kept it around. I was a recent college graduate, and embarrassed that the paper I worked for ran the anonymous screeds. (Many of the editorials made me cringe, too, but that’s another story.)

David told me he didn’t like the feature either, but that he was going to catch hell if he scrapped it. In fact, as I recall, at one point, he shortened the number of comments by just one and an ad began running under the section. I’m not sure whether or not that was a trial balloon, but it certainly didn’t go over well. A lot of very vocal people liked reading that nonsense.

Even back then, the write-ups didn’t seem to provide any commentary of substance. It was nothing more than a poorly constructed gossip feature.

A couple of weeks ago, after the paper ran that comment calling for the city managers’ and City Council members’ “heads on a stick,” I wrote in this column that I was mystified as to why David would keep printing that rubbish. I’m sure my opinion on the subject didn’t drive him to eighty-six Tell It to the E-R, so don’t blame me if you were a fan. I’m guessing that Lord of the Flies-esque comment was the last straw.

In his recent column announcing the end of Tell It to the E-R, David said he rarely read it. That’s weird. I’m not one to give a lot of advice, but it seems like a strange practice to not read a feature in the paper you edit—even if it stinks. When I worked for the E-R, David did edit the feature—you know, to vet it for things like libel and, uh, threats. Sacking it was the right call.