Monday, July 12, 2021

Sarah Taber, Pellagra, Pecans, Wow

Ah, Sarah Taber. Believe it or not, I haven't been following her on Twitter (until now), but some of her greatest hits show up when others share them, so that's how I've found out about her. She describes herself (on Twitter) this way: "Crop scientist, ex-farmworker, industrial safety pro."

A couple of days ago she had a thread about corn and dietary deficiencies that I can't really describe. You just have to go read it.

But I'm never going to forget what pellagra is, or that it didn't occur naturally among large numbers of Southerners in the U.S.: it was the result of structural choices made by rich land-owners and institutions. Taber includes almost as an aside that some number of the deaths of Native children in forced boarding schools may have been from pellagra, but it clearly also affected people  prisons, orphanages, and asylums as well. 

She linked to this video that covers much of the same ground as her thread, particularly focusing on the work of Dr. Joseph Goldberger:

I made the mistake of looking up photos of people with pellagra (including the "Casals collar" rash that was mentioned as one of its distinctive symptoms). I won't link to any, but you can look for your own images if you feel so inclined.

I remember learning about dietary deficiencies sometime around middle school. The names — scurvy, beriberi, pellagra, rickets, goiter — stuck but not always the symptoms or exact causes. It makes me wonder about how we were taught about them. I think if the teaching had been grounded in the kinds of facts that Taber presents, it's more likely I would have remembered. 


Two days later, Taber posted another amazing thread about why California farmers grow almonds instead of pecans, and why California almond farmers have not taken over pecan farming in the South (where pecans are native and they don't need irrigation, so you'd think it would be cheaper to do). 

Wow. Such a great example of why I like Twitter.


My past posts about Taber's thoughts on other topics:

On Corn and Farmland

O Pioneers!


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