Journalists with a passion for reporting on food and agriculture will have a chance to pursue their interest yet again, owing to The 11th Hour Project, a program of The Schmidt Family Foundation created by Berkeley Journalism alumna Wendy Schmidt (’81).

The 11th Hour Project funds 10 Food and Farming Journalism fellowships of $10,000 each. They are part of a groundbreaking programmatic grant set up in 2013 with a handful of spots reserved for UC Berkeley J-School graduates.

“This is a specialty area that we’re especially proud has flourished at the School, since it responds to a growing conviction that the food industry can and must be made a force for environmental enhancement, rather than harm,” said Dean Edward Wasserman. “We’re grateful to Wendy for her unwavering support.”

The fellows are all young and mid-career journalists who produce ambitious long-form stories about agriculture and food. Michael Pollan, the School’s John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Professor of Journalism, established the program and edits the fellows’ work, along with alum, lecturer and New York Times Magazine writer Malia Wollan (’08) and alum and lecturer Jennifer Kahn (‘99).

Fellowships like 11th Hour are especially important these days. Print and audio outlets with real budgets and a national audience often don’t want to take a chance on a journalist without a lot of experience and clips. The fellowship gives early-career journalists the funding and support to pursue ambitious projects that they couldn’t afford to do,” said Kahn, a contributing writer to The Times magazine.

 

The 2018 fellows are Soleil Ho, a Vietnamese-American writer and podcaster; Jahd Khalil, a journalist from Nebraska based in Cairo; Eva Holland, a freelance writer based in Canada’s Yukon Territory; Deonna Anderson, a freelance digital and radio reporter from Eugene, Ore.; Mya Frazier, a business and investigative journalist from Columbus, Ohio; Levi Bridges (’17), an independent radio producer based in Mexico City; Tim Requarth, a freelance journalist from Brooklyn, N.Y.; Clint Rainey, national food journalist for New York magazine’s Grub Street; Steph Yin, an independent, multimedia journalist from Philadelphia, Pa., covering evolution, ecology and genetics for The New York Times, and Mallory Pickett (’16), a freelance journalist from Los Angeles.

In recent years, work by fellows has appeared in major national outlets, including The New York Times Magazine, NPR, The Guardian, Businessweek, Rolling Stone, London Review of Books, Slate, Newsweek, New York Magazine, PBS’s NovaNext, PRI’s The World, Orion, Mother Jones, Virginia Quarterly Review, High Country News, Pacific Standard, Vice Magazine and “Marketplace” among others. Stories by fellows have won awards and been included in the Best American Science & Nature Writing. Several fellows have published or are working on books that grew out of their fellowship reporting, including Lauren Markham’s award-winning The Faraway Brothers.

“In its first five years, the UC Berkeley-11th Hour Food and Farming Fellowship has nurtured several dozen young journalists devoted to covering food and agriculture issues with a new degree of sophistication. Their stories have appeared in leading magazines, radio programs, and online outlets; others have become successful books. As we begin our second five years, the Fellowship has become an institution in its field,” said Prof. Pollan.

Wollan and Pollan conceived of the fellowship in 2013. The program was modeled after a Middlebury College environmental journalism fellowship. It started with six longform print fellows, and by the end of this year will have graduated over 50 fellows.  

“We’re excited about all the stories the 2018 fellows have in the works. This is a diverse cohort reporting stories all over the country and beyond, including two fellows reporting in Russia,” said Wollan.

Strong bonds develop within each year’s group. Two 2013 fellows, Cynthia Graber and Nicola Twilley, launched a podcast about food, science and history called Gastropod. They’ve had over a million downloads, and one episode, based on Cynthia’s fellowship story on the microbiome of soil, won a 2015 Edward R. Murrow Award for Best Audio Documentary.

By Javaria Khan (‘19)