As consumer eating habits continue to change, food giants are on the hunt for halo-glowing boutique brands to bolster their sagging revenues. Small is big business for U.S. food, and along the way, many producers of organic and artisan food products are seeing the benefits, and the challenges, of selling to larger companies. But will this Wild West of food mergers mean better food for the masses or just more consolidation in the marketplace? And does selling always have to mean selling out?

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It’s the dog days of summer, and many people are lucky to be on vacation. But for farmers, this is the busiest time of the year, when the fruit of their labors are nearing perfection, and the hours of caring and tending to their crops must be realized. I spent a recent weekend picking peaches with many others at Masumoto Family Farm near Fresno, California, as part of their adopt-a-tree program, an innovative approach to ensuring they have a market for their fragile fruit. It’s just one of the many ways the Masumotos use their land to connect with the public about the realities of farming, and it’s also an important part of their economic survival. Read more

Food and ag tech is hot. AgFunder recently reported that some 499 ag tech companies attracted $4.6 billion in investments last year, nearly double the $2.36 billion in 2014, and up from about $500 million in 2012. U.S. companies raised just over half that total, or $2.4 billion, and about $1.65 billion of the 2015 global total was for food e-commerce companies alone.

Last year, noting a whole host of investments risks and opportunities, we asked whether the tech industry’s “move fast and break things” approach can work for food? The same question is even more relevant a year later, as eggless mayo unicorn Hampton Creek seeks to raise $200 million at a $1.1 billion valuation, Soylent, a meal-replacement drink, has raised $22 million, and Juicero, a $700 juicer and the latest Silicon Valley darling, has raised $120 million. Read more

Note: We’re introducing a new series today, Digested, in which our editors go behind the news headlines to offer analysis and perspective on what’s happening in the food system. You’ll find this new column on Fridays, instead of the weekly news round up. And don’t worry, we’ll continue to share the week’s news live on our Twitter feed.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what it will take to make independent media sustainable in today’s landscape. Read more

We’re thrilled to announce that Stephen Satterfield will join our team as part of the first cohort of the Culinary Trust’s Growing Leaders Food Writing Fellowships. The fellowships are designed to help cause-driven food writers early in their careers develop their skills and unique voice, learn more about food issues across the country, receive valuable mentoring, and publish strong work. Read more

Recently, a colleague asked me for a “food movement primer,” a sort of what-you-need-to-know about the world of food policy today. I recommended reading our stories, of course. And I also put together an essential reading list, including Marion Nestle’s books, especially Food Politics, and her blog of the same name; Mark Bittman’s recent collection of New York Times’ columns A Bone to Pick; and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Rules, as well the resource list on his website, and his seminal article, “Food Movement Rising,” in The New York Review of Books.

This request got me thinking about how things have changed since Pollan’s essay appeared five years ago. If the public’s interest in food policy news is any indicator, the fact that Civil Eats’ stories are being syndicated by venerable publications such as TIME and The Atlantic, as well as by online giants like Yahoo!, seems to suggest that a much wider audience is becoming interested in the stories behind their food. Read more

Very few issues have larger implications for public health, animal welfare, and the environment than industrial animal agriculture. Over the past six years, we’ve spent a great deal of time reporting on animals, both about their welfare and also on the larger (and growing) implications around meat production, consolidation, and regulation (or lack thereof). In this month’s editor note, I share some of the stories we’ve covered on this intensely complex, political, and personal issue. Read more