By Rady Ananda
What do urbanites know about farming? ana Sofia joanes’ Fresh shows us how a sustainable food system operates – by focusing on personal and community stories of change. Fresh is delightful, humorous and charming. What else can be said of a film that opens with, “Pig, pig, pig, pig”? But it also motivates and inspires us to change our way of eating, growing, raising and buying food.
Fresh is this Swiss-born documentary filmmaker’s second feature, the first being Generation Meds. After traveling internationally to study the environmental and cultural impacts of globalization, joanes graduated from Columbia Law School in May 2000, awarded as a Stone Scholar and Human Rights Fellow.
Directed by ana Sofia joanes
Ripple Effect Production
Fresh doesn’t shy away from the harm of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs); it intersperses film cuts of factory farms with less concentrated farming. We learn how sustainable practices mimic nature rather than fight against it with drugs and pesticides. We learn how communities across the nation are developing their own gardens that need no chemical additives.
Fresh shows how cheap food is an illusion. CAFOs require the use of antibiotics for the crowded, mostly immobile herd to survive. This encourages the development of antibiotic-resistant super bugs. The price is paid somewhere – by the public and the environment.
Missouri natural hog farmer Russ Kremer shares a personal tale of how he almost died from contracting a monster form of strep. Thinking about the impact of the product he sold, he “went cold turkey” and exterminated his herd. With his new herd of 300 pigs, he hasn’t used antibiotics in 14 years and no longer has to treat sick hogs. He saved over $14,000 in medicine and vet bills his first year.
Fresh also features sustainable Virginia farmer, Joel Salatin. “What we’re really farming here is not animals; it’s grass. If we take care of the grass, the grass will take care of the animals.”
He shows what he means by releasing his chickens on the paddocks after the cows have grazed them. The chickens peck thru the crusty cowpies for the fly larvae. By running various graze animals thru the paddocks, the soil is more diversely enriched. Instead of getting $150 an acre for a pure cattle operation, he’s getting $3,000 an acre from his operation. “We haven’t bought a seed or an ounce of chemical fertilizer in 50 years.”
Author Michael Pollan (Omnivore’s Delight) and Andrew Kimbrell (Center for Food Safety) provide the factual background. For real food security, the US food system needs to be decentralized. Any malignant outbreaks will then be localized, instead of threatening the entire nation.
Kimbrell says the data is in: medium sized organic farms are far more productive than any sized industrial ag operation. “If you wanna feed the word, don’t be industrial.”
Pollan admits, “It’s true that organic food costs more. It’s worth more, too. There’s no such thing as cheap food.” When you consider the nutritional degradation and environmental destruction caused by factory farms and processed food, we can see the costs. Processed food is heavily subsidized by the public at the expense of our health and our environment.
Hope is found in Fresh. Diana Endicott of Kansas’ Good Natured Family Farms alliance runs a 400-acre organic and a 400-acre transition farm. She markets locally grown and raised farm products to locally owned and operated food markets.
David Ball runs one of those supermarkets. With the rise of Wal-Mart and other big box stores, he saw his family-run store dying, along with a once-thriving local farm community. Partnering with area farmers through Good Natured Family Farms, he helps to reinvigorate the local economy.
Most exciting for urbanites will be Will Allen’s Growing Power Community Food Center. He trains urbanites how to feed themselves in sustainable ways. His org (and blog) teach people how to develop sustainable community food systems that provide healthy, safe and affordable food.
These alternatives are growing in popularity across the nation, as they employ more people and improve local economies. They also teach “civilized” people what we should never have forgotten: how to feed ourselves.
But if you don’t want to garden or farm, buy local. Find your local farmers market and treat yourself to good, healthy food. “This is a social justice movement as much as it is an environmental movement or an energy crisis movement…. There is no reason people shouldn’t have healthy food to eat.”
Find Fresh community screenings here, or organize your own. Buy the DVD and connect with your neighbors. Folks in the Great Depression survived by growing their own food and sharing it. We can do the same.
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