This quote from Iowa farmer George Naylor's college roommate gave me pause. The sheer truth of it made me lean in toward the movie screen. Isn't that really what it's all about? Our industrialized food system? It's about convenience. It's about the fast and easy. The cheap and sleazy. The lean and the mean.
But are those really the words we want to describe the foods we eat?
Tonight we attended the 2nd of 3 screenings of the movie, FRESH, here in Milwaukee. We were in the company of strangers -- not only the strangers who sat with us in the theater on Downer Avenue, but also the strangers on the screen. Farmers, grocers, educators, community organizers. People who decided to think outside the box to make a difference in the food industry. In the course of an hour and a half, those strangers managed to inspire us. Endear themselves to us. Make us think a little bit differently.
FRESH is the story of people who care. People like:
- Russ Kramer, a pig farmer and owner of Ozark Mountain Pork Cooperative in Missouri who saved $14,000 in the first year he stopped using antibiotics/drugs on his pigs
- Joel Salatin, a farmer from Virginia who believes that chickens should be allowed to "fully express their chicken-ness."
- Diane Endicott, Kansas farmer and founder and director of Good Natured Family Farms’ alliance - a collective of more than 100 family farms who raise animals humanely and care for the earth in a sustainable fashion.
- Will Allen, a farmer from Milwaukee, Wisconsin who raises 150 varieties of micro- and salad greens on less than three acres of urban land and vermicomposts over 1 million pounds of food waste from Milwaukee area businesses.
People often refer to a "ripple effect" when they talk about grassroots movements. And it's an apt description. Just think about how even the littlest of stones makes a huge impression when thrown into a body of water. Even if the body of water is ginormous, the little ripples from that stone spread outward, creating movement in otherwise still waters. And that's really what FRESH is about.
If you can catch a screening of the movie in your area, I'd strongly urge you to consider going. But, even if you can't, there are plenty of things you can do to capture the spirit of FRESH in your own lives.
As Will Allen says at the end of the film, "You can do this."
And it's easier than you think. Here's a list to get you started.
Fresh Ideas (adapted from Ana's 10 Fresh Actions)
- Plant a garden. Even if it's on your patio. Build a raised bed, or grow a pot of herbs. Build some intimacy with the soil.
- Visit your farmer's market -- and really get to know at least one local farmer. Ask them questions. Buy their produce. Spread the word about what they do to others you know.
- Build community. Get to know your neighbors. Forge connections in disparate places. Participate in what's going on around you.
- Consider composting. Start a compost pile in your backyard. Use the black gold for gardening. No space? Consider red worms. Vermicomposting takes up very little space, and can be done indoors.
- Think small. Support your local economy. Buy local produce and products. Support local business owners who pull dollars back into your local economy. Give up one "big box" store in favor of a "mom and pop" shop. Even spending as little as $10 a week at that shop is all it takes to send a positive message.
- Ask more questions. At restaurants and grocers, inquire about where they get their fish... their meat... their produce. The more questions we ask, the more awareness grows about what we'd like to see in the marketplace.
- Start reading labels at your supermarket. Take the time to consider what you're putting into your body. Avoid GMO's (Since almost all the soy, corn, and canola in the US is genetically modified, over 70% of all processed food contain GMOs from by-products of these grains.). Abolish high fructose corn syrup from your diet. Avoid artificial sweeteners and hydrogenated oils. Make choices that reflect your values, and vote with your food dollars.
- Get back to basics. Eat more whole foods. Stock up on local fruits and vegetables while they're in season. Cook, can, and freeze the harvest. You'll be grateful when you have fresh tasting tomatoes in the middle of February.
- Get inspired. Share your passion with others. Engage in friendly conversation about things that are meaningful to you. Spread the word.
- Get Fresh. Why not host a FRESH screening of your own? Kits available on the FRESH Web site.
Full disclosure: We did receive free tickets to attend the screening of FRESH as part of our farm-to-table dinner at Meritage. However, the opinions expressed here are strictly our own.
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