Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Our Top 10 Food Documentaries

Some food for thought and 

some thought for our food...

I don't know about you, but most of our money is spent on our food every month. As a believer in "Voting with my dollars", I want what precious dollars I spend to mean something. But how do our food purchases impact our world, the economy and the environment? There's a long, complicated answer to that, and I encourage everyone to find their own answers. As a life-long filmophile, I thought I'd share my top 10 food documentaries that I've found the most informative and inspirational. And as you'll see, I'm also a big Netflix fan, and let you know just how many of these awesome films are available there for instant streaming. Expect to see Joel Salatin, the Lunatic Farmer, a few times; he'll probably be wearing suspenders.    

-Farmer Figgins

Top 10 Food Documentaries: 

1. Food, Inc.-This documentary has probably done more for the food movement than anything in the past few years. Many have watched it and learned about how our food system was industrialized, and the effects of this industrialization--decreased animal welfare, environmental pollution, and increase soil erosion to name a few.  Since the 1950s, our production of food overall has more drastically changed since that time than the several thousand years prior. Controlled primarily by a handful of multinational corporations, the global food production business – with an emphasis on the business – has as its unwritten goals production of large quantities of food at low direct inputs (most often subsidized) resulting in enormous profits, which in turn results in greater control of the global supply of food sources within these few companies. Health and safety (of the food itself, of the animals produced themselves, of the workers on the assembly lines, and of the consumers actually eating the food) are often overlooked by the companies, and are often overlooked by government in an effort to provide cheap food regardless of these negative consequences. 

2. Fresh-Fresh is unique in that it is gives a more empowering message of how to live better and it really offers solutions to the devastating yet accepted food issues in this country. My major criticism of Food, Inc is that it didn't offer enough positive examples of what can be done and what other farmers are doing to sustainably farm, but this documentary does! Available on Netflix streaming.

3. Killer At Large: Why Obesity Is America's Greatest Threat-This documentary explores the health effects of the industrialized food system, such as feeding ruminant (grass-eating) animals mostly corn-diets and filling our own processed foods with corn in its many forms (high-fructose corn syrup, etc). Most importantly, it explores just what the Surgeon General meant when he said, "America's biggest National Security issue is obesity." Available on Netflix Streaming.

4. The Future of Food-This documentary explores the industrial food system, but also delves into Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in our food system and the ugly politics behind them, and the possibilities of their continued unexamined and unlabeled use in our food. America is one of the only countries that allows GMO ingredients to go unlabeled. Poland, Peru, and Kenya are among the list of recent nations to completely ban GMOs. This documentary also looks into the situation in Cuba and their move toward urban and organic agriculture after the US embargo cut their energy supplies. 

5. Food Fight-Another documentary that tackles the American Industrial Food Industry, GMOs, and their effects on the environment and our health, but instead focusing on how alternatives came about in the 1960s. Alternatives such as local food, organic food, and farmer's markets emerged from the counter-culture of California in the late 1960s and early 1970s, where a group of political anti-corporate protesters--led by Alice Waters--voiced their dissent by creating a food chain outside of the conventional system. Available on Netflix Streaming.

6. Dirt! The Movie- “Dirt is the ultimate natural resource for all life on earth.” When looking at the industrial food system, we hear a lot about air and water pollution, and something called soil erosion. This documentary explores soil, or dirt, the micro ecosystem in our soils that composts our waste, nurtures the fertility that feeds our crops, and that is being lost through the farming practices of industrial agriculture. This film is one of the more empowering on this list, it profiles some great leaders in the field of soil conservation, the Rodale Institute, Wes Jackson with the Land Institute who is studying our native perennial prairie grasses and their ability to hold soil and water and the possibility of breeding a perennial food system. Moreover, it profiles how dirt plays a part in many societies today, from our religions to our buildings. Dirt has been the most common construction material in human history, and is still prevalent around the world. Check this one out for sure! Available on Netflix streaming.

7. King Corn-This documentary follows two men who grow a patch of corn and follow its path through the food system. Much like Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, we can see how corn is being used as the king of all crops in America. For one, it's used to feed our livestock. Two, it gets broken up into high-fructose corn syrup and other byproducts it goes into our fast food and our processed food. Third, its now being used to produce ethanol fuel through an inefficient conversion process that burns more gallons of oil to convert than it saves. American's love of fast-food and quick processed food, helped by corn subsidies that make these foods cheaper for their amount of calories, has made corn king of all our crops. Available on Netflix streaming.

8. The Garden-"The 14 acre community garden in South Central Los Angeles was the largest of it's kind in the United States. It was started as a form of healing after the devastating L.A. riots in 1992. Since that time, the South Central Farmers have created a miracle in one of the country's most blighted neighborhoods. Growing their own food. Feeding their families. Creating a community. But now bulldozers threaten their oasis. The Garden is an unflinching look at the struggle between these urban farmers and the City of Los Angeles and a powerful developer who want to evict them and build warehouses."-IMDB. Available on Netflix streaming.

9. Farmageddon-This documentary brings a spotlight on government oversight of our food production. Part consumer-rights advocacy, part abuse-of-power expose, this film provides quite a lot of food for thought on the plight of the small farmer and the educated consumer. Highlighting regulation of raw milk and raids on small farmers and co-ops, this film  asserts that agribusiness is employing government agencies to harass and monitor small, independent farmers. Available on Netflix streaming.

10. The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil-This documentary examines how Cuba dealt with the US Embargo and the ensuing energy crisis by turning to sustainable, local and urban agriculture to feed themselves. "Today, 80% of Cuba's food production is organic." Oil shortages in Cuba caused an unemployment crisis, but when Cuba switched to organic agriculture, which is more labor-intensive but less reliant of chemical inputs and machines, the unemployed found work on these farms. Now, farmers are far better paid than they were under the industrial agriculture system, and farming become an attractive field that people are moving into. For some frame of reference on the power of this subject: When the embargo was put in place, Cuba used MORE agro-petro-chemicals than the United States did at that time for farming, but they made the switch.  Organic feed Cuba. Could it feed the world? I think so.


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