On Wednesday I went to the premiere screening of Fresh, the movie. It was such a positive, inspiring event. I highly recommend that you see the film if you get a chance. If you go to their website and sign up for the mailing list they’ll keep you posted on screenings. The film is about the need to move away from BIG agriculture…the surplus of farms that grow only corn/soybeans & the cattle lots that house thousands of cows and pigs.
I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma a couple of months ago and really enjoyed it. Fresh, the movie has many of the same characters and themes. For me the most inspiring part of the book is the section about Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farms in Virginia. Salatin has a staring role in Fresh and he was at the screening on a Q&A panel afterward. He’s a very charismatic, entertaining character. Salatin farms grass- that is the building block of his farm. His cattle feed on the grass (a beautiful mixture of clovers and many other grasses). He controls the area they are allowed to graze and moves them daily to mimic the nomadic grazing of herds in nature. Their manure fertilizes the land for future grass crops. 3 days after a herd grazes a pasture, he moves his hens there in his tractor-drawn egg-mobile. The hens pick through the cow dung, eating the tasty grubs, making their eggs full of protein and omega-3s. This relationship between the foul and the cattle also mimics nature.
It all makes sense and it’s a beautifully choreographed dance through the acres of his property. In the movie he says in all the years he’s been farming there he’s never bought a single pound of feed or fertilizer. amazing.
As I mentioned Salatin sat on a panel after the movie. The other panelists were Will Allen, who’s doing very exciting vertical urban farming in the middle of Milwaukee; Joan Gussow, a founding member of Just Food, and a professor at Columbia University; and Dan Barber, executive chef and co-owner, of Blue Hills at Stone Barn (he was recently named top chef in the country).
The main take-away points I got from the panel were:
1) Organic can work. It is possible and can be financially profitable and sustainable. Now we just need more organic farmers.
2) When choosing between buying organic and buying local-BUY LOCAL. Gussow made the point that if we don’t support our small local farmers, how are they going to become strong enough financially to become organic. Organic certification by the US government is NOT cheap. It is more important to support our local small farmers at the moment.
3) we should all try to grow our own fruit and vegetables as much as possible.
So, this (gorgeous!) morning I walked to the Grand Army Plaza farmers market, supported our local farmers there, and bought two tomato plants I will attempt to grow on my fire escape. Striped German tomatoes. I hope they survive. mmmmm fresh tomatoes! can’t wait!