Movie Review – FRESH: The Movie by Ana Sofia Joanes

by Ann Marie Michaels on May 21, 2009

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I was delighted to catch the new documentary, FRESH, by Ana Sophia Joanes at the Newport Beach film festival last month. FRESH is a movie about modern food production and supply, how messed up it is, the ramifications of industrial agriculture, and what we need to do to fix it.

This is a must-see, folks. Absolutely do not miss this movie. Not only is the film informative and captivating, it’s so emotionally powerful I was moved to tears more than once (okay, let’s be honest, my cheeks were wet throughout).

Instead of boring you with my impressions of the film or a long-winded review which just won’t do justice to this brilliant film, I’ve decided instead to highlight two of the main characters, both farmers, Joel Salatin and Will Allen, by showing a few more clips from the movie.

Go to the bottom of this post for details on upcoming screenings and how to host a local screening.

Joel Salatin, Self-Described “Christian-Libertarian-Environmentalist-Lunatic Farmer”

Joel Salatin owns Polyface Farm in Virginia, arguably the model for sustainable farms. Salatin said once that in America we have an NRA for guns — we should have a group to protect our food supply. According to Michael Pollan, Salatin is “an evangelical Virginia farmer [who] says a revolution against industrial agriculture is just down the road.”

I can’t explain Joel Salatin better than Michael Pollan already has, so I offer you a quote by Pollan:

I asked Joel how he answers the charge that because food like his is more expensive, it is inherently elitist. “I don’t accept the premise,” he replied. “First off, those weren’t any ‘elitists’ you met on the farm this morning. We sell to all kinds of people. Second, whenever I hear people say clean food is expensive, I tell them it’s actually the cheapest food you can buy. That always gets their attention. Then I explain that, with our food, all of the costs are figured into the price. Society is not bearing the cost of water pollution, of antibiotic resistance, of food-borne illnesses, of crop subsidies, of subsidized oil and water — of all the hidden costs to the environment and the taxpayer that make cheap food seem cheap. No thinking person will tell you they don’t care about all that. I tell them the choice is simple: You can buy honestly priced food or you can buy irresponsibly priced food.” Source: No Bar Code, Mother Jones

If you haven’t yet read Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, read it immediately. It’s the best description of Salatin’s grass-based farm you will find.

Will Allen, Industrial Food Drop-out and Urban Farmer

On just three acres in urban Milwaukee, Will Allen runs a non-profit organization called Growing Power. They have six greenhouses, eight hoophouses for greens, herbs and vegetables; pens for goats, ducks and turkeys; a chicken coop and beehives; and a sustainable system for raising 10,000 tilapia and perch. His staff consists of three dozen full-time workers and 2,000 residents pitching in as volunteers. Growing Power raises about $500,000 worth of affordable healthy food he is making available to urban areas he calls “food deserts”, where the only access to food is corner grocery stores with nothing but beer, cigarettes and processed junk foods.

Standing almost seven feet tall (6’7), Will Allen, who grew up on a farm outside Washington, D.C., left a job working for industrial food giant Procter & Gamble and bought a roadside farm in Milwaukee’s run down north side and started getting local teenagers involved. Now, Growing Power has, in addition to the main two-acre urban farm in Milwaukee, a 40-acre farm in a nearby town, and gardens throughout the city. They also also have operations in Chicago, including a garden at the Cabrini-Green housing project and urban farms in Grant and Jackson Parks.

In addition to retail sales at the Milwaukee headquarters, Growing Power sells to food co-ops, other retail stores and about 30 restaurants in the Milwaukee and Chicago areas. Growing Power also educates through local, national, and international outreach for farmers and communities. They run multiple youth programs, have an active volunteer base, and actively work on policy initiatives regarding agriculture.

Where to See FRESH: The Movie

Here is a list of upcoming screenings:

May 26, 2009 – Washington, DC
May 27, 2009 – New York City
May 28, 2009 – Boston, MA
May 31, 2009 – Kansas City, MO
June 2 & 3, 2009 – Minneapolis, MN
June 4, 2009 – Milwaukee, WI
June 6, 2009 – Encinitas CA
June 7 – 11, 2009 – Seattle Film Festival
June 10, 2009 – Vancouver, Canada
June 12, 2009 – San Francisco, CA
June 15, 2009 – Berkeley, CA
June 17th, 2009 – Denver, CO

If there are no upcoming screenings in your area, please contact the director to get a DVD to host a local screening in your home or community center.

You can also sign up for email updates about FRESH. And you can become a fan on Facebook (they list the upcoming screenings on there, too).

Everyone in America needs to see this film. It has the power to inspire a new generation of farmers in America. And there is nothing we need more. After you see this movie, you realize that we are in a stranglehold by the industrial food system. It is absolutely vital to our nation’s health, financial security, and environmental stability that sustainably-minded farmers get out there and start growing food.

And yes, that includes you. Are you growing food in your backyard (or on your front lawn)? Are you doing what you can to support local farmers? Shopping at a farmer’s market? A member of a CSA? Are you a member of any organizations that support farmers and sustainable food? Like the Weston A. Price Foundation or the The Farm to Consumer Foundation, or the The Cornucopia Institute? Or perhaps you are thinking of hosting a local screening of FRESH?

If you are doing any of the above (or other things) to support sustainable agriculture and real food, please comment below. Or if you’re not doing anything yet but you’re thinking about doing something. Like starting a garden or joining a CSA. By sharing, you may inspire someone else with an idea they hadn’t thought of before.

Together, we CAN make a difference. We CAN wrench the control away from the multinational corporations that run the industrial food system. We CAN reject the junk they call food — the overly processed and refined garbage made of genetically modified corn and soybeans that is making us sick and destroying our land. We CAN support local farmers and artisanal food producers and take back our food supply, our health, and our planet.

Resources

Local Harvest
Eat Wild
Real Milk
Weston A. Price Foundation
The Farm to Consumer Foundation
The Cornucopia Institute

You can also read my interview with FRESH director, Ana Sofia Joanes.

This post is a part of the Food Roots carnival at Nourishing Days. Visit Nourishing Days for more blog posts about local, sustainable food.

Photo credit: cpentecost on Flickr and Fighting Windmills blog (Joel Salatin’s neighbor!)
Disclosure: cmp.ly/4 and cmp.ly/5

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Catherine May 21, 2009 at 10:44 AM

Do you know who to contact to get a showing in Oklahoma City, Tulsa or at the very least, Dallas!!
Thanks!

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Catherine May 21, 2009 at 10:45 AM

OK, so if I would have read more carefully down toward the end, I would have had the answer to my questions! APOLOGIES!!

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Heather@WoolandFlax May 21, 2009 at 11:39 AM

Thanks for the review! I so appreciate those farmers who are growing food and raising animals in a responsible way. I’m sure it’s not easy.

I’m very new to the idea of sustainable agriculture, but we did purchase our first CSA share this year, and I’m trying to buy as much of my food locally as possible. We also have a little garden going, but we’ll see how that goes!

Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us.

Heather@WoolandFlax’s last blog post..Bok Choy and Organic Jelly

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Local Nourishment May 21, 2009 at 4:18 PM

I’m a big fan of this movie, even though I haven’t seen it yet. The trailer just beams with positive messages.

We are growing lettuce and tomatoes on our porch, but our homeowner’s association forbids the growing of plants for food in the yard here. Shh, don’t tell them about my nasturtiums and “ornamental” kale!

I love my local farmers. We stop by our local (very small: 3 farmers) farmer’s market every Saturday and the bigger one downtown every Wednesday. I buy all I can from these sources first before heading to the grocery store.

We are CSA members for veggies; grassfed beef, pork, lamb, chevon and chicken; milk and dairy. We are members of WAPF, and I’m looking into several other organizations to throw my support behind. I’m trying hard to arrange local screenings of FRESH. I blog about local, organic and traditional foods, stumble, twitter and facebook my finds. Plus I don’t shut up. But I’ll bet you guessed that already.

Local Nourishment’s last blog post..Mercola extols Price

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Victoria May 21, 2009 at 5:54 PM

Thanks for the great info! I can’t wait to go see Fresh in Encinitas on June 6! We are hoping to host a screening in Ramona also.

We are delivering locally grown organic produce several times a week to people all across San Diego county. Since we don’t have a store, we are able to offer it at lower prices, making it more accessible to people who couldn’t normally buy organic.

We are chapter leaders for Weston A Price Foundation in East SD and have been hosting informational meeting on topics relating to organic food and raw milk.

Can’t wait to see the movie!

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Anna May 21, 2009 at 7:42 PM

Hey Victoria, look for me at the library screening on June 6th! Do you know who I can contact to offer assistance?

Now I have to decide what to wear…should I wear my “Know Your Chicken”, “Grassfed”, Real Milk is Raw Milk”, “I Like Mine Fresh and Unprocessed”, “Fatted Calf Charcuterie” or “Homegrown Meats” t-shirt?

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Vin | NaturalBias.com May 22, 2009 at 4:47 AM

I’m anxious to see this movie! Based on the reviews I’m reading, I’d like to help spread the word about it too, but I have to watch it first which isn’t as easy as it sounds based on the nearest screening being 3 hours away. It would certainly be much easier if they sold DVDs of it on their site!

Vin | NaturalBias.com’s last blog post..The Hypocrisy of Mandatory Chemotherapy

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Kara May 22, 2009 at 10:10 AM

I’m excited to see this movie. I got to hear Michael Pollan speak earlier this week and that was very affirming and encouraging. I’ll be taking my husband to the movie so he can soak up the message too :)

In response to your questions, we did a CSA last summer but found shopping at farmer’s markets is a better fit for our family. We’re really close to several that happen throughout the week and we’re just starting to see a good amount of produce there – I love summer in the Midwest. We’ve also recently started purchasing raw milk, eggs and other related goods from a local farm. When we can’t get there, one of our local grocery stores has a co-operative of family farms under one label (Good Natured Family Farms http://www.goodnatured.net/) with veggies, fruits, honey, milk, eggs, cheese, etc. available.

I also find ways to utilize my position as a writer at a Catholic newspaper to help the local foods movement as often as it comes up, mainly from a social justice and faith perspective obviously. There’s a great program here that provides resources for women refugees to help them farm and become self-sufficient, while at the same time providing great produce to a very impoverished area of Kansas City, KS (along with extra produce to CSA’s and farmer’s markets in the area). It’s also had the effect of building a community space residents can be proud of in this particular neighborhood. Win-win. http://www.theleaven.com/V30/V30N03FARM.html

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Kate May 22, 2009 at 2:40 PM

I cant wait to see this movie & share it with our friends and family.

In our little veggie patch we are growing Broccoli, Kale, Tomatoes, Lettuce, Cauliflower, Rocket, Parsley, Thyme, Spinach, Beetroot, Corriander, Sugar Snap Peas, Rainbow Chard, Celery & Leeks as well as a few companions. I need to sow more seeds this weekend as although this sounds like a lot, it really isnt. We have 3 raised garden beds and the fourth will be in soon. We worked out that we would need at least 10-12 garden beds to be self suffucient! We have the room so we are slowly making our way towards this. I am really looking forward to growing Pumpkins, Potatoes & Carrots.

At the moment I work 4 days a week and my husband works 6 & sometimes 7. I also run a small Organic Fruit & Vegetable Co-op once a fortnight – about 20 families. People always ask me “How do you do this?” and I try to explain to them that if your really passionate about something you will be amazed at just how much you can do, dont limit yourself. Anyone can do this.

We also support the Weston A Price Foundation, Gene Ethics & the Slow Food Movement.

If it hasnt been soaked, sprouted or fermented its been simmered, saute’d & tossed! LOL – We are a real food kitchen too ;)

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Emerald Jones September 18, 2009 at 12:10 PM

See “Fresh” at the Unitarian Universalist sanctuary,
Friday, October 16, 2009
7:30 p.m., 3327 Old Conejo Rd.
Newbury Park, CA (Ventura County)
(805) 374-9818

The community forum promotes awareness of the Conejo Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship as a beacon of liberal religion, tolerance, equity, compassion, and respect for nature and human rights in the Conejo Valley
and surrounding areas by organizing and presenting public programs
that inform, inspire and delight our community.

Reply

Emerald Jones September 18, 2009 at 12:23 PM

What does “waiting for moderation” mean?

The Community Forum is presented once or twice a month on a variety of topics, of both local as well as and international interest, not related to any religion…

Reply

LeahS July 20, 2011 at 8:58 AM

I agree with Salatin, we do need someone to protect out food. We need to organize.

Reply

Melissa September 10, 2011 at 12:51 AM

Title: Fresh the Movie (2009)
Director: Ana Sofia Joanes: Born in Portugal, Raised in Switzerland
Segment Locations: Swoope, Virginia, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Frankenstein, Missouri, Berkeley, California and Churdan, Iowa

The purpose of this film is to promote a platform to recruit volunteers into service in a grassroots organization. Promoting organic farming/ranching and create awareness of the perceived need for restructure to modern food production and practices is the goal of the producers and participants of this film.
The film uses several styles of persuasion to grasp the viewer’s attention and present a message.
When chicken production is introduced there is a sea of cute fuzzy little yellow chicks with bright eyes and downy feathers. The next scene shows the crates being dumped and these tender baby birds are seemingly dropped carelessly by unfeeling workers.
Mr. and Mrs. “Fox” (who receive no first names, location, title or billing on the website) are interviewed about the process, products and procedures in the chicken raising business. They indicate that they have been under contract for a long amount of time however when asked pointed questions give rehearsed and weak responses. This seems oddly suspicious and I doubt the message and credibility of this segment.
Joel Salatin presents a good suggestion for producing in rotating the crops and animal grazing on land for soil enrichment. I was interested in his philosophy and techniques until he played the emotional tone of “praying” on camera. As a Christian prayer is an important yet sacred tenet of my faith however this soured me on the remainder of his dialog. I felt that he had “sold” his faith for the promotion and payment for his role in this editorial.
Mr. Will Allen professes that he is the son of southern sharecroppers. This statement raised a red flag to me not knowing his age or the state where he was raised; I was quick to suspect that maybe his grandparents might have been sharecroppers but probably not his father and mother.
http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-3590
This website provides a time period for the history and end of sharecropping. His use of this term appears inaccurate and I give little credence to the other things he is saying. To be politically incorrect I suggest he is using the race card to further his cause.
Conclusion:
To a trusting and inexperienced mind these portrayals can have a long lasting visual and emotional ties to the premise of this video. However because the scientific method was not represented and opposing viewpoints were not expressed, I see this as solely a graphic editorial with no substantial documentation.

Food Themes:
Replenishing soil nutrients:
Mr. Salatin explains how he will rotating animal and plant season on the same parcel of land. One season he plants a certain crop and the next he moves his farm animals to graze, defecate and till the soil. The subsequent planted crop differs from the first and benefits from the animal production previous. After the secondary crop a secondary animal breed is moved to add to the soil what it may. This is a logical and methodical plan for maximizing production of a single plot of land.
Composting:
Collecting compostable food scraps from local restaurants and food production facilities is a very sustainable activity for a community. Organizing weekly workshops and involving the public in the work and teaching aspects of the composting is resourceful means of operating his business. The use of hydroponics to water the hanging gardens with the leavings of the tilapia is a very good idea. I have seen this idea used in another setting for catfish production for restocking lakes and streams. Tilapia is raised in the water previously inhabited by the catfish. I was glad to see other applications.
Farmers Market Cooperative:
This presentation was a good example of how a regional network of farmers and food artisans can sell their foods in an existing grocery store to provide income for rural farmers. I liked the signage that told the name of the farmers, this kept the market honest about the source of the products.

Food Nutrition Policy Evaluation:
(Evaluate how the use of food/nutrition/policy in this movie might impact the publics’ view of food/food regulation or food policy, nutrition)

This movie appeared to discredit and demonize the current food production and regulation.
Joel Salatin in the introduction of his segment explained how when he bought his land, he asked local farmers and experts for advice. The response was to “plant here and graze in the forest”. He chose to disregard the advice and chose his own path- which is his prerogative. Understanding the growth and nutrient cycles of the forest he might have provided a better feed for his animals and kept the local timber industry from felling trees on what was previously deemed unused land. Also with the proof of benefit to his animal production there might have been a greater financial opportunity with the sale of that land to timber companies. This kind of smacks the whole “save the forests” mindset right in the face.
Not every answer in agronomy or animal husbandry is about a taller corn stalk of a leaner cut of beef.
Many of the themes presented in this video compilation do not consider the larger picture.
With regard to the public and how this might impact consumerism.
It is my opinion, consumers cast their vote with their dollars and in this current economy dollar menu restaurants are still recording profits and big box stores are still packed on weekends.

Three questions about the film topics:
1. Will Allen says “Food is a human right” what entity, organization or jurisdiction enforces or provides for that right?
2. If you do not inoculate your farm production animals will they no longer contract viruses like hoof and mouth disease or scours? How else do you prevent it?
3. If your theories are as valid as you profess, why did you have to promote with scare tactics, peer pressure, demonization of competition and emotionally charged imagery?
I would not suggest this film to family or friends because there are very few substantiated claims and the characters are not credible. Reading the website it is clear this is a propaganda tool.
On a scale of 1-5 – I would rate this film 1.

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