With an examination of industrial farming and its impacts, including the negative consequences of monoculture agricultural practices, Fresh (Ripple Effect Films) depicts for viewers the benefits of sustainable agricultural.
Producer Ana Sofia Joanes highlights prominent people within the discussion and promotion of renovating the current food system.
With references to contamination and disease, pollution, and the depletion of natural resources, Fresh shines an important light on how sustainable approaches to food production, animal rearing, and land maintenance can infuse the over-burdened system with health and hope.
Agricultural Paradigm Shift Needed
The movie, Fresh: New Thinking About What We Are Eating, takes a look at the state of agriculture today and offers solutions with more sustainable approaches. While big agriculture or corporate farming focuses on specialization, standardization, and economies of scale, the flaws of this approach are showing. A reliance on monoculture leads to a reliance on herbicides, pesticides, and chemical fertilizers. It’s unnatural: and several of the people featured in Fresh ask, “Where in nature can you find monoculture practices?”
The pressure in the agricultural world with productivity—more! more! more!—has major stresses that are becoming increasingly evident. For example, outbreaks of contaminated food crops are commonplace news stories. Joel Salatin, a farmer featured in the film, points out how outbreaks of avian flu, mad cow disease, and salmonella are nature’s way of showing us that industrialized farming is not working.
The Design of Nature
Salatin, my favorite individual featured in the documentary, is a sustainable farmer based in Virginia. His introduction included a touching scene where he drives his portable chicken coops—or what he calls the “egg mobile”—to a grass field, and opens the hatches to let out the hens. As they scuttle around he says, “Good morning girls! How are we today?” He explains that his chickens are his fellow workers, and therefore he “honors and respects them to allow them to fully express their ‘chickenness’.”
Salatin points out that we are all stewards of the earth and should respect the design of nature. This is why he practices rotational grazing on his farm, moving his cows on a daily basis to ensure they are always exposed to fresh grass and that a natural fertilizing effect takes place. He follows his cattle herd with his “egg mobile” and lets the hens scratch at the manure to eat fly larvae. In this process, the grass is also naturally cared for.
A Fresh Perspective
George Naylor, a conventional corn farmer from Iowa, acknowledges the dangers associated with monoculture practices, and chooses not to spray nor to use GMOs on his farm. Will Allen, an urban farmer, owns and operates Growing Power, a 3-acre garden that he uses to educate and demonstrate for people various concepts and practices of sustainability. Fresh also incorporates the first-hand experiences of Russ Kremer, a once industrialized pig breeder now running a natural hog farm, as he made the conscious decision to change his practices.
Viewers will be impressed with the collective knowledge of the others featured in the film, including award-winning author Michael Pollan, lawyer and activist Andrew Kimbrell, founder of Good Natured Family Farms Diana Endicott, and David Ball, owner of fresh local supermarket Hen House Market.
Instead of taking harsh jabs at big agriculture—not that it isn’t deserved—Fresh promotes a see-how-easy-it-is perspective on the sustainable agriculture movement. With academics, farmers, and business people all dedicated to changing the system, Fresh provides for us an optimism about the future of food. Like agricultural economics professor John Ikerd notes in the film, he believes it is possible to transform the system “one farmer, one consumer at a time.”