Prior to my graduation from college, I was completely oblivious to the condition of industrial agriculture. Thinking about the source of my food extended as far as which store I preferred to shop at and farmer’s markets were luxuries for those who had the means to be picky. Further, processed food was categorized in degrees; some processed food was less harmful than others (only true if you neglect corn’s invasion of everything).
My penchant for researching new ideas brought me to a series of fascinating documentaries that served to pull the veil back from the marketing facade of our food production models. I found myself at the table of micro-farmers, urban farmers, and advocates of sustainable agriculture.
I would like to invite you to the same table and pass along introductory documentaries that started my own venture. You may not walk away considering how you can contribute to sustainable agricultural production, but if you alter your ideas of food and consumption, then a goal has been achieved by those of us who produce (or aspire to produce).
Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead – “100 pounds overweight, loaded up on steroids and suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease, Joe Cross was at the end of his rope. Tipping the scales at 310 lbs, Joe saw a path laid out before him that wouldn’t end well. Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead is an inspiring film that chronicles Joe’s personal mission to regain his health. With doctors and conventional medicines unable to help long-term, Joe turns to the only option left, the body’s ability to heal itself. He trades in the junk food and hits the road with juicer in tow, vowing only to drink fresh fruit and vegetable juice for 60 days. Across 3,000 miles Joe has one goal in mind: to get off his pills and achieve a balanced lifestyle. While talking to more than 500 Americans about food, health and longevity, it’s at a truck stop in Arizona where Joe meets a truck driver who suffers from the same rare condition. Phil Staples is morbidly obese weighing in at 429 lbs – a cheeseburger away from a heart-attack. As Joe is reclaiming his life, Phil begins his own epic journey to get well. What emerges is nothing short of amazing – an inspiring tale of healing and human connection. Part road trip, part self-help manifesto, Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead defies the traditional documentary format to present an unconventional and uplifting story of two men from different worlds who each realize that the only person who can save them is themselves.”
How it affected me: This is as close as I have come to participating in a juice cleanse. Joe’s journey is quite remarkable; inviting a host of cursory questions regarding one’s modern diet and medical habits. My interest was piqued and I needed to know more about the modern Western diet.
Forks Over Knives – “…examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the so-called “diseases of affluence” that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods. The major story line in the film traces the personal journeys of a pair of pioneering yet under-appreciated researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn…The idea of food as medicine is put to the test. Throughout the film, cameras follow “reality patients” who have chronic conditions from heart disease to diabetes. Doctors teach these patients how to adopt a whole foods plant-based diet as the primary approach to treat their ailments – while the challenges and triumphs of their journeys are revealed.”
How it affected me: On the heels of the first documentary, I was introduced to the “The China Study.” At the time I was quite motivated by the findings and opinions in the documentary. I purchased the cookbook and planned to supplant most of my diet to a plant-based affair. However, I craved meat. Logic also suggested that I had found a rather extreme end of the spectrum. Though not the far reaches of vegetarianism or vegan-ism, I was not entirely sold on the notion of a 90-10 vegetable majority. My final conclusion about this film and subsequent cookbook is that it can help centralize the extreme opposite which is the normal American diet. My largest take-away was a changing view of food’s role in my life.
Food Inc. – “Food, Inc. lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing how our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the
livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. Food, Inc. reveals surprising and often shocking truths about what we eat, how it’s produced and who we have become as a nation.”
How it affected me: Shock. Anger. Hope. There is a reason that this film was so widely talked about when it premiered. Since then, a host of documentaries have followed to encourage responsible consumption and sustainable agriculture. I was so profoundly impacted by this film that I now own it and eagerly share it when I can. Forks Over Knives taught me to eat more responsibly, and Food Inc taught me to be invested in the source of my food.
Ingredients – “Inspiring and rich, INGREDIENTS unearths the roots of the local food movement and digs into the stories of the chefs, farmers and activists transforming our broken food system. This upbeat, beautifully-photographed film introduces us to the verdant farms and pioneering restaurants where good food is produced and served. From innovative farm-to-table programs in Harlem to picturesque sheep farms in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, INGREDIENTS shows the heart of an alternative food system healthy, sustainable and tasty.”
How it affected me: Having been awakened by Food Inc., it was appropriate that my next film was “Ingredients.” This film was a key player in changing my thinking from merely responsible consumption to the possibilities of hands on involvement in sustainable agriculture.