I cannot remember exactly when my interest in sustainable and healthy food systems began, but it has grown as a result of reading books like In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto and watching compelling documentaries such as Food, Inc. I gave up shopping at conventional grocery stores nearly 10 years ago, and even tried to support locally-produced foods as much as possible when living in the desert environment of Las Vegas (some of my old entries on that topic may be found here).
Since moving to Oregon, connecting to a locavore diet has become significantly easier. While I admittedly still regularly shop at Trader Joe’s and other specialty food stores, I do believe it would be entirely possible to live off a diet that has been produced within a 65 mile radius (I use that distance because that is about how far I live from the Pacific Ocean). We even have a diverse range of local wineries, craft breweries and distilleries that are worth bragging about, but I will save that for future posts.
Recently I learned about the Dairy Creek Community Food Web (DCCFW) whose mission is “to promote the local food community in Western Washington County [Oregon] by exchanging knowledge and resources to grow, process, share and celebrate food.” Last night my husband and I attended a special screening of the 2012 documentary film Coming to Ground, that was co-hosted by the DCCFW and the Forest Grove Chapter of Grange.
Coming to Ground portrays the Kentucky agricultural industry’s efforts to move away from their dependency on tobacco farming to create a new economy and culture of farming. Benefitting from funds allocated in the 1998 Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, a new generation of Kentucky farmers invested in alternative types of farming such as vegetables, beef, vineyards and even goat cheese.
What I liked best about the film is that it didn’t demonize the government or the food industry, but rather showed positive large-scale change within the food system that can result from effective citizen advocacy. The film makers were present at last night’s screening, and engaged audience members in discussion after the showing. They talked about how they wanted to show how you do need government to create change within the food system, but that the need for change must also come from the consumers/eaters. For example, the film showed a bustling farmers’ market in Lexington, Kentucky, where local farmers earn back 100% from the sale of their food by selling directly to the consumer, without the use of a middleman.
I still have a lot to learn about sustainable, local food systems, and a long way to go before I transition my diet to entirely consuming local foods. But I do think it is important that films like Coming to Ground and grassroots food advocacy organizations promote an open dialogue among the eating public to create positive change within our food systems from the ground up.