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Planting Roots in Abandoned Lots: Mark MacInnis’ Documentary on Detroit’s Urban Farms

Mark MacInnis is a native-born Detroiter who returned in 2009 to document a burgeoning urban farming community that is converting abandoned lots and open spaces into local food production and a sustainable food system. His film, Urban Roots, takes a close look at what happens to a city after a post-industrial collapse and suggests a new type of American Dream – one founded on nourishing community through the creation of a local economy. In a place where 46.6 percent of children live below the poverty line, there is an urgent need for change. Read more

Urban Farming For Profit

When I was in the Ukraine in 1992, I heard an interesting story about small and large-scale farming happening side by side in the countryside. Although most rural people worked on the massive state-controlled collective farms, each person was allowed a small garden plot next to his dacha for personal use. Predictably, folks ended up using these plots to produce a lot of fruits and vegetables and even, through barter and the black market, income for their families. Meanwhile, the collective farms did not usually live up to expectations. The way the Ukrainians told it it, they made more income off these sub-acre plots than they did off the huge collective farms. Read more

Svelte, Healthy & Very Alive

I was skeptical and sighing heavily when I pressed play to view Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead. I immediately thought, “With such a negative title, this documentary will be a) depressing and b) preachy.”

I’m an optimistic person though–hence my dislike for the title–so I tried to toss out the judgmental thoughts and, as it turns out, my initial impression was pleasantly proven wrong. Read more

GROW! A Film About Georgia’s Next Generation Of Young Farmers

The cast of farmers in our documentary GROW! have something in common: a desire to grow clean, fair food on their own terms. They’re growers of vegetables, fruits, and grain, and they raise pigs, cattle, sheep, and chickens. They’re Georgia’s next generation of young, organic, and sustainable farmers. Most have college degrees covering all sorts of disciplines ranging from Physical Chemistry to Engineering, Pre‐Med to Political Science, English Literature to Accounting. Some have never worked in their chosen fields. Some have, got fed up, and left. Read more

Pressure Cooker: Interview with Mark Becker and Jennifer Grausman

The first time I saw “Pressure Cooker” was at Slow Food Nation last Labor Day. It left me–and as far as I could tell every single other viewer in the theater–in tears. It follows three seniors at a Philadelphia public high school, charting their journey through a culinary arts curriculum under the wing of the hilariously blunt, tough-loving Mrs. Stephenson. The film has been making the film festival circuit for the past 9 months and will now be enjoying a theatrical release in several cities (scroll all the way down for schedule). Here I sat down for an interview with Co-Directors Mark Becker and Jennifer Grausman: Read more

Getting Seedy

The last couple sunny days have gotten me itching to buy seeds.  The skilled gardeners I know (of which I am decidedly not, having barely grown an herb garden that now looks like brittle sticks in dirt) have told me to get started with my highlighter and my catalogs – order before it gets to late and the best seeds are gone.  So I became a member of the Hudson Valley Seed Library ($20) and got ten complimentary packets of their heirlooms, most of which come from this area. Read more

Leave it to the French to Investigate Monsanto in The World According to Monsanto

For months, I’d been planning to see the French television documentary The World According to Monsanto (Le Monde selon Monsanto, also to be released in spring 2009 in book form), made for the French-German network Arte by the journalist Marie-Monique Robin, which premiered in France March 11, 2008.  Having plenty of reasons to despise Monsanto (Agent Orange, PCBs, global food domination) I thought that this film would only confirm what I knew about the giant agribusiness firm, which controls between 70%-100% of the GM market share for various crops.  Well, I was wrong.  There was more to fear, and seeing it all on film made it more concrete. Read more