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A Hard Look at Pesticides: Toxic Profits (VIDEO)

A growing number of people in the United States are becoming interested in organic food and farming, and the known and undiscovered risks of using pesticides in conventional agriculture is one of the main issues driving this movement.  Yet most people are unaware that once a pesticide is pulled off the market because it is shown to have dangerous effects on peoples’ health and the environment, we allow corporations to continue manufacturing and exporting that pesticide to other countries–even just a few feet across our borders.

This horrendous US policy is what inspired our team to create the documentary, Toxic Profits, a film exploring the use of toxic pesticides in modern agriculture and the people most affected by this practice.  I first learned about this issue as a law student doing research on the USDA’s National Organic Program, but it wasn’t until I was in Guatemala earlier this year that I saw the health and environmental harm that the global pesticide industry is causing.  My trip inspired me to bring national attention to this issue, so I teamed up with my good friend and filmmaker Nick Capazzera, and my partner, chef and sociologist Shannon Post, to start a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds to make this film. Read more

Growing Hope by Growing Cities

I grew up planting pumpkins in the backyard with my mom and dad.  With names like “Big Max,” “Atlantic Giant,” and “King Jack,” I always hoped come fall I might end up like James and the Giant Peach.  Each spring I would eagerly plant my seeds, carefully cover them with soil, and do my best to nurse them through the sweltering Nebraska summers.  Evil squash bugs and ever-looming drought aside, I usually ended up with at least one pumpkin that weighed more than I did.

Even though soccer practices (and later, girlfriends) kept me away from the garden for a few years, I’ve always had that experience to show me the importance of growing food.  Whether it was the magic of a tiny seed growing into something so huge (unfortunately, never like James’ peach) or the extra responsibility I felt for caring for another living thing, I understood that this was something essential.  However, it wasn’t until I traveled over 12,000 miles across the country for my film, Growing Cities, that I realized how lucky I was. Read more

“The Hunger Games:” Fantasy or Prophecy?

“I’m going to see ‘The Hunger Games’ on Thursday night with Eli. It opens at midnight,” announced my fifteen year old son, Owen.  “On a school night?” I respond incredulously, “how about waiting until Friday night?” “Mom, this is a really important movie. I’ve been waiting for it to come out for two years.”

For those of you not yet in the know, “The Hunger Games” is based on Suzanne Collin’s eponymous best-selling book aimed at the young adult market. Owen devoured the book (which has now sold over 10 million copies) in his seventh grade English class. Not drawn to dystopian fiction myself, I listened in quiet horror as he explained the plot: Read more

Featuring Farmers of Color: The Color of Food

I will always remember the moment I realized I had to become a storyteller. More specifically, the moment when I knew I had to tell these stories. It was when I realized I could never eat okra the same way again; At least not in the blissful, greasy ignorance which I always had. Biting into that green, fried deliciousness now, I know that its tiny, easy-to-miss seeds have a long, hard-to-swallow story. Read more

Filming Haiti’s Food Crisis and Grassroots Movement for Sustainable Agriculture (VIDEO)

When I volunteered in Haiti after the earthquake, it was glaringly obvious that we were standing in the midst of a failed food system that had been collapsing for decades.  Natural disasters strike annually all over the world.  Yet Haiti’s post-quake humanitarian crisis is the ultimate test case of the dangers of food dependence and an urban-factory based development model.  To truly get at the heart of how food affects the most vulnerable people and environments around the world, you must understand the Haitian story. Read more

What Food, Inc. Can Teach Us About How We Treat Animals

Last week The Humane Society of the United States co-hosted a screening of the film Food, Inc. for policymakers in Sacramento. It was a lively and engaged crowd representing the gamut from vegan activists to staunch carnivores, and it seemed every one of them learned something from Food, Inc. Alice Waters, Martin Sheen, Elise Pearlstein (the film’s producer) and the two most powerful state Senators brought cache and insight with their post-screening panel.

Dave Murphy’s great review of Food, Inc. the other day was spot-on and HSUS urges everyone to see it. Its fundamental aim is to expose the rampant abuse of power that has resulted in an inefficient, polluting, degrading, cruel, and unhealthy food system in America.  To add to Dave’s commentary, I wanted to offer the perspective  of someone who works daily to address the torturous conditions that 10 billion animals raised for food routinely each year endure. Read more