I have heard many reviews and discussions about the film over the last year on NPR and even several bloggers have written about it after watching it and understanding how our food is made and where it comes from, so I was thrilled when I heard it would be on PBS. Like I said, I only caught the last 20 minutes or so (I thought it started at 9. The online listing said 9 but when I turned on the TV at 9:05 it was almost over. Boo! Hopefully they will re-run it this afternoon on one of the PBS digital channels.) and missed most of the film but the gist was that more and more food today is being grown on a huge scale, using LOTS of petroleum, with genetically engineered seeds and animals that have been cooped up in pens and feedlots fed lots of unhealthy hormone laden feed and sold to manufacturers to process the hell out of it, wrap it in shiny packaging and sell it to consumers out of gas stations and drive through windows. For the most part, they are absolutely right. Their message was for consumers to make healthier choices not just for the food industry but for their own families that are buying and eating so much processed and preserved food that is making them overweight and unhealthy. Um yeah. Have people forgot the saying, You are what you eat? Of course Doritos and soda aren't good for us. Of course eating McDonald's french fries and a Big Mac on a regular basis can't be good for your heart. Hello! How fucking brain dead have we become that we need a documentary, A MOVIE to tell us that our food sucks and that it's unhealthy?
It wasn't that long ago that milk and butter (the real stuff, not that margarine crap) were delivered directly to homes from the dairy and you would go to the butcher shop to buy your meat (generally local meat) and grow your own garden and take the time to can and freeze the food that was grown right in your own yard to feed your family for the winter. All without using genetically engineered seeds and animals, and fertilizers, and tons of petroleum to haul it all . How shitty is it that we as a nation have decided that instead of growing our own gardens (not me of course) and buying eggs and meat from local farms and butcher shops that we will now leave all of the prep work out of it and swing by the grocery store on the way home and see what's hot in the deli case. Granted I sometimes will swap the work for the convenience and I have certainly driven my car up to a speaker and shouted out the names of some food items that are not so healthy, then paid money for them before shoving a handful of french fries in my face, but I can assure that it doesn't happen very often.
Now that I got my little rant out there and wholeheartedly agree with the part of the movie that I saw but not much of that was new to me except for the part where the seed cleaner man was sued by seed mega giant Monsanto. I wanted to cry for that poor man... Being a farmer is tough work and I can certainly attest to that, but it's not all that bad. Not every dairy farm gives hormones to their cows to produce more milk. Hell the farm I work at is very much different from the farms featured in the movie. My boss is very careful about what her animals eat and what kinds of chemicals they have access to. She even paints her fences (actually I've been commissioned to paint her fence this year. I'm just waiting for a warm day.) with a non-toxic paint that won't make the cows sick when they chew on it or rub up against it, which is inevitable on a dairy farm. Her milk isn't organic or anything special. Her milk gets picked up every day and is pumped into a truck with other milk from the farm up the road and after her stop it will continue on to the next farm. Some farmers aren't as
Not all farms are huge factory farms. Granted the volume of food that comes out of one of those big factory farms is astronomical and can't be replicated on small farms and that's why those monster factory farms exist but not everything we buy is made this way. There are still farmers that let their animals graze in pastures. There are still farmers that don't buy into all the crap that is advertised in farming magazines. Seriously the farming supplies and advertising is out of control. Every time I get a peek in my boss's kitchen I can see stacks and stacks of magazine and brochures that came in the mail. Craziness! The farming industry has changed and some of those changes were not such great ones as it turns out but some other changes have been revolutionary. When my husband started working for my farmer boss over 20 years ago, she didn't even have a milk pipeline (a stainless steel pipe that transports the milk from each cow's milking machine to the bulk tank in the milk house to be cooled) in her barn. My husband at the ripe old age of 10 carried stainless steel buckets of milk from each cow into the milk house and dumped them into the big cooler tank. Twice a day! Granted I'm convinced that my boss lives in a continuous loop of 1987, a world where cell phones don't exist and answering machines are completely optional (Seriously she doesn't have one and is very rarely in the house. Makes her very hard to reach.). When I come for nightly chores twice a week, we don't use any fancy equipment, besides of course the automated milkers, you gotta draw the line somewhere. No, the most technologically advanced piece of equipment I use is a push broom and a pitch fork. I pitch out the food we feed to the cows from the silo. I carry around bales of hay and distribute them to hungry, drooling milk cows. I carry buckets of water to the heifers in the shed because there isn't even running water out there. Seriously antiquated, but it works and is a fairly environmentally friendly way of farming. May not make lots of money and sometimes even loses money depending on the ever changing milk prices.
I know other young farmers, people my age who have given up on other careers and have started farming, to get into the family business just like their parents and grandparents did generations before. The sad part is that not all families carry on the farming tradition and operating farms shut down when the farmer finally decides that it's too much work. I can't blame them for that either. Being tied down to a farm isn't for everyone. It's hard to go away for even a day if there isn't someone around to feed and milk your cows. They don't care if you need a vacation, they still need to eat.
While we can't change how people run their farms as long as they are following the law, we can do things to make the food we eat safer and healthier. Start by growing your own garden if you have the room, really it's not that hard at all or even purchasing a garden share from a local CSA or just stopping by the local Farmer's market in the summer and support your local farmers. Trust me, as the local and organic farming movement gains momentum, there are farms popping up in many communities both rural and urban, you just have to look for them. Not hard stuff and that's what the film suggested also. Making a choice on what kinds of farming and food production you support when you go to the grocery store or out to eat. Don't buy those cheap white eggs, buy the more expensive brown ones from the lady up the road (and almost get pecked to death by her free range chickens on the walk from your car to her
Oh by the way, Happy Earth Day! Now step away from the computer and go turn your compost pile.