Movie Review – FRESH: The Movie by Ana Sofia Joanes

I was delighted to catch the new documentary, FRESH, by Ana Sophia Joanes at the Newport Beach film festival last month. FRESH is a movie about modern food production and supply, how messed up it is, the ramifications of industrial agriculture, and what we need to do to fix it.

Movie Review – FRESH: The Movie by Ana Sofia Joanes

I was delighted to catch the new documentary, FRESH, by Ana Sophia Joanes at the Newport Beach film festival last month. FRESH is a movie about modern food production and supply, how messed up it is, the ramifications of industrial agriculture, and what we need to do to fix it.

This is a must-see, folks. Absolutely do not miss this movie. Not only is the film informative and captivating, it’s so emotionally powerful I was moved to tears more than once (okay, let’s be honest, my cheeks were wet throughout).

Instead of boring you with my impressions of the film or a long-winded review which just won’t do justice to this brilliant film, I’ve decided instead to highlight two of the main characters, both farmers, Joel Salatin and Will Allen, by showing a few more clips from the movie.

Go to the bottom of this post for details on upcoming screenings and how to host a local screening.

Joel Salatin, Self-Described “Christian-Libertarian-Environmentalist-Lunatic Farmer”

Joel Salatin owns Polyface Farm in Virginia, arguably the model for sustainable farms. Salatin said once that in America we have an NRA for guns — we should have a group to protect our food supply. According to Michael Pollan, Salatin is “an evangelical Virginia farmer [who] says a revolution against industrial agriculture is just down the road.”

I can’t explain Joel Salatin better than Michael Pollan already has, so I offer you a quote by Pollan:

I asked Joel how he answers the charge that because food like his is more expensive, it is inherently elitist. “I don’t accept the premise,” he replied. “First off, those weren’t any ‘elitists’ you met on the farm this morning. We sell to all kinds of people. Second, whenever I hear people say clean food is expensive, I tell them it’s actually the cheapest food you can buy. That always gets their attention. Then I explain that, with our food, all of the costs are figured into the price. Society is not bearing the cost of water pollution, of antibiotic resistance, of food-borne illnesses, of crop subsidies, of subsidized oil and water — of all the hidden costs to the environment and the taxpayer that make cheap food seem cheap. No thinking person will tell you they don’t care about all that. I tell them the choice is simple: You can buy honestly priced food or you can buy irresponsibly priced food.” Source: No Bar Code, Mother Jones

If you haven’t yet read Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, read it immediately. It’s the best description of Salatin’s grass-based farm you will find.

Will Allen, Industrial Food Drop-out and Urban Farmer

On just three acres in urban Milwaukee, Will Allen runs a non-profit organization called Growing Power. They have six greenhouses, eight hoophouses for greens, herbs and vegetables; pens for goats, ducks and turkeys; a chicken coop and beehives; and a sustainable system for raising 10,000 tilapia and perch. His staff consists of three dozen full-time workers and 2,000 residents pitching in as volunteers. Growing Power raises about $500,000 worth of affordable healthy food he is making available to urban areas he calls “food deserts”, where the only access to food is corner grocery stores with nothing but beer, cigarettes and processed junk foods.

Standing almost seven feet tall (6’7), Will Allen, who grew up on a farm outside Washington, D.C., left a job working for industrial food giant Procter & Gamble and bought a roadside farm in Milwaukee’s run down north side and started getting local teenagers involved. Now, Growing Power has, in addition to the main two-acre urban farm in Milwaukee, a 40-acre farm in a nearby town, and gardens throughout the city. They also also have operations in Chicago, including a garden at the Cabrini-Green housing project and urban farms in Grant and Jackson Parks.

In addition to retail sales at the Milwaukee headquarters, Growing Power sells to food co-ops, other retail stores and about 30 restaurants in the Milwaukee and Chicago areas. Growing Power also educates through local, national, and international outreach for farmers and communities. They run multiple youth programs, have an active volunteer base, and actively work on policy initiatives regarding agriculture.

Where to See FRESH: The Movie

Here is a list of upcoming screenings:

May 26, 2009 – Washington, DC
May 27, 2009 – New York City
May 28, 2009 – Boston, MA
May 31, 2009 – Kansas City, MO
June 2 & 3, 2009 – Minneapolis, MN
June 4, 2009 – Milwaukee, WI
June 6, 2009 – Encinitas CA
June 7 – 11, 2009 – Seattle Film Festival
June 10, 2009 – Vancouver, Canada
June 12, 2009 – San Francisco, CA
June 15, 2009 – Berkeley, CA
June 17th, 2009 – Denver, CO

If there are no upcoming screenings in your area, please contact the director to get a DVD to host a local screening in your home or community center.

You can also sign up for email updates about FRESH. And you can become a fan on Facebook (they list the upcoming screenings on there, too).

Everyone in America needs to see this film. It has the power to inspire a new generation of farmers in America. And there is nothing we need more. After you see this movie, you realize that we are in a stranglehold by the industrial food system. It is absolutely vital to our nation’s health, financial security, and environmental stability that sustainably-minded farmers get out there and start growing food.

And yes, that includes you. Are you growing food in your backyard (or on your front lawn)? Are you doing what you can to support local farmers? Shopping at a farmer’s market? A member of a CSA? Are you a member of any organizations that support farmers and sustainable food? Like the Weston A. Price Foundation or the The Farm to Consumer Foundation, or the The Cornucopia Institute? Or perhaps you are thinking of hosting a local screening of FRESH?

If you are doing any of the above (or other things) to support sustainable agriculture and real food, please comment below. Or if you’re not doing anything yet but you’re thinking about doing something. Like starting a garden or joining a CSA. By sharing, you may inspire someone else with an idea they hadn’t thought of before.

Together, we CAN make a difference. We CAN wrench the control away from the multinational corporations that run the industrial food system. We CAN reject the junk they call food — the overly processed and refined garbage made of genetically modified corn and soybeans that is making us sick and destroying our land. We CAN support local farmers and artisanal food producers and take back our food supply, our health, and our planet.


Local Harvest
Eat Wild
Real Milk
Weston A. Price Foundation
The Farm to Consumer Foundation
The Cornucopia Institute

You can also read my interview with FRESH director, Ana Sofia Joanes.

Photo credit: cpentecost on Flickr and Fighting Windmills blog (Joel Salatin’s neighbor!)