What, no Alice? I wasn’t sure it was possible to make a movie about food politics, particularly about local and sustainable food, without the obligatory homage to the queen, Ms. Alice Waters. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not among the nouveau-Alice-bashers—I lover her food, her cookbooks and what she stands for—but I don’t think the she carries the weight of the sustainability movement on her back like a sherpa up Mount Everest. These days there are more climbers.
Fresh, a new documentary by Sofia Joanes, aims to shine the spotlight on the farmers, journalists, markets and academics that are working day and day out to re-invent our food system as something that is healthier, more sustainable and more accessible to our entire population. If you’ve read Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma, or if you saw the documentary Food Fight last fall, then you’ll probably recognize Polyface Farms owner and pioneer Virginia farmer Joe Salatin and Will Allen, founder of, a education-oriented community farm and store in Milwaukie, Wisconsin, who both play a prominent roll in this well-made film. Joanes doesn’t just point out the “evils” of the industrial food system—food deserts, obesity, poor rural economies, more prevalent and antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria like salamonella and E. Coli—she mounts a counterattack to the arguments made for the status quo that say local or organic (or both) are too expensive and inefficient to feed our nation. She interviews independent market owners like David Ball, who’s Missouri market chain, Hen House, works directly with the Good Natured Family Farms coop to get food produced by small, local family farmers like meat, eggs, cheese and produce to people in the community for a fair price, creating jobs and keeping more money in the local economy.
My qualm with this film and those like it is this: who is the intended audience? I requested a press screener because I missed the movie when it came to the film festival in Orange County last month, but I’m already committed to change. Will the people who need to see this, the politicians, the traditional farmers, the poor people being exploited in our inner city food deserts see Fresh? It may have only taken 50 years to shift our food system to one reliant on the industrial food chain, to chain supermarkets touting shelves chock full of processed corn and soybeans, but it will take a revolutionary grassroots movement to turn it into something better.