Ingredients – “Pay the doctor or pay the farmer” – the choice is yours

Incredients, a documentary about the local food movement, focusing a good bit of its time on the local food movement in Oregon and the rest on local food producers outside of New York City, is a beautifully made and constructed documentary. It provides clear insights, real-world situations, and thoughtful conjecture. It is not overly alarmist or inciting. It is a calm, fond look at local farming and how we can all, individually, make it a part of our lives.

The core tenet of the documentary is that there is a growing problem with how (and what) the U.S. eats. Currently (and despite being cheaper than ever to purchase), the quality, biodiversity, flavor, and nutritional values of food (both plant and animal has suffered due to the corporate consolidation of small farms into massive growing operations. This is probably not a revelation to the world at large, but the consequences of this consolidation, the proliferation of food products, and the slow extinction of sources deemed ‘not shipping friendly’ or ‘slow growing’ or that affect the bottom line adversely in any way are far reaching and many.

The goals and philosophies of the farmers talked to and observed share commonalities, to the point it almost becomes humorous.

  1. Grow for taste. The theory here is that if the vegetable tastes good and looks beautiful on the table, then it will be good for you – nutritious and delicious.
  2. Reduce dependence on fossil fuels. By being closer to their customers, more of the cost of the product can go into the product as opposed to into the creation of the product. If things are grown by hand, picked by hand, and delivered by hand, the amount of money which is necessary to give to a large petro-chemical corporation is less. This reduction of dependence on fossil fuels extends to commercial fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.
  3. Quality should not be sacrificed for cost, speed, or quantity. Their reputations with their customers is won and lost by the quality of the food they make. Since they are often interacting physically with their customers, the feedback loop is very small and very powerful. It’s a lot harder to apologize for getting someone sick in person than it is to write a letter and have your publicist send it out to news organizations and drop it on your website. Quality is king.
  4. Self-reliance. There is an aspect of self reliance associated with this ‘localvore’ movement, but it acknowledges that we are not in a vacuum, but rather that we rely on each other (locally) as a part of our lives and livelihoods. But the fact that a single community could sustain itself without intervention from a larger global community is appealing to both the farmers and the consumers of this system.

Pygmy attack!

Ultimately, the community benefits from the interactions between farmer and consumer. Restaurants have seasonal or even weekly menu changes, responding to the availability of different fruits, vegetables, and animals. Receiving food directly from the farmer provides ways for urban and suburban families to connect with their surroundings in a way they otherwise would not be able to do. Farmer’s markets become a place to meet friends, where people stand in the rain waiting to buy veggies from the farmers and farms they trust. Community gardens and instructional farms spring up, connecting kids to growing things, to learning and discovering the way things work, and to get a little dirty.
I heartily recommend this documentary. It is something that I believe is important, timely, and it poses a challenge that I believe we are all responsible to ourselves to accept. By simply adhering to the status quo, we end up losing our health, our community connection, and our connection to the earth via the food we eat.

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