We've been back from Texas for more than a month, but several unexpected home repair projects and the everyday of living with a baby and a seven-year-old have delayed my posting the stories that came out of that trip. We were there to see family, but Chrissy and I made it a working trip to some extent. Thankfully, my work is mobile, and my subject matter is everywhere food is eaten or grown, so it wasn't hard to find some great stories in the Lone Star State. Enjoy!
Austinites love local food so much that developers are building it into their housing communities. It was awesome hanging out with my friends Daniel and Brittany at their newly completed home, which was moved from South Austin to a shared plot of land with a garden in the middle. Pretty cool.
Nestled in the Hill Country north of Austin is Lazy Day Farm, a startup operation run by several middle-aged family members. They have chickens, goats, a donkey, miniature horses, bees and a great organic garden. (my son's favorite were the two baby goats) The plan is to expand the farm and open it up to visitors who want to get a taste for agricultural life.
When I saw "Richard's Rainwater" on the shelf at a market in Georgetown, TX, I did a double-take. "You can't drink rainwater!" I thought. I snapped this photo and went home to do some research. Turns out you absolutely can collect and purify rainwater to drink. In fact, Richard (of Richard's Rainwater) says his rainwater blows your standard tap or bottled water out of the ... er ... water in terms of taste and quality. For drought-stricken Texas, this is great news.
It appears the battle over the minds of America's food shoppers will be waged in the cinema. It started with the 2004 hit "Super Size Me," which documented Morgan Spurlock's 30 days of McDonald's gluttony. The film, combined with the bestselling book Fast Food Nation, opened the eyes of many Americans to the cheap, processed foods low-wage workers were handing us through little drive-thru windows. Then came "Food, Inc.," which dove deep into the political and corporate environment that brings us most of our food. Each of these films, and the books on which they were based, played an important part in uncovering aspects of the food system that had been previously hidden.
We all figured that eventually, the food and biotech companies would get smart and fight back with its own installment in the conversation. "Farmland" appears to be that installment, and its funding structure is certainly raising some eyebrows. Film funders the United States Farmers and Ranchers Alliance -- a PR front group for agribusinesses like Monsanto and the National Pork Board -- scored a huge Hollywood documentary filmmaker, Academy Award-winner James Moll, to direct "Farmland." Overall, the film is a sweeping yet personal look at five American farmers and their diverse struggles, triumphs, views, and methods. It's worth watching. But as one critic put it, it comes off as a syrupy, slickly produced infomercial for Big Ag that is long on the personal narratives and short on the systems thinking necessary to make change in our food chain.
Check out my two posts on the subject, posted over at TakePart:
Is This Documentary the Ag Industry's Answer to 'Food, Inc.'?
Ag Group Fires Back at Critics of 'Farmland'
A repository of my work, photos, and random reflections. Views expressed here are my own and not necessarily those of publications or other clients with which I work.