“Farmland” on the Big Screen

A couple weeks ago, my good friend Katie treated Adam and I to the opening night showing of Farmland. Katie grew up on a farm and, quite honestly, she was one of my first tastes to the amazing community that farmers hold each other in.

The movie was at a chic theater in Indianapolis (… A theater where you could order a glass of wine for the movie. If more theaters did this I might consider going to the movies more often than the time that has passed between now… and when the last Harry Potter movie came out.)

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And as the credits started rolling, Adam turned to me with the biggest smile on his face.

He was still beaming as we walked out of the theater and asking, “So, what did you think?” over and over.

Honestly, I thought it was very good, but that seemed so generic to say at that moment.

I needed more time to process it all.

There was so much information. Emotion. Stories. Passion.

Lots and lots of thoughts were running through my head.

For me, it wasn’t like watching your childhood heroes like it was for Adam.

From my stand point, it was like watching a captivating, information packed segment on Dateline or the Today show. Except it was eighty minutes long.

I reversed and asked him what he thought.

“I think everyone needs to see it” he responded without hesitation.

I couldn’t help but agree. The thought had crossed my mind.

In this day and age where everyone is so quick to judge farmers based on what they see in paranoid food blogs and Food, Inc., Farmland is a strong rebuttal. (I am not sure if it was designed that way, but I also couldn’t help but find it ironic that Farmland’s final shots were set to an upbeat version of “This Land is Your Land.” Food, Inc. ended with a somber “This Land is Your Land.”)

I’ll admit. Food, Inc. got to even me. As I started this blog, I knew I had to watch it.

So, I picked it up at the library last spring and after viewing it I decided that if I am in control of the meat I eat, I wanted to know where it came from.

At home this wasn’t hard. I bought meat at the farmers market or from people we know. But, out and about? That was hard.

So, my post Food, Inc. resolution lasted about three weeks.

Farmland addresses those horrible images that Food, Inc. shares that got me to reconsider my burgers and steaks.

The images of a cow being rolled over by a fork lift. Or the guy kicking a pig with all his might.

All the farmers featured in the video agreed that those images make them mad. Sick. Angry.

One mentioned on how their animals are their livelihood. They can’t make a profit with a poor product. In turn, they love the animals they tend to.

Another said, “All kinds of industry have their bad apples and they ruin it for everyone”

It’s true.

Bad press and bad stereotypes are found in any and every industry.

Teachers? Lazy. Over paid baby sitters. And, how about the ones sleeping with their students?

Nurses? Drugging their elderly or mentally disabled patients so that they don’t have to deal with them.

Sales people? They are greasy, aggressive and will do anything just to make a buck.

Doctors? Often running drug rings out of their practice and buddying up to the pharma reps just for the all-inclusive vacation.

Politicians? Do I really even need to go there?

The thing is, food is personal.

Food is the one thing that everyone uses everyday. (Multiple times a day!)

And thanks to the propaganda images and news articles from a few “bad apples” in the agriculture industry, people are quick to judge farmers.

Now more than ever, people feel like they need a connection to their food. They feel that they deserve to know how the food was produced. They want to see the face behind their meal.

So… go get it.

Make connections with local growers. Ask questions of the people who actually do the work.

Take all internet boards and propaganda with a grain of salt, and take it upon yourself to get the whole story before forming opinions or assuming everything you hear is a fact.

In fact, watch Farmland.

I have asked so many questions and read so many books and articles over the last two to three years about our food system, to the point that I think I could hold pretty good ground in intelligent conversations about farming, local food, organics, scare tactics, etc. But, I still learned so much from Farmland.

For example: No added hormone’s in chicken.

Sounds good, right? Most consumers would rather buy the chicken labeled no hormones added versus the one that didn’t have this label.

Guess what?

Some marketer thought it sounded good too.

No farmer is adding hormones to chickens. One company just made it big and bold on their label so everyone thought that this chicken was better for them than the other.

I am pretty sure I have even boasted in this blog about how our backyard chickens don’t have any added hormones. Which, yes, is true. But, in that regard, it puts them on the same level as any other chicken out there.

The information provided in Farmland is eye opening and presented at a level that is simple to understand. And, that may be because the six farmers are showcased in the documentary are in their 20’s and 30’s. It felt like I was watching and learning from people who could easily be Adam and my friends.

Each of these farmers come from very different kinds of farming, such as big organics in California, ranching in Texas, commodity crops in the Midwest, and organic CSA’s in New England. But, they did a great job speaking about the realities that the entire industry shares like the weather, the current age demographic in agriculture, the stereotypes they face each day, the up and coming technology propelling the industry to be able to serve the demand, and their unfaltering passion to continue to grow our nation’s food.

If you grew up around farming and love agriculture, go see Farmland.

If you have never met a farmer and want to know more about agriculture, go see Farmland.

If you swear by organic food, go see Farmland.

If you don’t think GMO’s are a big deal, go see Farmland.

If you saw Food, Inc., go see Farmland.

If you buy food, go see Farmland.

Everyone should see it.

Use it as a tool to help you form your own opinions, but keep learning.

The film is in select theaters across the nation and will be available for digital download late this summer.

Egg Series Day 2: Egg Labels and How To Hard Boil

Navigating the wonderful world of eggs these days can be a little crazy. “Cage-Free.” “Free Range.” “Organic.” “Hormone Free.”

Crazy.

Here’s what it all means:

Cage Free– Term established by the USDA meaning the chickens have been raised without cages. They can walk around and flap their wings. But, don’t be fooled: This doesn’t necessarily mean that they have access to the outdoors. They can be “cage-free” in a barn and never see the light of day.

Free Range– Term established by the USDA. Means the birds are cage free, with access to the outdoors but there are no regulations on how long they are outside, the conditions of the outdoors, or what the chickens eat.

Pasture Raised– This is not a term regulated by the USDA. It means the chickens feed in a pasture and eat a diet of bugs and grasses in addition to feed. It might also means that the hens are possibly fenced in or kept in a pen.

Natural– Sounds nice… but this really doesn’t mean anything. All chickens and eggs are natural because they are not a processed food. There are no regulations surrounding this term.

Organic– This is regulated by the USDA and means that the chickens were fed feed that had no contact with pesticides and fertilizers. There are no regulations for the conditions the hens live in. Keep in mind that all egg laying chickens are hormone free. This is based on a USDA regulation. They are given antibiotics if they are ill, but that is all that is permitted.

The eggs from our backyard hens are, by definition, Pasture Range and Organic. They have their coop, but we let them roam throughout the yard everyday. They have feed in the coop but also eat grass and bugs.

Exploring the yard last September.

Exploring the yard last September.

We have five hens and get about four eggs each day. I have gotten in the habit of hard boiling ten to twelve eggs each week. They are so great to have in the fridge for a quick snack or an on-the-go breakfast.

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There is a little bit of a fine science when it comes to hard boiling eggs. If they don’t boil long enough the yolks are runny. If they boil too long the yolks turn green.

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And it may seem super basic, hard boiled eggs… easy, right? But, many of my friends have admitted to not knowing where to begin when making hard boiled eggs. I even had to Google it when I lived in my first apartment.

Older eggs make peeling the shells off easier.  I had to learn this the hard way...

Older eggs make peeling the shells off easier. I had to learn this the hard way…

Thanks to a lot of practice, I think I finally have it down.

I used a dozen eggs we had stocked up in the fridge.

I used a dozen eggs we had stocked up in the fridge.

Place eggs in the bottom of a sauce pan. Cover with about one inch of water and bring to a boil.

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Once boiling, remove from heat, place lid on pan. Let sit for twelve minutes.

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Run eggs under cold water.

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Enjoy right away or place in the fridge. They last about a week in their shells… but ours never make it that long!

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The Very Hungry Caterpillar: The Untold Story.

Eric Carle’s “A Very Hungry Caterpillar” was a staple of my childhood. I loved the colorful illustrations and the little holes in the food items that the cute little, green caterpillar ate… but was still hungry.

Well, now that I am older, I know there are always two sides to every story.

And now that I am a gardener, I know that caterpillar was a pain in the ass.

About ten days ago, I noticed that my broccoli leaves had multiple holes in them and were not looking so great.

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I showed the damage to Adam and he noticed tiny, green caterpillars on the leaves. They were so small and nearly the same color green as the leaf so it’s no wonder I missed them at my first glance.

Little Hungry Loopers.

Little Hungry Loopers.

We went inside to determine what they heck was going on. Adam looked up from Google and said, “They are cabbage loopers.”

“Okay, what do they do?” I asked.

“Eat the shit out of your plants,” he bluntly stated as his wide eyes scrolled image after image of damage these little buggers created.

And they did.

umm... YIKES.

umm… YIKES.

The following morning it was ten times worse so I knew something needed to be done. I talked to a couple neighbors and they both (very ominously…) said, “Ohh. You going to need to get some Sevin.”

I looked up Sevin online-which I learned is not spelled like the number- and found plenty of information that made me realize this was not the product I wanted to use.

Directions for application instructed one to wear long sleeves, eye protection and a face mask to prevent breathing in the chemical. It also said to ensure that pets would not come in contact with the plants.

… And I was going to put this on something I was planning on eating? I don’t think so.

(I also read that it kills bees. I like bees. Bees are important… more on that later.)

So then I used searches like “eco-friendly” or “organic” removal/control of loopers.

A site said just to remove the loopers from the leaves and step on them.

Well… this worked for about, oh… let’s see… ten minutes. They blend in with the big green broccoli leaves so well it was like your eyes would play tricks on you. There were tons. Not to mention, it was hot. And the wormies were nasty. This method made Sevin sound pretty good.

Trying to pick off the loopers.  Hard, boring, hot work.

Trying to pick off the loopers. Hard, boring, hot work.

So, back to the search engines. The chemical Bacillus thuringiensis var. kurstaki (BTK) was recommended and used by many organic gardeners. Even with the use of BTK the produce is still considered organic.

I had to hunt a bit for this chemical, but finally found it at a home improvement store. It was made by a company called Garden Safe and was even labeled for Organic Gardening. Less than ten bucks later I was on my way home and the looper’s days were numbered.

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The chemical was in concentrate form so I combined with water in a spray bottle. I spritz the solution on to the leaves and their undersides.

That was ten days ago and we have not seen a looper since.

So, in the end of this bedtime story, the very hungry caterpillar died. But, the very savvy gardener was able to pull three great looking broccoli heads from her garden this evening.