Film Brings Local Practice Under Scrutiny

On March 9, the Facing Fences project and the Campus Community Farm held a screening of Fresh, a film on agriculture and the food system in the U.S.

Fresh explained many of the problems pointed out by Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and the recent film Food, Inc., such as the dangers of monocultures, farms that lack biological diversity. However, the film focused on the ways some farmers address these problems.

Many farmers who attempt to combat this, such as Joel Salatin, focus on organic production with a diverse crop.  Salatin runs Polyface Farm in Virginia and raises chickens and cattle.  His farm, which he inherited from his father, has not used chemical fertilizer for 50 years; instead Salatin uses waste from his cattle and chickens to fertilize his crops and pastures.

Will Allen, Director of Growing Power, an urban farm in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, similarly combats the current food system. He runs workshops in the urban farm, showing local community members how they can utilize vertical space and make compost in order to grow their own food.

As many farmers from the local community attended, a subsequent discussion led by Christine Bergmark from the Southern Maryland Agricultural Commission focused on local agriculture in St. Mary’s County. Bergmark pointed out that though Southern Maryland does not have industrial farms such as those pointed out in the film, 375,000 acres of farmland have been lost to development in the past decade.

As for local food on campus, senior Tess Wier, president of the Campus Community Farm, explained that the Farm has had difficulties developing a relationship with Bon Appetit due to insurance issues. Local farmer Brett Grohsgal, co-owner of Even’Star Farm, responded, “Your local Bon Appetit leaves everything to be desired.”

Grohsgal, who used to sell produce to the College’s branch of Bon Appetit, said that changes in management in the past few years led to many local farmers being “pushed out” from a relationship with the local Bon Appetit.

Even’Star currently sells produce to the Bon Appetit branch at American University, where Grohsgal said his experience has been nothing but positive. However, he said Bon Appetit at St. Mary’s has required local farmers to “jump through too many hoops” in order to maintain their contracts.

Grohsgal said one farmer was asked to obtain humane certification in order to continue selling his eggs; such a certification would have required him to build a roof over his 18 acre pasture, Grohsgal said.

“They have more words than actions,” said Grohsgal, referencing Bon Appetit’s mission to buy most of its food from local sources. He added that there are “so many local farmers trying” to sell produce to the College.

Students interested in purchasing local food produced in Southern Maryland can go to somarylandsogood.com in order to find local farmers’ markets or farms that participate in community-supported agriculture.

 

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