GOOD WORK, GOOD FOODJune 30th, 2010
Melissa Young and Mark Dworkin document the Northwest sustainable farming scene
By Renée Htein
Doc, Connie, and Travis Hatfield, founders of Country Natural Beef, feeding hay in the winter in Brothers, Oregon.
In Good Food, activist directors Melissa Young and Mark Dworkin bring the stories of local farmers, organizations and restaurants to the urban foodie audience. “I hope the film will help generate grass-roots solutions,” says Young.
The film captures the joy and creativity of the Northwest’s sustainable farming community, and the love they have for their work. It looks at the deep human connections created through food, both to other people and to the earth. The result is a film that respects both its audience and, as Young puts it, “the wisdom of regular people in interpreting their own experience.”
Central among the themes of the film is the illusion that a centralized, industrial food system is beneficial. Characters like Doc and Connie Hatfield, founders of Oregon Country Natural Beef, as well as other farmers, restaurants and organizations, point to ways that being part of a local “food web” can generate practical solutions for society, benefiting public health, environment, and the economy.
Billy Allstot and Stephanie Blackstead show off their innovative greenhouse in Tonasket, WA
In the film, these relationships continually show how a love for “good food” brings people together and provides opportunities to make sustainably grown, healthy food accessible to everyone.
Young and Dworkin founded their own production company Moving Images in 1987 after working together on a video of a school building project in rural Nicaragua. For 20 years, the company has served as a platform for their social activism as they make films on topics underrepresented in mainstream media.
Young says their focus is less on dire images of global problems, and more on respecting the subjects of the films and motivating people to find solutions. She remembers seeing a film depicting the massacre of people in El Salvador that left her feeling hopeless. “Such images leave no room for action,” she says. “Critical times and times of real crisis also provide a time of great opportunity to think and work together.”
Another recent film, Argentina Turning Around (2007) about social unrest in that country, centers on the benefits of taking personal responsibility for your environment and community. Others include Another World is Possible (2002), a documentary on the World Social Forum; and two critical looks at US globalization through biotechnology with Environment Under Fire (1998) and Risky Business (1996).
Hilario Alvarez, producer of the colorful peppers that brighten many Seattle farmers’ markets
“Fund raising for making a film is a bit like farming,” says Young. “You have a lot of up-front expenses, have to invest lots of time and money and hope that it will come back. I can’t recommend this for someone who wants to get rich… but what an interesting life!”
At a recent pre-screening of clips from Good Food to raise completion funds for the film, the directors provided an example of how a community can come together around food, presenting a friendly old-fashioned potluck.
Held at Mukilteo Coffee’s roasting house on Whidbey Island, the event featured a long wooden table filled with tasty treats grown and prepared by characters in the film: salad made with emmer, an ancient variety of wheat; crostini with coffee-braised pasture-fed beef; locally grown dark salad greens; and squash soup. On the terrace, farmers from South Whidbey Tilth sold locally grown greens, tomato plants, and herbs. Whidbey Island’s Slow Food group orchestrated the event, pursuing their goal of showing how connections are made when “you know who your food is coming from.”
A farm worker harvests apples near Peshastin.
When everyone had a plate of food, Young and Dworkin introduced their film and with it, the Northwest’s vibrant sustainable farming scene. They dedicated the night to the farmers, musicians, and the wider community behind the film. “Our focus is social justice and environment,” Young said. “We rely on friends and neighbors for the music and narrators of our films.” All of the music in the film is by local Northwest musicians such as Jami Sieber, Mark Graham, Jack Knauer, and Band Los Emocionantes.
During the discussion after the screening, the audience gave strong indicators for the success of the film. A teacher requested the help of the local farming community to teach students about farming and Whidbey Island Nourishes, a program that provides paper-bag lunches for the needy. Mike Hearl from the Whidbey Slow Food group offered the recipes from the food of the evening and stressed the importance of attending farmers markets regularly so farmers can have a good idea of what to plan for.
“We are in the middle of a climate change,” Young continued. “We need to think about the changes that are coming and the changes that we need to make.”
Mark Dworkin films Sam Lucy harvesting wheat in the Methow Valley.
CREW BOX: Good Food
Director & Producer: Melissa Young & Mark Dworkin
Photography and Editing: Mark Dworkin
Associate Producer: Bill Aal