Film producer serves up food for thought during presentation at UMD
Human eating habits have changed more in the last 50 years than in the previous 10,000. But, going back 10,000 years to the dawn of human eating history would bite hard into anyone's schedule. Thankfully, producer Robert Kenner used modern times ...
Human eating habits have changed more in the last 50 years than in the previous 10,000. But, going back 10,000 years to the dawn of human eating history would bite hard into anyone's schedule. Thankfully, producer Robert Kenner used modern times as the departure point for his documentary "Food, Inc." An examination of the modern industrial food system, the documentary was nominated for an Academy Award and has sold nearly 500,000 DVDs.
Invited to UMD by the student group Access for All, and a number of other university and community sponsors, Kenner gave a talk in the Romano Gym that included selections and commentary from "Food, Inc.", followed by a question-and-answer session.
Tom Hanson, owner of the Duluth Grill restaurant, introduced Kenner.
"What we do at the restaurant reflects the impact of our own viewing of "Food, Inc.", said Hanson, who now maintains a garden on his restaurant property. "It was a huge turning point for us when it came to making decisions about products and vendors and a huge eye-opener that helped us make good decisions about food and nutrition and value and those kinds of things."
Short clips from "Food, Inc." offered varied perspectives on modern industrial food processing. A plane flew above a concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) lot for a look at corporate grazing lands. Cameras went inside Smithfield Hog Processing Plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina, the largest slaughterhouse in the world, where 32,000 hogs are slaughtered each day, to record mechanized meat packaging in action.
A mother spoke about the death of her young son from food poisoning and her advocacy work thereafter. One farmer spoke about alternative methods of farming he used to bring better products to his customers.
Toward the end of his presentation, Kenner emphasized the role of individual initiative in bringing less-industrialized food products to market. He noted the many gardens he either saw or heard about while he was in Duluth that are dedicated to growing local products for local sale, and he encouraged more efforts toward organic, local gardening and farming.
Kenner shared that a woman, who had been under contract to a chicken packaging company when he interviewed her during filming, had not renewed her contract, choosing instead to try raising chickens using organic methods.
After the presentation, Kenner took questions and comments. Marcia Stromgren thanked Kenner for coming to Duluth and spoke about her successful experiences with organic gardening years ago. She and her husband had purchased some property to raise their family in the rural Duluth area. The land had been chemically fertilized to grow potatoes.
"It was evident that the soil was basically dead," Stromgren said after the event. "It was mucky, compact and didn't drain well after a heavy rain. When I'd go to work the garden, it was a 'lose your boot in the muck' experience. Over a period of time, I put organic additions into the soil and used no chemical fertilizers. The soil came alive. You could actually dig in the soil and get earthworms. It was a so much healthier environment for the things I was trying to grow."
A few organizations sponsored informational booths before the event. Ken Lindberg came to hear the presentation and share information about Food and Water Watch, a local organization that engages in political lobbying for small farmers.
"Food and Water Watch was started by some non-farmers who realized that there are not enough small farmers left in America to have an effective lobby," Lindberg said. "I have seen the demise of the small farm starting in 1950 when my dad left the farm. I've been a hanger-on with other farm organizations, but this one shows a lot of promise for getting things done."