Food touches everything from our individual health to the environment, climate change, economic inequality and the federal budget. A powerful local and regional food movement has been growing inside the United States and in Logansport — a movement that directly connects consumers with how and where their food is grown.
“Sustainable: A Documentary on the Local Food Movement in America” is documentary that investigates the economic and environmental instability of America’s food system — from the agricultural issues we face like soil loss, water depletion, climate change and pesticide use to the community of leaders who are determined to fix it.
And for Earth Day, three local companies — Rabble Rousers Farm to Truck, Bodyworks Studio and Black Dog Coffee — have teamed up to bring the movie to the State Theatre in downtown Logansport for a special screening on Monday.
The narrative of the film focuses on Marty Travis, a seventh-generation farmer in central Illinois who watched his land and community fall victim to the pressures of big agribusiness. Determined to create a proud legacy for his son, Marty transforms his profitless wasteland and pioneers the sustainable food movement in Chicago.
Natasha Walters and Scott Johnson, owners of Bodyworks Studio and Black Dog Coffee, respectively, discussed the industrial food system in America and the profound social costs left in its wake — including a worldwide epidemic of diet-related diseases and ecological devastation stemming from unsustainable agricultural practices.
“I started this because my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer," Walters said. "I began doing research and that’s what took me on the path of starting to understand food and nutrition. What we found in Eat Fresh Cass County [a Cass County Resource Network task force] is that there’s a lack of it — we don’t have it here, we don’t have enough growers here, we don’t have a system that’s working together to provide food in this area ... there’s a major deficit.”
Walters laid out the inherent benefits of a resilient local food system including health and nutrition, environmental stewardship, economic development and, perhaps most importantly, community vitality.
“'Sustainable’ is about beginning this conversation between commercial producers, small local farmers, businesses, politicians — everyone getting together to figure out how we can elevate this community based around food production.”
While there has been a nationwide food movement of community gardeners, urban farmers, educators, policymakers, funders and social entrepreneurs working together to ensure that food is grown sustainably and distributed equitably, Walters and Johnson said that our reliance on sourcing food externally puts us in a dangerous position.
“We’re relying on food to come from other places,” Walters said. “From the truck — I say this over and over — if the truck doesn’t come up over the hill, we’re in trouble because we’re not in a position where we can feed ourselves.”
Johnson said he is hoping to see the Cass County Farmers Market expand and that Arin Shaver, Executive Director of the Logansport-Cass County Planning Department, has been instrumental in helping make that happen.
Last September, as part of Logansport Re-Imagined Week, Shaver and a team of high school students participating in the My Community, My Vision program hosted an event to help reimagine the Farmers Market lot at the corner of Fourth and Market Streets.
“We’re trying to reach that tipping point where we get enough people working at it so that it really becomes a part of our community and not just a sidebar,” Johnson said.
Walters noted that “tipping point” is the perfect way to put it.
“Sustainable is about gathering everyone to create this tipping point toward sustainable production,” she said.
A lifetime student of history with a background in geology, Johnson said we shouldn’t rely on things to always be the “way they are.”
“I think everyone knows what a grocery store looks like when they predict a snowstorm the next day,” Johnson said. “What we often times don’t think about are those even more rare cases that are possible — potential and probable — where there will be a disruption, whether it’s a natural disaster or some sort of man-made influence, or even climate change or soil loss. We play this game like everything will always be the way it is. We’d be silly to think that we could never face those kinds of things.”
With the influx of reports sounding alarms about looming disasters and food-scarcity issues, the sustainable agriculture sector has increasingly melded with the boom in agriculture technology and crop-data analytics in an effort to quantify yield potential and environmental impacts of food production at field, farm and catchment scales.
These reports, combined with consumers becoming increasingly more aware, engaged and mobilized around the sustainability challenges our world faces, have industrial farms and food and beverage companies under mounting pressure to adapt to the rising demand for more action and transparency.
“The local food movement is back,” Walters said. “This is happening all over the country and there’s no reason Logansport should not be on top of this.”
Johnson added that locally sourced produce isn’t just good for you — "it tastes good, too."
Up against a food system and diet that some say have caused incalculable damage to the health of our people, land, water and air, Walters and Johnson, along with Lita Rouser of Rabble Rousers Farm to Truck and many other sustainability activists nationwide, are working to introduce and develop alternative food options for interested locals.
“We need a food system that works for us rather than exploits us,” Walters said. “We need something that encourages health rather than undermines it.”
“Sustainable” travels the country seeking leadership and wisdom from some of the most forward thinking farmers, like Bill Niman, Klaas Martens and John Kempf, who challenge the ethical decisions behind industrial agriculture.
Walters said that after the screening of the movie, there will be multiple vendors and local food producers on site at the State Theatre's lobby who are already farming sustainably available for comment and discussion.
The United States Department of Agriculture has several local food directories to help consumers find options near them. The USDA National Farmers Market Directory, which lists over 8,500 farmers markets, helps connect consumers to fresh food in their community.
“Sustainable” has been screened at 20-plus film festivals around the world and recently won the 2016 Accolade Global Humanitarian Award for Outstanding Achievement. Tickets for the movie are $5 and can be purchased the night of the show at the State Theatre box office or in advance at their website, www.statetheatrelive.com. Ticket proceeds benefit the State Theatre Preservation Society, which waved its rental fee for the facility to screen the movie.
Reach Quentin Blount at email@example.com or 574-732-5130.
Local Earth Day activities
Downtown Green and Clean Day: Today, April 20, from 9 a.m. to noon. Volunteers will be out that day picking up litter, weeding, trimming and sprucing up the downtown area.
Citywide Spring Cleanup: Today, April 20. Logansport Reimagined encourages everyone to do some outdoor spring cleaning at their own home or business. Suggestions include sweeping sidewalks, picking up trash, raking leaves, picking up sticks and checking to make sure that your storm drain is not clogged with leaves or debris. For trash that won't fit in your trash tote, stickers should be placed on each item. Leaves and yard waste should be placed in biodegradable brown paper lawn bags and placed near your trash can. Brush piles are picked up every other week by the Logansport Street Department. Limbs should be stacked neatly with the cut end facing out and placed curbside or along the alley. Sand and dirt from sidewalks and crosswalks can be swept into the street to be picked up by the street sweeper. However, do not blow grass clippings into the street.
"Sustainable: A documentary on the local food movement in America:" Monday, April 22 at 6:30 p.m. at the State Theatre, 317 E. Market St.
Riverside Park: Saturday, April 27 from 10 a.m. to noon. The Logansport Parks and Recreation Department, Purdue Extension-Cass County and the Cass County Soil and Water Conservation District invites the public to participate in this year's Earth Day Celebration. Scheduled activities will include a talk with Josh Bell about trapping wildlife, a special tree planting ceremony (with seedlings handed out) and "Hoots and Howls" wildlife demonstration of rescued birds and wildlife. There will also be booths focused on other environmental messages and demonstrations will be available throughout the morning for casual interactions including a compost soil pot creation, beekeeping demonstration, pollinators demonstration, hikes on the Eel River Run and River Bluff Trails, nature BINGO and a watershed demonstration. Questions can be directed to parks administrator Janet Fawley at 753-6969 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.