The special Saturday morning showing of Food, Inc. as a fundraiser for the Interfaith Food Shuttle drew a large crowd, nearly filling the Colony Theater.
The movie just started showing the night before in the Raleigh area. It is also at the Galaxy in Cary, Chelsea in Chapel Hill and Carolina in Durham.
The movie unfolds in a series of stories, each narrated by an expert. Michael Pollan, author of In Defense of Food; Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, farmer Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms and Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield Organic Yogurt take turns leading the discussion about the food industry, the way its changed our diet and our food and the factors that led us to become a nation of obese corn eaters.
A gut wrenching part of the film involves Barbara Kowalcyk who describes the death of her young son from e coli after he ate a hamburger and her efforts seeking Congressional passage of Kevin’s law to give the FDA the power to shut down infected meat processing facilities.
There were two surprising moments for me in the showing of the movie. Both were linked to the crowd response.
1) When an aerial shot of Smithfield Farm’s processing facility in Tarheel, NC came on the screen, there was a collective groan from the audience. The facility was labeled as the largest hog slaughterhouse in the nation. The movie bypassed the many union and environmental issues associated with the plant to zero in on deportation of its workers, some who were said to be long time, hard working employees. The movie noted many Mexicans were recruited by corporations to work at US agricultural plants after NAFTA brought cheap US corn to their country and eliminated many Mexican farming jobs.
2) The movie ends with a series of statements crossing the screen that encourage viewers to use the information they’ve received to take action. As the movie concluded, there was emotional applause and cheers from the audience. That’s a rare occurance at a movie. As the credits rolled, the buzz in the room grew louder. No one was leaving, because Linda Watson of cookforgood.com had organized additional opportunities.
Linda welcomed everyone and introduced farmer and restaurant owner Richard Holcomb who operates Coon Rock Farm and is a partner in the restaurant Zely & Ritz. Holcomb talked about operating a sustainable farm , a venture that he got into – he noted – to make sure that his children had healthy food. His organic crops supply a CSA, the restaurant in Raleigh and will soon supply a second restaurant that will be located in Durham. With the microphone being offered, several folks made statements and one or two asked questions that Holcomb fielded.
As we filed out into the lobby, Quail Ridge books was selling copies of the Food, Inc participant guide, as well as books by Pollan, Schlosser, Barbara Kingsolver and David Kessler.
I picked up a copy of the movie participant guide. Its a 320 page book divided into three sections with essays written by many of those in the movie, as well as folks like Anna Lappe, Marion Nestle and Muhammad Yunus.
There were also opportunities to get information and sign up with the Interfaith Food Shuttle.
My 16-year-old son had gone to the movie with me and we discussed it through the day. He noted that Joel Salatin was the hero of the movie. I think that’s right. There is a clear distinction between Salatin’s farming operation with grass fed livestock roaming in pasture and back yard open air slaughter operation and what happens in food industry managed operations that give little consideration to the animals or the workers manning mechanized lines.
I wrote Linda Watson, thanking her for organizing what was an exciting morning. She wrote back:
It was just amazing to watch the event unfold … better than even an optimist like me had imagined. Richard was just fabulous. I get tears in my eyes just thinking about it.
We’ve got a very active food community in this area and I hope this event just helped strengthened it. Two great ways to stay in touch are to subscribe to my newsletter and to join the Carolina Farm Stewardship.
I hope to have events like this about every quarter.
I’m looking forward to the next one.
UPDATE: Linda Watson says “We nearly filled the Colony Theater with 278 people at a special showing of Food, Inc. We raised over $2,250 to bring wholesome food and essential kitchen equipment to needy families in our area.“