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The desire to escape as much as possible from the industrial food system and to participate in an alternative food culture was central to our retirement vision, and so it has been particularly gratifying to see two excellent films appear that both critique the system and explore alternatives:  Food Inc and Fresh.  Both film websites provide trailers and other resources, including book lists.

With author Michael Pollan and sustainable farmer Joel Salatin as maj0r figures in both movies, it is not surprising that they overlap a fair amount.  Still, the feel and the details are quite different.  Food Inc is more of a critique of the industrial food system and its truly devastating consequences, while Fresh tilts more towards documenting promising changes that point towards an alternative.  Overall they reinforce and complement each other nicely and Monika and I recommend all readers of this blog to see both!

Our only real complaint is that while both films make clear that it is public policy that subsidizes and creates the distortions of  industrial agriculture, both films end with a message of individualized consumer choice: vote with your food dollars for healthy and sustainable alternatives.  This is certainly good advice, but it ducks the difficult issue of policy reform, without which systemic change is unlikely.  It also sidesteps the contradictions of praising a company like Wal-Mart for stocking organic yogurt while ignoring the degree to which Wal-Mart is the antithesis of other values of the alternative food movement, such as local production and decent labor relations.

Still, it’s nice to see that food activists are finally getting a hearing, and to see evidence of change even here in Nelson County, where there is now not just one, but three weekly farmers markets and a broad array of organic and sustainable farms.  And it’s nice to have our property butt up against a pasture for grass-fed and free-range cattle!