Farmageddon.

I don’t say enough how much I love my Paleo/Primal/Real Food network. I love you. I love you all!

Had I not discovered this way of life (okay, had Coach Rut not discovered it for me), I wouldn’t have connected with so many new, wonderful people. I wouldn’t be able to understand what Hayley of The Food Lover’s Primal Palate meant by her text: “I’m No-‘Poo-ing for the third time this week!” (No Poo = Awesome.)

Because of these connections, I’ve even started to think Twitter is kinda cool (don’t tell anybody).

(Unrelated: you should be following my friend @quinnk. She’s one of HuffPost’s “18 Funny Women You Should Be Following on Twitter.”)

Because of The Twitter, I was able to connect with the Paleo Parents, another fabulous duo who invited me to have a Paleo Dinner with them in the Washington, DC area before viewing Farmageddon together. I enthusiastically accepted their invitation and was treated to a hilarious, inspiring and delicious dinner.

You know how I think having a dog and a Cave Husband is, like, Sooomuchworkyouguuuys? Well. Stacy and Matthew have three HUMAN children. Three BOYS. All of whom are rambunctious (in the best possible way), smart, well-adjusted, and Totally. Paleo. It truly warmed my sarcastic little heart to see these tiny hands gripping a plastic kiddie knife, ready to dig in to some backbones from Polyface Farms.

To make things even better, check out this masterpiece from Cole wherein he discusses what constitutes healthy food:

 

Egg, Bacon, Salad, The Dressing, Period. (And Apples too.)

Touché, kid. Touché.

Stacy and Matthew’s journey is truly inspiring, and to see two folks who run the gamut of day-to-day responsibilities manage to raise kids who are willing to eat beet greens while maintaining a blog and a garden (WITH CAULIFLOWER IN IT) is pretty much confirmation that no excuse is greater than the desire to be healthy.

Post-feast, the grown-ups (well, two folks with grown-up responsibilities and me) headed to a showing of Farmageddon, a film I’d hyped via facebook, Steve’s Original and Twitter based on the band of high-achieving Real Foodists (Joel Salatin, Sally Fallon) who are featured in it.

I was excited to see this movie. It’s becoming more and more apparent to me that our government is fully capable of restricting our right to nourishing food, arbitrarily and with great prejudice. The Raw Milk Movement is evidence of that – further, it’s evidence of how insidious a government-backed “dangerous food” conclusion is. Raw milk isn’t inherently dangerous, yet it’s illegal in many states. Fear of this nourishing, traditional product colors the opinion of even the most enlightened food activist.

Think about it: What about raw milk is inherently dangerous? (I don’t want to get into whether humans should or shouldn’t drink dairy right now, mmkay? Whether I drink it or not, I should have the choice.) Nothing about raw milk should be dangerous, outside of random chance – which, I might add, could make anything from spinach to walking down the street “dangerous.” What’s creating the peril upon which the Feds build their case is the way most milking cows in the industrial food complex are fed and treated.

Cows, in the government-supported paradigm, are fed corn (carb) supplemented with soy (protein) and soy oil (fat), which makes their rumen so acidic and their bodies so sick that they need antibiotics. They’re pumped up with hormones like rBGH to elevate their milk production. They get mastitis. They get infections. They make milk that has to be ultra-pasteurized in order to kill off the pathogens that thrive in this warped environment. The fat is then removed (since we’re afraid of fat, right?), but since all the fat-soluble vitamins are in the fat, the milk must be supplemented with synthetic Vitamin D, among other things. I admit – if they sold this garbage raw, I wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot Oreo.

Basically, the government has a problem with the product of its own subsidy-driven system. And it fails to recognize that the danger is inherent to the production, not the product. Pasteurization arose as a response to similarly perverted pseudo-milk. A cow appropriately raised, rotationally grazed on pasture only, produces milk that’s nutrient-dense and safe. But most people aren’t familiar with this product. And raw milk is slightly different:

-It doesn’t last as long; and while it doesn’t “go bad,” it does “sour” due to (desirable) bacterial activity. (“Good bacteria.”)
-It’s not homogenized (as in, the fat globules aren’t forced into uniformity), so the fat separates. Gasp. You have to shake it before you drink it!
-It’s not homogenized, so it doesn’t distribute in your coffee the same way. (Pobre Cito.)
-All the natural vitamins remain intact.

Additionally, all proteins and fats are left intact, as nature intended, undamaged by heat pasteurization and homogenization; and the lactase (the lactose-digesting enzyme that helps digest lactose) remains intact. Beneficial organisms in raw milk enhance digestion and kill “bad” pathogens, were they present at all. Ugh. What an awful, product, right?

My point is, raw milk is unfairly demonized. The fear of raw milk is a product of this black-and-white approach to “food safety” that’s perpetuated by a government machine that’s too big to maintain the quality of its parts. It’s too big to see individuals. It’s too big to see small operators and family farms. I think that was the point the filmmaker hoped to make.

The tragedy – and the science – was what I hoped Farmageddon would illuminate and expand upon. Unfortunately, I believe this film only fulfilled part of its potential. It was a valiant effort, but fell short. With a title like “Farmageddon,” this flick bowed under the weight of some great expectations. Even an appearance by Joel Salatin couldn’t lend this film the weight it needed to make a true impact.

Admittedly, while I do accept certain grammatical fudgems as part of the charm of the blogosphere, a movie that attempts to gain commercial support will lose me at the first apostrophe error. It will definitely lose me at the second. Who edited this piece?

Farmageddon, as a niche flick, certainly earns respect from the audience that already believes what I stated above. But this film hopes to reach a wider audience, and it failed to do many things that it could have.

Fair or not, the unfortunate responsibility of the underdog in any situation – if he wants to win the day – is to prove himself. Farmageddon could have done this by focusing on as many solutions and scientific references as it did on family tragedies – because these references exist! Why squander the opportunity to extol the deeper, more specific scientific virtues of pasture-based farming and real, raw milk? Call me cold, but we’re a science-and-solutions oriented community. It’s what makes us effective, and it’s what justifies our very unconventional choices.

Farmageddon brought us several very sad, very unfair stories of families who had their small food/animal operations ripped from them in laughably over-sophisticated, spy-games-like investigations and raids. We got some slow motion video (extended a bit past its usefulness) of a large family who had been traumatized by government agents. We got hidden-camera-style footage of the filmmaker attempting, unsuccessfully, to interview some officials associated with an unfair case (it seemed reasonable that she was sent away – the receptionist, while unwilling to discuss the case, simply insisted she needed to have set a meeting).

(One bright idea, touched on only briefly: Raw Milk should be sold like raw meat – with the understanding that consuming undercooked meat or dairy *may* pose risks. People can boil their own milk.)

These nice farmers, animal lovers, and raw milk aficionados were steamrolled by the drones of an ignorant government. It surely seems mean and unfair. But will the tears, the slow-motion, and the words of the always-brilliant Joel Salatin be enough to convince the uninformed to re-consider their false “food safety” paradigm? Moreover, will it spur them to act?

I believe that everyone should care – not because of this movie, but because of what I spelled out ahead of my review. But Farmageddon may lack the power to convince the uninformed of anything related to the inherent safety of raw, appropriately farmed milk. A viewer may find it a decisive bummer, but I doubt they’d trade their ultra-pasteurized Frankenmilk for raw clabbered cream or start writing to their senators. To catalyze a movement, you’ve got to inspire that kind of action.

I suppose I’ve written a scathing review here.  I don’t mean to disparage the underlying movement or the intentions behind this well-meaning film – I simply think that, in a world where our right to eat is in great peril, every public act counts; and this film – while born of compassion and a deep commitment to shedding light on an injustice – doesn’t meet the needs of the community hoping to foster change with it. I was hoping for a greater victory.

Advertisements

16 Responses to “Farmageddon.”

  1. I say no to ‘poo, too. 9 days strong. although saying “poo” makes it laughable. hahaha, reminds me of kindergarten when we said words and laughed.

    and I’m excited to see this movie. when it hits Redbox i’ll rent it. that was a very descriptive explanation, thanks ….

  2. I think I understand your point of the film falling short. I think sometimes we would like for things like this to speak at a higher volume, and even though the effort was there it (they) could have driven a stronger more direct view. I did not see the film, but I understand where you are coming from. Hopefully this will be the one of many films in the future getting better and better with time.

    • I feel badly about how intently I judged this movie – but I do think it was an important enough film, released at a critical time, that was worthy of being judged with a critical eye (if that makes sense), rather than just being accepted for what it was. I think that speaks to how important this issue actually is, and I definitely meant no insult toward the filmmaker! I know the filmmaker worked extremely hard and truly poured her heart and soul into the film. I definitely did, given the potential and the timeliness of the film, want it to “speak at a higher volume,” as you said!

  3. Thank you for an honest, informative review.

    It seems that food-system-focused documentaries go too far in the direction of seeking an emotional response. Maybe that’s what makes them so popular. It would be nice to see more along the lines of what you described: science-based reasons as to why we should be concerned about food issues.

  4. Thank you for the constructive review. I haven’t seen it yet, but as I’m already in the choir I don’t need convincing. Hopefully the next filmmaker who tackles the subject will keep your points in mind so that we can have a film to convert, or at least quiet, our doubting friends and family.

  5. Where in the DC area did you catch a screening? I live in DC and would love to see it!

  6. I think you are wrong about this film. I saw it in Santa Monica, followed by a very interesting Q&A by the film maker. Judging by the Q&A there were many in the audience that were surprised and moved into action by the extreme steps our government has taken to clamp down on our ability to buy the unprocessed foods we want to consume.

    Perhaps your disappointment stems from the film not specifically advocating for the paleo diet. Rather, it advocated for food freedom in general. That the government should back off and allow all of our citizens to eat the food that they choose to eat. This film is as much for the cave girls as it is for the raw vegans, the farmers and the more mainstream folks that may just want better access to locally grown non-processed food without the government stepping in to limit that access or regulate it to death to make it even more expensive. I think all of these constituents should be on the same page as far as food freedoms are concerned. No need to through mud at each other.

    There were some very interesting interviews in the film and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone concerned about our food policies.

    • Hi Gil,
      Good to hear you saw this film with some impassioned individuals who were moved to action. That, in the end, is what’s needed here.

      I was certainly moved by the experiences detailed in the film as well – make no mistake about that – but my overarching point was that this film could have achieved more than a visceral-type reaction (which, as you describe, was the case in your screening, which is wonderful). However, the film still did not explore the science, the research, or the alternatives but briefly, which is what would have made it stand out even further. The emotional stories wouldn’t have suffered in the presence of greater scientific density; rather, they would have been brought to a greater plane of both emotional and biological validity. It wasn’t about what makes raw milk “good,” but about the injustices suffered by those who cherish the food freedoms we’re supposed to have in this country, only to have those freedoms squelched. There it stopped, and it was evident the filmmaker didn’t set out to go further.

      Beyond that, all I can say is that I am not convinced you’ve read too much of my blog (beyond the title, of course, which is simply a fun tagline that has outlasted the evolution of my food-ucation). If you had, you’d see that I’m not a “Paleo” advocate. Not at all. I have an entire tab devoted to the broad interpretations of some of the most common descriptors of this “properly prepared, nutrient-dense, whole food” paradigm that will enlighten you as to my “diet” leanings. I am a member of the Weston A. Price Foundation and advocate passionately for local foodsheds, raw milk, and the freedom to nourish oneself as one wishes (hopefully with an eye toward the biological processes that are supported beautifully by nourishing foods, most notably animal products). Even though I don’t drink milk – I don’t care for it – I love raw cream, raw milk ice cream, and raw milk butter from my regional raw dairy farm. I have written about this extensively at Steve’s Original (stevesoriginal dot com/blog) in several series intended to stop the blanket demonization of dairy by the Paleo community.

      • Where in NJ is you local raw dairy farm? I’m in NJ as well and would like to check it out! Thanks!

      • Actually, raw is illegal in NJ, so I go to Birchwood Farm in Newtown, PA! It’s a bit of a drive, and I know there may be some raw at the markets in Philly, but I met the BF people at the Weston A. Price conference last year and like to support their operation. Plus, I like visiting the farms.

  7. Thanks for being honest. I have not seen it yet but hope to soon. When does this come out on netflix? I have 3 kids Its very rare for me to be able to go to the theater!

  8. When does it get released to watch at home….in the same boat as Kara above.

  9. I couldn’t agree more about the editing. I still haven’t seen the film, and frankly, I’m having a hard time working myself up towards it after seeing the trailer. Nothing tells me more clearly that your work can’t be taken seriously on an intellectual level than not taking the time to use correct grammar. I cringed at mistakes in the trailer! In fact, I hoped that it was rushed out or not the official trailer and that it would be fixed in post. Unfortunately, from what you’ve said here, that doesn’t seem to be the case. With errors like that and a lack of broad scientific examination geared towards the future, (as you’ve indicated), this certainly seems like a choir piece and not one that will successfully reach a broader audience.

  10. I’m SO glad someone else noticed the punctuation mistakes! They were driving me crazy…

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: