On Demand Weekly provides new movie reviews of hot movies on demand and from the POV of watching from the comfort of your home. Today’s review: FARMAGEDDON (Gravitas).
The title of the film implies the “end is near” and is referring to our citizens access to small, family farms in this country. While FOOD, INC and FRESH are similar films in the genre, FARMAGEDDON focuses mostly on America’s small dairy farms and how our government has an approach to food safety regulations that is designed to serve big agriculture and in turn, running our small farms out of business. Along a parallel path, the film showcases the tremendous health benefits many believe to be in RAW MILK and how Americans access to this longtime staple is being jeopardized.
First-time filmmaker, Kristin Canty is a concerned mother of four, who has relied on the benefits of raw milk, most notably for her son who suffered terrible allergies at a young age. When regular medicine didn’t help, she turned to raw milk, which cured her son. She felt compelled to make the film to shed light on the regulatory challenges these small farmers, coops and buying clubs were facing that would severely hamper our access to raw milk and other natural products.
The film begins with the mother of a Mennonite farming family explaining a terrifying experience when
an armed SWAT team raided her home
in the middle of the night with guns pointed.
"I was at the top of the stairs and I saw a man with a gun pointed up at me. All I could see was a black hat and a black jacket. I stood there thinking this was a serial killer.” As the film continues, you realize this exaggerated action by government agencies on peaceful people is not rare.
The film weaves in and out of several accounts by small farmers who have been terrorized by the government on questionable grounds. Like Linda and Larry Failace, whose sheep farm in Vermont was raided, then quarantined, due to unfound claims of mad cow disease in their sheep. It was later proven in court that no sheep had ever been known to have mad cow, including their sheep that tested negative but were victims of politics. This story is particularly disturbing as the Failace family considered their sheep members of the family and were devastated after they were wrongfully taken and destroyed.
The bullying of these farms by the government is a result of applying a “one size fits all” approach to policy that is geared toward big companies and makes it unsustainable for a small-scale farm to survive. “Every time there is a shake up in our food system, local food takes a hit” says JOEL SALATIN of POLYFACE FARMS. You learn in the film that mounting paperwork, fees and unrealistic policies are what are burying the small farmer. “You can’t expect a policy to be written for a multi billion dollar company to apply to a small local farm” said a former FDA/USDA administrator interviewed in the film.
Local farmers markets, food coops and buying groups are gaining popularity around the country as access to many organic and raw products are not available in mainstream supermarkets; many Americans are getting more savvy about GMOs, pesticides and factory farms. One farmer says, “It’s the raw milk, which first attracts new members to these groups”. The film explains how consuming raw milk is profoundly nutritious, and was a staple in the American diet until the pasteurization process began in the 1920s, which removes potential hazardous bacteria from the milk but also kills the nutrients and enzymes as well. Access to raw milk in this country varies by state and is illegal to sell in many. “It undermines my authority as a parent” says a young mother who feeds her young child raw milk for the health benefits, and wants the freedom to purchase it.
Another point is made that you can buy your child countless McDonald’s meals that are proven to be unhealthy but can’t have the same access for food that is good for you. “I think people should have the right to eat things that are bad for them, that’s their choice. But, I want the choice to eat something that I believe is good for me and is backed up by hundreds of years of the human experience” says Jessica Prentic, founder of Three Hearth Stone, in Berkeley, Ca. “These are educated people who are making a deliberate decision to buy and consume raw milk” said Barb Smith of Meadowsweet Farms (a NY state dairy farm that was shut down and now trying to win an appeal).
The popularity of farmers markets, organic food, and even raw and organic restaurants are an indicator of people looking for alternatives to what they can find in the grocery store. “When the people who are trying to do things the most natural way as it’s been done for years all of a sudden are running into roadblocks and to the extent that this makes it more difficult to get that product is really scary.” said Sarma Melnagalis, owner of PURE FOOD AND WINE (a raw food and vegan gem in Manhattan).
Watching the film at home allowed for many pauses to absorb a lot of the information and also re-watch segments for better understanding. While the film can get repetitious at times, it is thoroughly researched; and it does the job of sounding the alarm- for us all to be more aware of our local food system and the obstacles that could be looming for these producers, and for us as consumers.
It comes down to having the choice to eat what we want as a rite of human passage. “95% of what Americans eat today you can’t pronounce and can’t make in your kitchen” says JOEL SALATIN. In the film’s conclusion he asks the authorities, “Why are you so afraid of freedom?”
As a concerned citizen who intentionally moved onto a farm in order to ensure a future of self-sufficient food, it troubles me to think that our fundamental freedoms around what we choose to eat could be threatened.
It’s time we all pay close attention
to what is going so that the rest of our small farms
that we love don’t get left out to pasture.
Kim Gabelmann is a special correspondant to On Demand Weekly and the founder of consciousfork, a farm to table juice and lifestyle café in Warwick, NY. She is a marketing consultant and a certified health counselor. She is the former Senior Vice President of Branded Entertainment and Partnerships for Sundance Channel and Independent Film Channel (IFC).
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