By Dr. Mercola
Ripe for Change, a 50-minute documentary film, gives a concise yet poignant glimpse into farming trends and traditions in California. Unfortunately, as is happening with agriculture all over the US, many family farms have been coerced into the use of toxic conventional farming methods.
Many now embrace toxic pesticides and biotechnology, all but abandoning the natural, time-tested roots upon which their livelihoods were built in order to compete and stay afloat in the modern food industry.
Ripe for Change examines trends in both food and politics over the last 30 years in California, asking what the real consequences might be for trading sustainable agricultural practices for those that produce large quantities of food at any cost.
Farmers With a Passion for Working the Land Share Their Stories
One of the most riveting aspects of this film are the many interviews with farmers who have realized that their passion for farming is about more than just earning a living. From peaches to almonds to grapes for wine, these farmers have awoken to the fact that what they do on their parcel of land extends far beyond their fences and boundaries.
Rather than viewing their farm as an isolated entity, they embrace the land as part of a larger, interconnected whole. And by choosing organic farming methods that protect and encourage biodiversity, they are directly changing their surrounding environment for the better.
On the contrary, with every application of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, and every planting of a genetically modified (GM) crop, conventional farmers are killing the natural environment little by little.
The two conflicting worlds are showcased quite eloquently in this film, not only as they relate to farming and food, but also as they related to entire communities. As the film’s synopsis explains:1
“Through the 'window' of food and agriculture, Ripe for Change reveals two parallel yet contrasting views of our world. One holds that large-scale agriculture, genetic engineering, and technology promise a hunger-less future.
The other calls for a more organic, sustainable, and locally focused style of farming that reclaims the aesthetic and nurturing qualities of food and considers the impact of agriculture on the environment, on communities, and on workers.”
Conventional Farming is Destroying Nature
The giant conventional farms that have largely taken over US “farming” bear little resemblance to the small, family-owned entities from which they sprung. In conventional farming, nature is often considered the enemy – one that must be forcibly coerced with a completely fabricated and synthetic system of chemicals, irrigation systems, GMOs, petrochemical-derived fertilizers and other additions to the soil.
When natural processes interfere with the objectives of conventional farming, the system responds by using various concoctions of herbicides, pesticides and insecticides to kill weeds, insects and other pests. This does not come without grave consequence, however.
The film features Dr. Tyrone Hayes, PhD, who explains the damage that just one agricultural pesticide, atrazine, is having on the planet. Atrazine is one of the most widely used pesticides in the US, where it is used primarily on corn, sorghum and sugarcane, mostly in the Midwest.
This chemical, which is now a common contaminant in groundwater and even pollutes rainwater, is an endocrine disrupter that has been found to chemically castrate and feminize frogs, destroy brain cells, cause developmental problems, and reproductive cancers.2
And this is just one example. Conventional agriculture’s overexploitation, pollution and other environmental insults made largely over the last half century have resulted in massive ecological degradation; ironically, 60 percent of the planet’s ecosystems, which have been devastated by the activities of man, are now no longer capable of sustaining themselves without human intervention!
Sustainable Farming Brings Communities Together
In stark contrast to conventional farming, organic sustainable farming can actually renew soil and restore biodiversity to the environment. Through the introduction of natural cover crops, which attract beneficial insects, and new species, such as adding chickens to a vineyard for pest control and fertilization, natural farming methods are at one with the environment rather than waging a war against it. Food that is grown in this manner not only protects the land, it also supports and literally nourishes its surrounding communities. Through local farmer’s markets, people can buy fresh food without worries that its growing methods are poisoning their town.
Ripe for Change also highlights the relationships between restaurants and small farms, which are connecting in order to serve seasonal fresh food, and schools embracing small farms as a way to teach children about healthy eating. Food has a natural way of bringing people together, but this community element is sorely lacking from conventional farming.
Sustainable Agriculture in Practice
Total Video Length: 48:03
Download Interview Transcript
Although not featured in Ripe for Change, I recently visited Joel Salatin at his Polyface farm in Virginia and want to share his take on sustainable farming with you. He's truly one of the pioneers in sustainable agriculture, and you can take a virtual tour through his various farm operations in the video above. He practices the local, sustainable model of food production that the featured documentary describes, growing food that tastes like it’s supposed to – the way you (hopefully) remember it when you ate it as a child.
One of the most memorable moments in the film came from peach farmer David Masumoto, who found that there was no market for his wonderfully flavorful peaches because of their short shelf life. He marvels over this sad reality that modern agriculture has become so concerned with transportability, shelf life and creating a picture-perfect appearance that flavor has somehow taken a back seat.
It’s primarily the small-scale traditional farming practices that can grow a peach that tastes like a peach. With conventional farming edging these farms out, how sad would it be to have a generation of people who have never gotten to taste produce the way it’s meant to taste?
Your Food Choices Matter
When you buy a meal from a fast food restaurant, you are supporting the broken system … but buy from a farmer’s market and you are helping to prompt positive change. If every American decided to not eat at a fast food restaurant tomorrow, the entire system would collapse overnight. It doesn't take an act of Congress to change the food system. All that is required is for one person at a time to change their shopping habits.
You vote three times a day when you choose the foods for your meals. Will you vote for the system that is systematically destroying your health, animal welfare and the planet … or will you support those who are changing the world for the better, one meal at a time?