Taking on similar themes as “Food Inc.,” “King Corn” and “Fast Food Nation” comes “Fresh,” a documentary by Ana Sofia Jones that not only explores and explains the crises facing Americans and what they eat, but more importantly, showcases farmers and purveyors actively doing things to change the broken system.
Less grim than the exposes tackling the same topic, “Fresh,” while not mind-boggling or earth-shattering (particularly in the Bay Area, where eating fresh, local food isn’t uncommon), presents hopeful, interesting examples of environmentally sound farming and eating.
The film’s astute talking head is Berkeley’s Michael Pollan, the food movement writer whose commentary is interspersed with the movie’s real stars.
There’s Joel Salatin, a funny, fast-talking, media-savvy Virginia farmer who, against advice from everyone, transformed acres of eroded land into a self-sustaining farm in which cattle and chickens feed in rotation that nurtures, rather than destroys, the land.
Will Allen, former professional basketball player turned Milwaukee urban farmer, is terrifically inspirational. His operation is Growing Power, three-acres in the middle of a blighted urban area where he raises organic vegetables, using waste from the city to fertilize his soil.
He brings spirit and teaching, too, to a community that doesn’t know the value of fresh food _ at least in part because it’s not available.
Independent Kansas supermarket owner David Ball is an entrepreneur who touts his win-win situation, describing how, in the wake of the rise of corporate supermarkets the likes of Wal-Mart, he set up a cooperative with local farmers to provide fresh, locally grown food at affordable prices. Products from the Good Natured Family Farm are sold in his markets, restoring his business, creating economic vitality in nearby rural areas, and, at the same time, improving access to healthy foods in Kansas City.
The stories should inspire those who care about their health, and the health of the world, to head in the direction of the nearest farmers’ market.
Starring Michael Pollan, Joel Salatin, Will Allen, David Ball
Directed by Ana Sofia Jones
Running time 1 hour 21 minutes
Note: “Fresh” opens Friday at the Red Vic in San Francisco, the Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael and the Berkeley Oaks.