Monday, September 15, 2008

"Ripe for Change" Southern Circuit 1st Blog

I am getting ready to depart from San Francisco/Berkeley on the Southern Circuit Independent Film Tour with "Ripe for Change" a film produced by myself and Emiko Omori, who also directed. The fourth episode in the award-winning "California and the American Dream" Series, "Ripe for Change" has had an incredible life in theaters, film festivals, conferences and community screenings around the world, winning five major awards in the process. I am very excited about being able to screen "Ripe for Change" and discuss the issues it raises, agriculture, sustainability and the foods we eat, with audiences from my part of the country.

While I am a Southerner, the last time I was in the deep south was in l969 when I drove back from Woodstock taking the "Southern route." At that time there were still bathrooms and water fountains marked with "whites only" signs in gas stations and public parks. Quite a contrast from the "three days of peace, love and music" I had just come from. Of course, most of the people at Woodstock were also Anglos. And being white myself meant that I was treated with good manners and great hospitality by my fellow southerners, both black and white.

"Ripe for Change," like the four other films in the "California and the American Dream" Series uses a "lens of diversity" to look at California as a microcosm of the United States. My colleagues Paul Espinosa, Lyn Goldfarb, Emiko Omori and used this "lens of diversity" in each of the four episodes in the Series . Emiko and I did this in "Ripe for Change" by identifying four farmers who are leading the movement to change from "mechanized" or industrial farming to smaller, specialized sustainable agriculture. Folks like peach farmer and author David Mas Masumoto whose wonderful books include "Epitaph for a Peach," "A Harvest of Memories" and "Letters to the Valley" have inspired many Americans to appreciate the importance of taste in our vegetables and fruits. Other stories feature Will Scott, the president of the African-American Farmers of California. Will and his family drive three hours each way every Saturday to deliver fresh, healthy food to the West Oakland's Farmer Market, an area that has more liquor stores than grocery stores.

Other stories revolve around farmers like Maria Inez Catalan, a migrant farm worker from Mexico who now owns her own organic farm and has a CSA that brings food boxes at reasonable prices to Latina women with children in San Francisco each week. Maria's tomatoes are so prized that the acclaimed Oliveta's Restuarant on the Berkeley/Oakland border serve them with pride. And we also feature Paul Dolan, the fourth generation winemaker from Mendocino who took Fetzer, the sixth largest winery in the US, organic then one step further to biodynamic farming.

Each of these farmers are examples of the kinds of changes going on in the American food system. I will reveal more stories from "Ripe for Change" and my own experience raising vegetables, fruits and cattle as I blog and eat along my path across the southern part of our great country.

I would love to hear your stories of the first time you tasted a great peach or tomato. Tell me about the food that you love, that touches your soul and represents the values we share.