Thursday, September 25, 2008

Southern Circuit "Ripe for Change" Tour Day 8 Watkinsville,GA



Rusty Haygood and Peggy Holcomb of the Oconee County Economic Development Agency brought out a diverse audience of farmers, ranchers and community residents to the screening in Watkinsville, Georgia. Several members from the staff of the local Women and Children Food Aid and Education program also joined us for the screening.

On this film tour I have screened “Ripe for Change” at museums with “state of the art” theaters, a former elementary school and now North Oconee High School. This almost brand new high school facility is in Oconee County. I was informed that the Oconee School District is rated as the best school districts in Georgia.

Once a major farming and chicken growing community, Watkinsville is situated an hour and fifteen minutes North of Atlanta. The community is growing rapidly with new residents looking for better schools and a rural environment. Most of the new residents are not involved in farming but commute to white-collar jobs in Atlanta, Athens and other urban cities in Northern Georgia. Like most Americans who commute they are concerned about the rising price of gasoline and the quality of life for themselves, their children and their neighbors.

Oconee County is now an affluent rural community where ranchers grow grass fed beef, and along with local farmers, market their goods directly to consumers at the Saturday farmer's market in Watkinsville. Russ and Joan Page raise grass fed beef and helped start the local farmer's market.

In addition to the standard questions about the challenges of growing fresh and healthy foods locally the discussion turned in a slightly different direction when one of the staff members from the local WIC program stood up and said how she and her colleagues thought the film could be very useful to further educate WIC staff members locally and across the nation. If you don't know about the WIC program it is the "Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. WIC was created to safeguard the health of low-income women, infants, & children up to age 5 who are at nutritional risk by providing nutritious foods to supplement diets, information on healthy eating, and referrals to health care."

In addition to the film being used as part of a continuing education program for WIC staff across the US, we discussed the idea of creating video modules from "Ripe for Change," possibly including material that Emiko Omori and I shot that is not in the film. The WIC program meets for 15 minutes at a time with it's clients. The WIC staffers though serializing the video modules (6-12 minutes in length) would allow them o use it most effectively. This is something we have discussed but have not had the funding to do yet. If we could put "Ripe for Change" and custom edited video modules in the hands of WIC staff across the country, with training on how to use the film, we could help make a substantial impact on the health of low income women and children. This is one of the goals we had in mind when we made this film.

I stayed at the artistically restored and decorated Ashford Manor Bed and Breakfast in Watkinsville. The room I choose was the "Asian" room. It was decorated with incredible museum quality, traditional Japanese kimonos, artifacts from Japan and China and other elements from the far East. The owners Dave and Jim have created a movie set type experience in the middle of Georgia. I was blown away when I met their colleagues, Mario and Laura, brother and sister from Comfort, Texas. Comfort is only a half hour drive from Blanco where my wife Tina and I raised Angus/Holstein cross bred cattle on grass and oats from our organic 30 acre field. Amazing to meet folks from the Hill Country of Texas in Georgia.