Documentaries about farming are not typically at the top of most college students’ must-see lists, but when you throw sustainability into the mix, some ears may perk up.
Cal Poly’s Student Community Services (SCS) and HopeDance FiLMs are hosting a two-part film series over the next two Wednesdays at 8 p.m. in the Sandwich Factory. The films tell two unique stories from America’s heartland.
“We wanted to find a way to inform Cal Poly students about some of the issues going on with sustainability,” said Tracy Owens, a communication studies sophomore and the film series coordinator for SCS. The film coordinator position is new to the organization this year. Owens will continue to plan film series next year during winter and spring quarters.
Owens said both films deal with issues of sustainability, particularly in agriculture, which applies to Cal Poly as an agriculture-based school.
The festival begins this Wednesday with “King Corn,” a documentary about two men who grow an acre of corn, the United States’ most produced and highest-subsidized crop, in Iowa. The two friends then try to follow their crop through food processing to the dinner tables of America, but find some disheartening facts about farming and food in the U.S. along the way.
Bud Evans, a political science professor who teaches POLS 330, the world food systems class, will present the film and moderate a discussion after the screening.
The mini-series will continue on May 28 with “The Real Dirt on Farmer John,” a documentary film about John Peterson, a Midwestern farmer who operates Angelic Organics. The Angelic Organics company supplies directly to – and only to – households. The practice is known as Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA. The film was written and narrated by Peterson himself.
“It’s an epic journey of farming and what happened to it from the ’50s to now,” said Bob Banner, founder, publisher and director of HopeDance magazine, a local publication that advocates “radical solutions inspiring hope.” Banner has screened the film in Sonoma, Monterey, Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties for four years, and was very enthusiastic about a showing at Cal Poly.
“There are so many good films that aren’t seen,” because a lot of theaters, even independent theaters, aren’t willing to show documentaries, he said.
Banner said he found Peterson an interesting character. On one hand, he said, Peterson loves the dirt, the oil and the rough side of farming. On the other hand, “(Peterson) is also a bit of an eccentric. He has this glamour, glitz, glitter side: two sides of his personality,” Banner said.
“It’s a story about him getting involved in CSA,” he said. “Really, I would love for people to get more involved in food … by supporting their local markets and buying locally grown vegetables, locally produced cheeses and other produce. Although San Luis Obispo County has numerous farmers’ markets, the majority of local residents do not buy their vegetables there.
“We still have a lot of work to do (in that respect),” he said. “But Empower Poly Coalition is doing some good. I hope that young people will keep on the bandwagon, because for a long time, it’s been all about industrial farming.”
Owens said she hoped showing the films on campus would allow students to easily walk down from the dorms or drop in directly after class. The free screenings are open to all students and the public, and snacks will be provided.