“A righteous man regards the life of his animal, but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel” – Proverbs 12:10
The film follows several farmers, some “conventional” heavily-industrialised farmers, and some using methods that we’d call “organic”. There’s arguably a better word for the latter though, and it’s “sustainable”. Read on before reacting!
The film started with what we now consider a “conventional” farm, filming various aspects – including basically buckets of live chicks being emptied onto the floor, until a warehouse was a seething mass of yellow. I’m not particularly squeamish about animals generally, but this seemed a bit harsh. The documentary went on to show cattle hemmed in, walking around tracks on chains. It went into how cows are actually fed meat of their sick or weak kinsmen, and how these monocultures weaken an environment, make it vulnerable to disease – essentially, at the risk of sounding like a hippy, it’s not how the world should be.
And at this point I wish I’d taken notes because I’m kinda dumping from memory here!
The focus then shifts to one of the farmers who had farmed his land for over 50 years without using industrial farming techniques – no chemical fertilisers, animals free in the fields. I got a lovely kinda vibe off this guy, the way he talked about being a “steward of the land”. I really do believe that we have a responsibility to the Earth that God entrusted us with. He had a twinkle in his eye as he talked about the chickens working alongside him as they followed the cow migrations and picked nutrients out of the cowpats, but what he said was essentially true. I was unsurprised but more than a little touched when the documentary showed him and his family gathered around a table to pray and then eat some of the fresh food – the sense of community and Godliness was beautiful.
The focus then returned to the industrialised farming, with some talking heads discussing how the mechanised farms are working like manufacturing, leading to disease, poor quality food and more problems. It also drives farmers out of their land. There are other problems, as the subsidies seem to tie farmers into the “conventional” way of doing things.
The documentary doesn’t really judge anybody; the industrialised farmers seem a bit uncomfortable but it’s very clear that they are in a kind of “wage slave” position themselves, having to sell to the only buyer in the game in what is effectively a monopoly.
What is conventional now (heavily mechanised factory farming) certainly wasn’t 50 years ago. One may think “well, at least factory farming provides for the poor”, and yes we do have very cheap food, but we waste an ENORMOUS amount to do so, we make our food chain vulnerable, we have wage slaves in the factories, the animal welfare is abysmal, and the food quality is poor. Basically what we do is create a MASSIVE surplus because we’re used to buying whatever we want whenever we want it.
So what can we do? Well, the urban farmer featured was a real character, showing the rich soil, the ingenious farming systems, and the wonderful looking food he produced. It’s all about local, seasonal food. Supporting your local farmers market can actually be a good way of getting loads of food for a decent price. It’s something I intend to do more of – this film has really driven it home for me – it’s nothing I didn’t already know, but it was beautifully expressed.
I don’t feel like I’ve done a very good job putting across the importance of this film. It filled me with wonder at the beauty of God’s creation, disgust at how we abuse it, and above all HOPE in what we can do to make sure EVERYONE has enough to eat.