My heart goes out to Michigan. A state that has, over time, contributed in so many major ways to enhancing the American Dream, is in a state of financial disarray that’s hard to appreciate here in New York City on a glorious spring day. We were in Detroit recently and saw first-hand how the downtown, except on the night of a Final Four game, would be desolate; how the housing stock is deteriorating – and will probably get worse.

And then there’s rural Michigan to consider. The plight of the local farmers is frightful. Rather than describe the problem, I’d like to bring your attention to a most wonderful film that I hope you’ll get to see, ASPARAGUS! Stalking the American Life, by Anne de Mare and Kirsen Kelly.

Sweet as a new vegetable shoot, gentle as the spring sunshine, funny as a loving family Sunday supper (if that’s not entirely fiction – and if it is, then let’s just celebrate the possible), and yet piercing as a Samuri sword, ASPARAGUS! might just change the way independent American farmers are viewed by their fellow Americans.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to hear Anne present the film at The Food For Thought Film Festival at Columbia University Medical Center. She is the gentle, sweet and funny person you’d expect to meet, after seeing the film. She said that night:

There is a growing bubble of awareness about the complexity of farm politics, and a true yearning to be more connected to the food we eat. It is exhilarating to be part of that movement. Our film tells the story of one small American community’s struggle, and I am constantly amazed at how deeply people from all walks of life respond to the issues it brings up. I think part of that is because food can and should be such a joyous part of our lives, we all know this instinctively, yet in many ways, we lost much of our food culture when we industrialized so much of our food supply. Sometimes when people look at the mountain of changes that now need to be made – from food safety to nutrition and the obesity epidemic, from globalization to the politics of greed and the behemoths of agribusiness – it is easy to be discouraged. Access to healthy, local, sustainable agricultural products for everyone might seem like a pipe dream, but I try to remind people of how far we have come. Growing up I had never heard of a farmer’s market or CSA, but now more and more of us have the opportunity to get much of our food directly from the source. So take up your knives and forks – there is a delicious revolution happening!

If you live in Michigan, tune in Monday night on WGVU-TV  at 9:00 p.m.   In addition, ASPARAGUS! Stalking the American Life is the May selection by the Ironweed Film Club, which issues a DVD of important social issue documentaries each month.  And if you want your own copy, you’ll find the DVD with Bonus Features here.

(Cross-posted from the Huffington Post.)

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  • Dr Patricia Allen May 17, 2009 at 8:26 pm

    Thank you Elizabeth for introducing us to this film and for continuing our conversation about our food supply in the age of agri-business and the age of the consumer who wants foods “fresh” from far away places and wants them in all 4 seasons.

    My sisters have large gardens in Kentucky. Whenever I go home, I am besotted with fresh lettuce, green onions, real tomoatoes just out of the garden, fresh peas, snap beans, and new potatoes. They understand that I have no access to what they regard as just common sense food cultivation.

    Fish caught thousands of miles a way from the table where it will be served can not be fresh. Vegetables and fruits out of season in our seasonal zone never arrive “fresh” which is why I use frozen vegetables if I must have them out of season.

    The agribusiness of pork, beef, and poultry production cry out for another great work of investigative journalism. The damage to the environment from the fecal material in these animal warehouses is a nightmare. The unknown antibiotic and hormone use in animal production is too frightening to contemplate.

    We, the public, try to purchase safe and nutritious foods but
    most of us who work more than full time have little time to go to a farmer’s market. I believe the vegetables and fruits there are fresh. I do not believe in “Fresh Direct” even though I use this service because of time.

    Let’s hope that this documentary will stimulate a national conversation on a local level. We could have work for farmers in many of the states that are suffering economic hardship and food that is safe and nutritious for many more Americans.