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Books and Films

If you’d like to learn more about local, sustainable foods, here are some books and films you should look into:


Omnivore’s Dilemma”  Michael Pollan — this is the manifesto.

In Defense of Food”  Micheal Pollan — helps to reprogram how you define “food” so you eat healthier.

Food Rules”  Michael Pollan — this is a very short handbook that boils down Pollan’s food philosophy to pithy statements; very approachable and valuable if you don’t have a lot of time to read, but want to eat better.  Inexpensive book you can buy for everyone you care about!

The Raw Milk Revolution”  David Gumpert — A balanced, journalistic look at raw milk,  Gumpert throws into question whether raw milk is “inherently dangerous” and shows that something besides safety is driving regulatory agencies like the FDA to demonize raw milk and terrorize dairy farmers.  Millions of consumers drink raw milk every day.  Millions more want it.  Why can’t they get it?  Even if you have no particular interest in drinking raw milk yourself, this is a book that will show you how misguided our food regulatory agencies are.  Apply the same thinking to genetically modified foods.  To allowing pesticides into our foods.  To allowing bleaching and irradiating of our foods.  Same agencies.

The Seasons On Henry’s Farm”  Terra Brockman — wonderful narrative by a downstate Illinois farmer who follows the seasons on her brother Henry’s farm; great insight into farm life and the wisdom of our sustainable farmers.

The Town That Food Saved”  Ben Hewitt — The small town of Hardwick, VT is cast as a town being reborn through its commitment to a local food economy.  But is it that simple?  Hewitt digs below the surface in this book, asking tough questions about “community” and “local”.  This is truly eye-opening for anyone interested in the shape our new food economy – there is much to be learned in Hardwick!  (some of my reaction to the book here:  How Big Is Small?)

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”  Barbara Kingsolver — Kingsolver chronicles a year of her family’s life as they live primarily from foods they grow on their own farm; great look at our currently unhealthy food culture and an attempt to suggest a reasonable option.

The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food and Love” Kristin Kimball — beautifully frank love story about falling in love with a man, with farming and with the healthful feeling of being dirty!

The River Cottage Cookbook”  Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall — two words for why you need this book: pork rillons.  It’s a monster tome full of wonderful writing about traditional foodways and homesteading ways of life, and the recipes are earthy and satisfying.  Find yourself a farmer, learn his name, learn his animal husbandry practices, trust him, then buy a pastured pork belly from him, crack Hugh’s book and make a big batch of pork rillons.  You’ll thank me.


Food, Inc.” — the go-to film that exposes our out-of-whack food system and eating culture.  (available on Netflix)

Fresh” — available only in local screenings, this is a lot like “Food, Inc.” but a little less “heavy”.  Watch this and tell me whether you don’t just want to hug Russ Kremer, the Missouri hog farmer!  He’s so wonderful because he is giddy to be providing his customers such healthy product.

Ingredients” — (available for home purchase or can be seen in local screenings) beautiful documentary that will make you hungry for a simple tomato slice.  This film taps into what chefs already know about buying and eating locally and seasonally – it just tastes amazing.  As one of the kingpins of the “source local” movement says:

“This community around growing food is a very powerful thing.” – Alice Waters

King Korn” — two young filmmakers get the idea to buy one acre of cornfield in Iowa and they attempt to follow its progress through the food system.  Very important film to help you understand that you’re not buying “food” at the grocery store, you’re buying highly processed corn which is made to resemble food.  (available on Netflix)

“Queen of the Sun” — (available for home purchase or can be seen in local screenings) by the same director as “The Real Dirt On Farmer John”, this film is a phenomenal look at colony collapse disorder and the state of our bee system today. I admit to going in skeptical that I’d be much interested in “colony collapse disorder” but I came out blown away by the importance of this issue (and wanting to find a bee to hug!). I think anyone who wants to understand how our food system works (or is not working) should see this…and perhaps get themselves a bee hive! Wonderful film.

The Real Dirt On Farmer John” — (available here and on Netflix) Fabulous film about John Peterson’s struggle to hold onto the family farm.  Learn how the CSA model saved him and so did his CSA members!

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