Two new feature-length documentary films, Organic Rising and Common Ground, released in October, demonstrate clearly that the time is now for industry, government and the public to fully embrace the potential of organic and regenerative agriculture.
Through interviews with thought leaders, farmers, scientists, celebrities and industry experts, plus animation to help convey complex concepts, both films convey a powerful message that the way we produce our food and treat our nation’s soil directly impacts climate change and our health.
Organic Rising, sponsored in part by Presence Marketing, documents the history of organic food and farming and the growth of the organic products market, from the early influences of J.I. Rodale, Sir Albert Howard and Rachel Carson to the back-to-the-land movement of the 1960s to today’s $60-billion organic food marketplace.
Ten years in the making and directed by Pulitzer Prize and Emmy Award-winning National Geographic photojournalist Anthony Suau, Organic Rising also contrasts the history or organic against a backdrop of the widespread usage of toxic pesticides over the past 80 years. Narrated by organic industry advocate Elizabeth Kucinich and actor Simon Harrison, the film also documents how glyphosate has become the most widely used pesticide in history, along with its adverse impacts on human, animal and environmental health.
According to former executive director of the Rodale Institute Mark Smallwood, interviewed in Organic Rising, organic crops can produce higher margins than conventional, so price outweighs any difference in yield, he asserts. In fact, organic can be more profitable than conventional, especially in seasons of drought and flood, where organic farming can actually outperform conventional agriculture. “Conventional uses chemistry; organic farmers build soil,” Smallwood said.
In addition to interviews showcasing pioneering organic farmers, entrepreneurs, chefs including Dan Barber, and indigenous leaders including Winona LaDuke, Organic Rising also features interviews with internationally renowned agro-ecology expert and author Vandana Shiva, and the late Ronnie Cummins, co-founder of the Organic Consumers Association, Regeneration International and Vía Organica.
The film Common Ground is the sequel to Kiss the Ground, which, when released in 2020, was the one of the first full-length documentaries to explore how regenerative organic agriculture can sequester enough carbon from the atmosphere to reverse climate change. Featuring an all-star cast of narrators including Woody Harrelson, Rosario Dawson, Donald Glover, Jason Momoa, Ian Somerhalder and Laura Dean, Common Ground was directed by husband and wife team Rebecca and Josh Tickell, who also directed the first Kiss the Ground film.
Common Ground chronicles the struggles and triumphs of a politically and culturally diverse group of farmers, ranchers, scientists, and advocates who all share one thing in common: they believe in a way of ecological farming that builds soil. By using a combination of traditional knowledge and wisdom and modern technology, the farmers and ranchers in the regenerative movement make more money and grow more nutrient-dense food than their “conventional” farming counterparts, assert the film’s directors. The “regenerative pioneers” featured in the film claim that to save humanity from future environmental catastrophes, we must first save our soil. “Common Ground shows that soil is quite possibly the most valuable substance on our planet, because if our soil dies, we also die,” they cautioned.
“Coming from a legacy farming family myself, I’ve witnessed and experienced in my family the very real health impacts of our current food system. In fact, the old farmer you see in the film buying grain and taking out a loan is my dad. Josh and I have a long history of making and distributing advocacy docs, but all of them have led us to Common Ground. We need to turn this movie into a movement,” said Rebecca Tickell.
Speaking to the potential of regenerative agriculture to heal the planet, former conventional and now regenerative farmer Gabe Brown shared the following: “I often get asked, ‘what makes you think this can occur in the world,’ and I answer, ‘because it’s nature.’ Nature is always self organizing, self healing, self regulating. If we can cover the earth in a biodiverse array of plants and animals and insects we wouldn’t hear about climate change anymore. We wouldn’t have this human health crisis. We would have food that is truly nutrient dense,” he said.
Woody Harrelson ends the film with a final thought, “So remember this, next time you look up at that night sky, think about where you are. You’re on the only planet we know of that’s filled with life. The one thing that’s keeping us all alive, is that soil you’re standing on.”
Watch the films here or see them in select theaters now:
Steven Hoffman is Managing Director of Compass Natural, providing public relations, brand marketing, social media and strategic business development services to natural, organic and sustainable products businesses. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.