Thursday, November 18, 2010

Baltimore Food Ecology Documentary

Last night, MICA hosted the debut screening of the Baltimore Food Ecology Documentary.

(City Paper printed an article about the documentary in yesterday's weekly paper if you're interested in reading more.)

I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to attend, since I also wanted to go to Hmart for kimchi-making supplies and was having dinner with friends and the Chicken-Man at 8:30, but happily I managed to squeeze it all in!

The documentary was created by a group of MICA students and Hugh Pocock, a MICA professor who you've probably heard of if you are involved in urban agriculture in Baltimore. The blog Baltimore Urban Farming displays some of his past class projects, such as attending the Sowing Seeds Conference at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center and volunteering at basically every major urban farm in Baltimore.

Hugh Pocock is the dude in the orange shirt, and Roy Skeen (Remington neighbor, friend and now farmer at The Samartian Women) is the guy in the green shirt. Americorps and art student volunteers also shown.

The documentary consisted mainly of footage of Baltimore's abandoned row houses, the rows of ramen and soda at local corner stores, the produce and seafood distribution centers in Jessup, burgeoning city gardens like Participation Park and Duncan St., and tanks of fish being raised for sustainable aquaculture. Over the footage, a narrator described the history of how Baltimore's food system is broken, and ways people are trying to fix it.

The filmmakers even touched upon the very Baltimore-specific theme of our harbor as a former network of food distribution and the decline of fresh seafood coming from the Chesapeake Bay.

There are some video clips on the documentary website:

I can't say that the themes were anything new- anyone who has ever read an article about local food has read about how our food system is broken. How in the late 1960s grocery stores began leaving the increasingly impoverished cities, how processed food is cheap and bad for you, and how local farming and aquaculture are better for our health, economy, and energy use are pretty much common knowledge at this point.

But it was definitely nice to see a mix of urban agriculture programs, from community gardens of all different styles to university-funded aquaculture and urban food research. The theater was packed, I got to chat with some friendly fellow urban growers, and it was great to see that there is still a buzz around urban agriculture.

My main hope is that all of this talk turns into solid environmental action and economic growth for Baltimore.

While I get frustrated sometimes that there is a lot of buzz and a limited amount of real change in the way our city eats its food, I have to keep reminding myself that this is just the beginning of a movement, and building  excitement is necessary if we want to really affect how people make their food purchases.

If you are interested in getting involved with another urban food system project linked to Hugh Pocock, stay tuned to the MICA Food Summit website.

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