I have “put my money (and my energy) where my mouth is” and helped organize a film series on current food issues. If you’ve been catching whispers of problems with the state of food production in America and want to learn more, make a point of taking in one or more of these truly excellent and well-made films, several of which are being shown right here in River Falls.

Also called “FOOD FOR THOUGHT: The Ethics of Eating,” this series consists of eight contemporary documentary films being shown throughout the St. Croix River valley. Each film will have a well-qualified speaker who will introduce the film and lead an in-depth discussion afterword.

Admission to several of the films is free and tickets to the others are only $2.

Friday, February 4, 6:30 p.m. ArtReach St. Croix, 224 Fourth Street North, Stillwater
AND Saturday, February 19, 10 a.m. River Falls Public Library, 140 Union Street, River Falls OR Somerset Public Library, 208 Hud Street, Somerset, at noon
AND Saturday, February 26, 10 a.m. The Phipps Center for the Arts, 109 Locust Street, Hudson
What’s On Your Plate? (73 min) A witty and provocative documentary about kids and food politics Filmed over the course of one year, it follows two eleven-year-old multi-racial city kids as they explore their place in the food chain. Sadie and Safiyah take a close look at food systems in New York City and its surrounding areas. With the camera as their companion, the girl guides talk to each other, food activists, farmers, new friends, storekeepers, their families, and the viewer, in their quest to understand what’s on all of our plates.
The girls address questions regarding the origin of the food they eat, how it’s cultivated, how many miles it travels from the harvest to their plate, how it’s prepared, who prepares it, and what is done afterwards with the packaging and leftovers. They visit the usual supermarkets, fast food chains, and school lunchrooms. But they also check into innovative sustainable food system practices by going to farms, greenmarkets, and community supported agriculture programs. They discover that these programs both help struggling farmers to survive on the one hand and provide affordable, locally-grown food to communities on the consumer end, especially to lower-income urban families. In WHAT’S ON YOUR PLATE?, the two friends formulate sophisticated and compassionate opinions on the state of their society, and by doing so inspire hope and active engagement in others.
A selection of short film documentaries about food made by young Stillwater and Somerset students will also be shown.

Wednesday, February 2, 6:30 p.m. River Falls Public Library, 140 Union Street, River Falls
Food, Inc. (94 min) Based on the 2001 book Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser, this stunning film examines the industrial production of meat and grains (primarily corn and soybeans). The film’s final segment is about the economic and legal power of the major food companies.
Dr. Greta Gaard, UW-River Falls English Department, discussion leader

Saturday, February 12, 6:30 p.m. ArtReach St. Croix, 224 Fourth Street, Stillwater FREE WILL DONATION
The Real Dirt on Farmer John
(80 min)For close to a century, a great American epic has been played out in the tiny town of Caledonia, Illinois, about 75 miles west of Chicago. This film tells the story of one man, his farm and his family—a story that parallels the history of American farming.
Joci Tilsen, Minnesota Food Network, discussion leader

Sunday, February 13, 1 p.m. St. Croix Falls Public Library, 230 S. Washington Street, St. Croix Falls
FRESH (72 min) profiles the farmers, thinkers, and business people across the nation who are at the forefront of re-inventing food production in America. With a strong commitment to sustainability, they are changing how farms are run, how the land is cared for, and how food is distributed. Their success demonstrates that a new paradigm based on sustainable practices can be profitable and a model for our food system, if people choose to support it.
Dana Jackson, Land Stewardship Project Community Based Food Systems, discussion leader

Wednesday, February 16, 6:30 p.m. UW-River Falls University Center Kinnickinnic River Theater
A Farm for the Future
(this is our ‘foreign film’) A 50-minute BBC documentary in which wildlife film maker Rebecca Hosking investigates how to transform her family’s farm in Devon, England into a low energy farm for the future after realizing that most modern food production is completely dependent on abundant cheap fossil fuel, particularly oil. Alarmed by how insecure this oil supply is, she explores ways of farming without using fossil fuel through the idea of “permaculture farming.”
Dr. Kelly Cain, St. Croix Institute for Sustainable Community Development, discussion leader

Thursday, Feb. 17, 6:00 p.m. The Phipps Center for the Arts, 109 Locust Street, Hudson.
Ingredients: A Seasonal Exploration of the Local Food Movemen
t (67 min) A feature-length documentary, Ingredients illustrates how people around the country are working to revitalize the connection to where our food comes from. Ingredients reveals the people behind the movement to bring good food back to the table and health back to our communities.
Return to the Circle (35 min) Set on the White Earth Reservation in northern Minnesota, this is the story of the Anishinabe people’s journey toward health as they seek to return to traditional foodways. As they work to improve their lives, we discover that their journey is a circle for young and old, past and present, traditional and non-Indian, land and spirit.
Dr. Jacquelyn Zita, U of M Associate Professor and co-founder of the Women’s Environmental Institute, discussion leader

Sunday, March 6, 1 p.m. River Falls Public Library, 140 Union Street, River Falls
The Future of Food The disturbing story of agribusinesses’ introduction of GMO foods. Genetic engineering of food crops becomes a threat as large corporations position themselves as the answer to the world food crisis and consolidate the seed supply.
Faye Jones, Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service, discussion leader