Sustainable (2016) - full transcript

America is facing a food crisis driven by profitability and a lack of consumer education. While the window to transforming our heartland continues to shrink, passionate individuals have emerged who provide hope that the health of our nation might still remain within our grasp. Sustainable weaves together expert analysis of America's food and farming system with a powerful narrative of one extraordinary farmer who is determined to create a sustainable future for his community. Amidst the cornfields of Illinois lives the hero of the film - Marty Travis, a seventh-generation farmer who watched his land and community fall victim to the pressures of big agribusiness. Determined to create a proud legacy for his son, Marty transforms his profitless wasteland and pioneers the sustainable food movement in Chicago. The film unearths the future of agriculture - a marriage of age-old tradition and groundbreaking science. Industry pioneers from around the nation reveal the secrets behind human health and environmental protection. Woven into these stories are the foremost experts of the food industry - connecting the dots between agriculture, the environment, economics and public health. Their stories are a reminder of America's troubled past and the devastating consequences that await the country if left unchanged. Sustainable empowers audiences and gives them hope for the future - that through this food revolution, we can all save humanity.

[serene instrumental music playing]

[man 1] Having grown up
in the '50s and '60s,

in a world
that was really divorcing itself

from the source of all of its food.

I got to Mexico and I discovered

that there was still
a really strong bond between people

and where their food came from,

the people that produced the food.

I got back to the United States
and I was buying produce

that came from, who knows where.

I kept asking myself, how am I going
to make great food,

if I don't have any connection
to the people that are growing that food?

We have gotten so distant

from the food
that we start thinking about it

as a commodity.

For goodness sakes,
it's our nourishment as human beings.

And I can have an opportunity

to have give and take with the people
that are actually keeping me alive.

[upbeat instrumental music playing]

[man 2] I'm Marty Travis,

and I'm a farmer in Central Illinois.

Each Friday night, I send an email
to close to 200 shops,

it lists the product that we have
available from Spence Farm

and then we deliver every Wednesday

to the restaurants, what they've ordered.

And, we do all the deliveries ourselves.

I usually make our first delivery
at 9.30 in the morning.

Hit as many as 30 plus restaurants
during the day.

Cover a pretty good sloth of the city.

We worked it out so that we're hitting

each restaurant when somebody's there
to receive it

and somebody there to write a check.

But, it's more about the relationship
than it is the rutabagas.

It's an important intricate piece
in the marketing that we do.

But it's much more than
just selling things to them,

they've really become our friends.

[man 3] It's so funny
that people talk about...

"Oh, I'm a small farmer
and I'm providing food for restaurants,

and I sell some of my stuff at a CSA
and I have a truck stand

and then I go
to the farmer's market once a week."

That's what a small farmer
typically these days would say.

Well, that was what everybody did,
50 years ago.

[sweeping instrumental music playing]

There weren't as many restaurants
but restaurants got their food locally

and people got their food locally

and most of everything was seasonal.

You look at frozen food,
you look at microwaves,

You look at super-highly processed food

you look at the ease at which these things
can be transported.

Each of these steps, made it more
and more possible to say,

if we grow a lot of the same crop
in one area,

then we have the ability to process food,

freeze it, ship it from a central location
to the rest of the country.

And you're not saying, "How do we want
to feed ourselves?"

You're saying,
"How can we make agriculture

into the most efficient
profit making system that we can?"

To start with, how do we make
the most possible money?

Rather than, how do we produce
the most appropriate food

is asking the wrong question first.

It is at a crisis point.

But it's not a crisis you wake up
and see every morning.

It's at a crisis point where we have
a health care crisis,

where our land and water
is being badly used,

and climate change.

Agriculture is the number two culprit
in climate change.

The way that we produce food
and the way we eat

affects almost everything.

Each aspect of that has big problems.

It appears that we have a food system
but what we have

is a system of using agriculture,
food marketing, food production

to make money
for a number of corporations.

We do get to eat,
but we don't get to eat food

that's green and nutritious,
and fair and affordable.

And if those are our goals,
then we need a food system that says,

these are our goals, how do we get there?

[Marty] The winter season
here at the farm,

is much different than the other seasons.

It can be an incredibly beautiful time.

It's about keeping warm.

And also, keeping our livestock warm,

and well fed.

Winter is a season

that, I think, here in the Midwest,

we just wanna get through it quickly.

I work on the farm with my wife, Kris
and our son, Will.

My son, Will

must be at least a foot taller
than I am now.

I look up to Will in many ways.

There's been a couple of times
where we've asked him,

"So, what are you gonna to do on the farm,
what part of this do you want to do?"

And one of the things he came up with
when he was still in high school

was that he wanted to resurrect
the maple syrup business.

The native Kickapoo shared
how to make syrup

with my fourth great grandfather in 1830.

And from that time on,

syrup has been made each generation.

[Will] I wanted to do the maple syrup
because I really enjoy being in the timber

the sounds and the smells.

It's just a very calming,
relaxing environment to be in.

[Marty] It's connecting back to a time
that was very important to this farm.

So it's a sense of pride

to see the next generation

re-capture some of that.

This farm was settled

by my fourth great grandfather
in October of 1830.

In 1981,

the farm had been in our family
for a 151 years at that point.

My grandmother decided
that she couldn't take care of the farm

in the way that she had for years.

And decided to sell the house yard
and the farm buildings

to a conventional farm family.

[surreal instrumental music playing]

And then, for the next 18 years,

the farm really, was farmed conventionally

corn and soybeans,
and during that period of time

was when the fellow that farmed
the acreage was so excited

that it was Roundup Ready soybeans.

So then, my grandmother
bought the farm back,

and I moved back here in...

the spring of '99.

It was a very surreal
kind of experience in many ways.

The buildings were in tough shape,

so they needed repair.

The house needed repairs

and the land needed to be repaired.

The soil just didn't seem the same.

A lot of corn stalks

were still there,
two and three years later,

just weren't breaking down,

and the soil was hard to walk on.

It just didn't feel right.

[man 4] The soil is one of those things
that most people take for granted.

And yet, if you think about it
as a resource,

it's sort of the most undervalued
yet invaluable resource humanity has.

It's the foundation for terrestrial life,
it's a foundation for agriculture.

And yet, we pretty much,
for the modern era,

have been treating soil like dirt.

If you look back at the history
of past civilizations,

you keep running into different versions
of a very similar story.

You look at Mesopotamia,

to Greece, to Rome

to the Southeastern United States,

to the American Midwest and the Dust Bowl.

It's a whole progression of societies

that have damaged and degraded their soil,
and then moved on to the next place.

It would be profoundly unwise

to not look back and try
and learn the lessons of those societies.

Given that now, we don't really have
anywhere else to go.

I've actually been very impressed
and amazed

by how simple changes in practices

can greatly reduce the need
for agricultural inputs.

Like fertilizers and herbicides
and pesticides in particular,

and buy us some time

to essentially think about how to generate
a truly sustainable agriculture.

[man 5] In a typical Iowa cropping system,

in which corn and soy are grown
in alternate years on the same land,

farmers are looking to have
a high yield of corn,

by applying a sufficient amount
of nitrogen

to the soil in the form
of mineral fertilizer.

Weeds are everywhere in these fields

and farmers have relied more
and more on chemicals

that are very effective
in suppressing weeds.

If we wanted an agricultural system
that was minimally dependent

on non renewable resources

and that was...

careful in its impacts on the environment.

What would that system look like?

We started working on this land in 2001

and what we found out
is that we could reduce

our use of mineral nitrogen fertilizer

by 90 percent and reduce our use
of herbicides by more than 95 percent

if we add oats with red clover,
or oats with alfalfa

to that corn and soy rotation.

This oat crop has this companion of clover

which is taking nitrogen
out of the atmosphere

and putting it into its roots,
which allows us to back way off

on the amount
of mineral fertilizer we use.

We've seen less erosion potential
in the longer rotations.

So we've seen these indicators
of improved environmental performers

and we've also been able
to maintain profitability

because of lower input costs
in the longer rotations.

The basic fact that impedes the adoption

of more diverse,
less chemically dependent systems

is that we don't put a price tag
on environmental damage.

Impairments of water quality
or loss of soil due to erosion,

or drift of herbicides
onto non-target crops.

The so called externalities,

are not factored into
the production equation.

[Mark B.] If the external cost were added,
back into the cost of industrial farming,

then it would seem much more expensive.

It would seem
as expensive as it really is.

The argument that sustainable foods
are more expensive,

goes out the window,
when you recognize that sustainable food

has far fewer externalities
than industrially produced food.

[male newscaster 1] Scientists who work
for the Federal Government

have discovered a huge dead zone
in the Gulf of Mexico

where fish cannot survive.

It is about the size of Connecticut
covering nearly 6000 miles.

Surface runoff is a very serious problem.

[male newscaster 2]
The primary cause of the dead zone

is nitrogen-based fertilizers
that are washed down the Mississippi River

by spring rains and into the Gulf.

Suppose that you're a farmer
from Illinois,

and you get a letter
from the governor or from Louisiana

which has a bill in it for $234,000

and that's your share of the cost
of cleaning up the dead zone

in the Gulf of Mexico.

Kern County is one of the several areas
in our state

that was found to have high nitrate levels
in its ground water.

[Fred] Increasingly now,
the public is having to paying the cost

to take enough of the nutrients out
of the water, the nitrate, et cetera

to make it safe to drink.

Toledo, Ohio, their water
was found to be unsafe.

Pesticide runoff threatens
drinking water...

...high concentrations of nitrate...

...phosphates, pollution.

They've never had nitrate levels
this high.

[male newscaster 3] Health officials
are recommending that pregnant women

and children under six months old
not drink the water...

[male newscaster 3]
What flows in those fields

is having a disastrous consequence

on human and aquatic health.

[Fred] We have to begin to look at
what's gonna help solve this.

And so here again,
planting crops in a diverse rotation,

it restores the biological health of soil.

And as a result,

you're gonna have less flooding

because you got more water
going into the soil.

And then during the drought periods,

you're gonna have more moisture
in the soil to sustain the plants.

So there's a number of things we know
how to do and can do.

But farmers are under
this enormous pressure,

you know, to produce as much as possible
and the good/bad news is that

we can't do this much longer

because we're using up
the natural resources

that we've used to sustain
this kind of system.

Even the Ogallala Aquifer,

which is one of the largest Aquifers
on the planet,

and provides irrigation water
for the heartland.

Everything from Southern South Dakota
to Texas.

At the rate that we're
drawing it down now,

they're predicting that it will only have
water available

for irrigation for another 20 years.

[man 6]There's a 120 million acres
of corn and soy rotations.

But no farmer goes out there
planting corn and soy rotations,

because they're in love with corn and soy.

I've actually never met 'em.

What I've met is farmers who do that

because the whole system
is geared towards corn/soy.

From the tractors to the seeders,
to the elevators,

it's all built around that system.

We better figure out how to create
an economy for those truly sunk costs

which are the crops
that are part of rotations.

And as a chef, I feel the responsibility

to create something so delicious
that you create a market for it.

I created this dish called,
"Rotation Risotto,"

it's the nose to tail eating of the farm.

What does it mean to eat the whole farm?

And that's where I think a chef,

and ultimately a culture
can play a huge influence

on a system of agriculture
that sustains itself

and that then,

you know, drives home the point
of what is true sustainability.

[Marty] Spring is my most favorite time
of year.

It is this incredible energy flow,

up out of the ground

almost all at once.

It's not just the seeds
we plant coming up,

but it's the push of the buds
of the trees,

it's almost everything coming alive again.

And honestly, it's people, too.

It is that period of time

that things look very rosy usually.

Today we're planting potatoes.

And, it's cold and blustery
out of the north,

but, at least it's sunny.

We could go a little faster.

If you keep a potato in the dark

and keep it longer than
you usually should maybe,

it starts to get those
little eyes on it and it starts to sprout.

Well, that's what creates the new potato.

As Kris, Will, and I began talking
about this farm,

we felt like we needed to create
a different vision

for what it was to become.

When the settlers first came,
they had to be sustainable

to create food for themselves.

We wanted to recreate a part of that.

Not just growing crops
for commodity markets,

but growing crops
that we could actually eat

and that we could sell to the community
at large.

What we want it to be about was

a change in our food system.

We began our farm enterprise

basically around the wild ramp season.

Wild ramps are like
a wild onion or a wild leek

that grow natively in the woods
through the Midwest

and through the south.

We would harvest about
a 1000 pounds a week.

And we found a distributor in Michigan
that would take all we could do.

We also realized that,

we were supplying him
and he was just the middleman.

Shortly after that a friend of ours

invited us to a chef's
collaborative meeting in Chicago.

But I remember now,
there were only maybe, a half dozen chefs.

They were all the main guys.

And all of them said, "Call us."

At the end of ramp season,

Nearly every chef asked,

"So what else do you have?"

And we said, "We don't have anything,
but we'll grow whatever you want."

That's how it started.

And they began to provide us

with the lists of things
that they would like to have.

What we do is spend time

researching as many different,
weird and new things that we could find,

from all over the world,

all different kinds of tomatoes,

kohlrabi, celeries.

We've got some Mexican broccoli
that's coming,

just as much variety
as we can possibly do.

One of our first chefs
that we developed a relationship with

was Rick Bayless.

Rick has been incredibly supportive

of not just our farm,
but farmers in general.

[Rick] We have been buying

this Iroquois White Corn
from the Iroquois nation,

and it was done
in a very traditional style.

And then all of a sudden they announced

that they weren't going
to grow it anymore.

I said that to Marty and Kris,

who, of course immediately said, "Okay,
we're just gonna go find that corn

and then we can maybe grow it."

[Marty] It took nearly two years,

to be able to find enough seed to plant
eight 200 foot rows.

And we had roughly 63 pounds of corn.

And he said on his counter in the kitchen
at the restaurant,

and almost cried, he said, "This is it."

The processing of the dried corn
was one of the things

that gave it it's unique character.

So they preserved the seed,

but then they also preserved the culture

of processing that corn, which I think is,

an incredibly valuable part
of that whole equation.

Everybody's familiar with the garlic bulb
but not everybody does green garlic.

This gives us something early
in the spring to take to the chefs.

We get a good amount per pound

and it's a lot less work.

Economically, we've made
a conscious effort,

to not buy brand new equipment,
just save our own seeds,

you know, to be cognizant of our inputs.

And it's worked.

But, it's at the scale
of what we can accomplish

and what we are comfortable with.

The size of our farm is 160 acres.

That's really, really small,

compared to the conventional farms
around here.

A lot of the guys around here would farm

a 1000 to 3000 plus acres.

They probably could not make a living
just on farming a 160 acres.

[Will] You know, they get a bad corn crop,

they're complaining that the crop is trash

but their prices go way up.

Now they've got
a really amazing corn crop,

and they're complaining because the prices
are falling off the bottom.

I mean, that's what happens though
when you relying on somebody else

to set the prices for everything.

If the conventional farmers around here
did not get subsidies,

they wouldn't be able to make it.

This year our average per acre
was somewhere around 2200 an acre.

They're making $400 an acre, maybe.

You know, you look at that
against their cost of everything,

there's not a huge profit margin
there for 'em.

[Marty] Most of our neighbors
are really focused on high yields.

That's what pays their bills.

For us,

it's more about quality, quality, quality.

And then, it's the relationship
that we have with our chefs,

that has sustained us long term.

If we're going to make a profit,

you gotta pay attention
to all of those pieces.

[man 7] I think the message
that the agricultural community stresses

is that chemistry

will create higher yields
and feed the world.

Organic growers on the other hand,

rely on a very important,
well respected science,

it's called biology.

And biology means life.

And we talk about life,
then we go back, all the way to the soil.

[man 8] We're in our Farming Systems Trial

and we're in a project that compares
conventional and organic,

These are Roundup Ready soybeans.

They were drilled into the ground here,
you can see it looks quite different

from the Organic No-Till.

This is treated
with chemical salt-based fertilizers

and also with herbicides.

The herbicide is not designed
to kill life in the soil,

but it's like a side effect,
it just happens.

There's always the push-back,
from the industrial model.

Organic can't feed the world.

And after 34 years,

not three or four,

thirty-four years later,

our data shows that yields are the same.

Conventional right next to organic.

When the soil is healthy,

we have shown that yields are improved
in the organic trials

when there's issues of drought,
up to 31 percent higher yields.

So there's the beauty
of growing with life.

In 2014, we created a White Paper

that identified
"regenerative organic agriculture"

as the answer to reversing climate change.

And here's how simple it is,
here's how it works.

Green plants take in carbon dioxide
out of the air,

take it up into their leaf, stomata,

and turn it into a liquid.

It's then exuded down into the soil
as simple sugars.

They give it to the microorganisms
that live in that healthy biological soil,

and if we don't destroy them
with tillage and chemicals,

that carbon becomes a part of that
microorganisms molecular structure.

And they hold that carbon
in their body for generations.

That's called carbon sequestration.

[Jeff] Using yield
as the sole measuring stick

is what got us into trouble
in the first place.

We're exchanging short-term gain
for long-term stability,

and we wanna feed people
for thousands of years,

and not just for 50 years.

[Mark S.] This is really not about us,
it's about generations to come.

It's about our children
and our grand children,

and our great-grand children
who'd look back on us.

They wanna know what is
the legacy that we left.

"What did you leave behind for us?"

We proved that you could accomplish things
previously thought to be impossible.

And we did it for all of you.

[man 9] I think industrial agriculture,
back in the earlier days

when I got involved in it,

it really made a lot of sense,

it was really a very,
sort of seductive message

that I thought had a lot of logic to it.

We're going to improve the efficiency
of agricultural production,

and provide greater food security.

It was for the public good.

And people like me, we believed it,
because it made economic sense.

The problem was
that it simply didn't work.

Food is the most basic of all human needs.

Man can manage to live without shelter,
without clothing,

even without love.

Poverty, unpleasant as it is, is bearable.

But man can't remain alive without food.

[John] When we had the CBS special,
Hunger In America,

the estimates were at that time,
that five percent of the people

lived in food-insecure homes.

Today, more than 15 percent of the people
in this country,

are classified as being food-insecure.

And more than 20 percent of our children
live in food-insecure homes.

And the other thing
we certainly didn't anticipate,

is that the food we're producing
with that industrial food system,

is not healthy wholesome food,
it's making people sick.

There's a whole range of health issues,
that are going through the ceiling

in terms of costs and incidence
that are related to the American diet.

You can track the increase,
the incidence of those

back to when we began
to industrialize agriculture.

So we started off with something
that made sense

and I don't hold it against
the farmers that got into that system,

I don't hold it against the educators,

what I hold against is people
that refused to see the fact that,

that system failed to do
what we designed it to do.

When I was a supporter
of industrial agriculture,

I knew that when we had specialized
standardized consolidation

that, that meant fewer farmers.

The idea was that we were creating
off-farm jobs

that were higher paying
than farming had been.

But then during the farm financial crisis
of the 1980s,

I began to question a lot of the economics
that I had been taught.

I couldn't understand why these farmers
would commit suicide

when they lost their farm.

Then I began to realize that they were
so closely connected to that farm,

that losing a farm was losing themselves.

It wasn't just a job.

We were taking away the lives of people,

and we were destroying the social lives
of rural communities.

We were destroying cultures.

We were destroying values
that were far more important

than anything we ever gained from
the economic efficiency of agriculture.

Sustainability, ultimately
is an ethical issue.

There's no economic reason to do anything
for some person or some future generation,

other than, it's the right thing to do.

We need to realize that we owe a debt
to those of the past

that created the opportunities
that we have today,

and we can only repay that debt
to people of the future.

But with every payment of that debt,
our life becomes better.

Because we fulfill a part of our purpose
for being here.

[Marty] My understanding is that

I'm approaching the age
of the average farmer.

Upper 50s.

And here in the Midwest,

you don't see
every little farming community,

you know, bustling and being vibrant
and surviving.

So, many of the conventional folks,
even in our community,

they're having a hard time

telling their kids to stay
on the farm, and...

even having enough income for them
to be able to make a life there.

Shirley, you're awake and early.

-Yeah, can you believe it?

[Marty] And that's where
Kris and I really began

to think about founding an organization
that worked as a group,

so that there were opportunities
for folks who wish to stay on their farms.

That's what we did in 2005
by creating the Stewards of the Land.

Part of what I wanted
to do tonight is try to...

understand what everybody wants to do,

and how we can work together so that

we're not all doing it at the same time.
Dose that make sense?

The Stewards group works together

as a co-operative model,
marketing their own things,

In that way, when our chefs are looking at
what's on the list,

they're not getting emails
from 25 different farms,

they're getting it
from one group of farmers.

How many of you would like
to grow spinach?

Shirley, okay.

We're all doing it chemical free.

We're trying to create better soils.

If it absolutely doesn't work,

it doesn't work, then he's gonna have
to serve okra or something else.

Building that co-operative model,

has allowed us to expand exponentially.

We'd have need for 40 cases of sweet corn

delivered on July 8th.

If they don't mind if it's frozen...

-[Marty] Yeah.
-That's really great.

I'm Beth Rinkenberger.

Doug and I have Garden Gate Farm
by Fairbury, Illinois,

and we've been in the Stewards group
since 2008.

[Doug] Having been raised on a farm,

that's all I've ever known
since I was five.

To me there's no better way of life.

We actually kept growing four to five
different colored carrots here.

When I got in touch
with the Stewards Of The Land,

I could see that we could use
what we have here

for what Marty was wanting.

At that point, I was excited
to be able to find

my niche on this farm.

You should have seen the look
on the local farmer's face

when I told him that we were picking
lambsquarter and sending it to Frontera.

To the tune of 40 pounds a week
for a while.

Couldn't believe it,

'cause they'd spray Roundup and kill it.

The April meeting
of the Stewards of the Land

was held at the Zschech's home

Kelly welcomed all who were present
and the old minutes were read by me.

To make a living on a small family farm,

you have to have people
that are willing to buy your product

[Doug] Without the Stewards
and the health marketing,

we wouldn't have had the connections.

I was super impressed

that the Dwight crew worked together
this week,

and coalesced all their orders
and Sheryl brought them.

That's really great.

[woman] Marty won't say this,

but he has changed the entire face

of local food in the Chicago area.

Not only getting that food to Chicago,

but teaching the farmers
that what they do is valuable.

[Marty] You all think
you don't have anything,

but we went to 26 different restaurants

and we carried product
from 16 different farms this week.

That's amazing!

[Donna] He just hated seeing farms dying
and in trying to save his own farm

he's managed to save a whole lot
of other farms in this area.

[Marty] If we've done a good job

of instilling the idea
of working together,

can you imagine what this community
could look like in 20-30 years.

[jubilant instrumental music playing]

Talk about food security,

and talk about...

economic development.

We've done it from within.

You used to know your farmer,
you didn't need a label.

You know, you knew who provided
your food for you.

But for those who go into a grocery store
and never get to meet the farmer,

they're trusting that label.

And sustainable...

Everything's sustainable now.

You know, how is it that your pasta
is sustainable,

and again, how is it that your blouse
is sustainable, you know, tell me.

Sustainable for us was the day
that I was able to retire from nursing

and work on the farm full-time.

[man 10] Some consumers wanna feel as if

they're supporting, you know,
their local small farmers.

Some consumers feel
that it's more sustainable.

Some consumers believe
that it's tastier and fresher

if it's grown locally.

But what isn't clear

is "What is local?"

On average, we found that people set about
a 100 miles.

Processors and retailers,
they think if it's a day's drive,

but, if Tropicana imports concentrate
from Brazil,

and makes the juice in Florida,

and sends it to Georgia, is that local?

[gripping instrumental music playing]

I don't know.

If you have a very effective package,

every single customer gets exposed
to that package billboard.

And some of them buy it.

And when they finally use it
it's sitting in front of them,

They have an opportunity
to look at the whole package,

and we compare that to showing
a 15-second commercial

at nine o'clock at night.

Packaging is where the excitement is.

Because it's lasting.

It hits everybody.

It hits you again and again and again.

And so you're seeing
more persuasive messages

on those packages.

There's something just inherently good

about all-natural.

And I always say, cyanide is all-natural.

The food industry doesn't provide

the complete story.

I noticed that there are fewer calories
in a slice of bread.

But there are also thinner slices
of bread.

When someone says 'low-fat",

they quite often are high
in something else.

Like carbs.

I mean, if you're low in fat,
low in carbs,

then what the hell,
there's nothing left in the product.

Today they're focusing more...

on what products don't have,

than what products do have.

[Mark B.] I think the biggest trend
is "gluten free."

Gluten free oat meal, or gluten free rice,
or whatever

None of which had gluten in them
ever to begin with.

[John S.] If you ask me what's
the single biggest nutrition problem

we have in America,

it's that the consumer really isn't sure

what they should or shouldn't do.

And everyone,

is focused on what is in
their best interest to tell people.

It's a brand new research
to tell you about...

[female newscaster 1]
Are these foods making us sick?

[female newscaster 2]
Fiber and omega-3s...

-Eat more soy.

Soy is bad.

[woman 2] Basic nutrition
advice could not be more boring.

Eat your veggies,
don't eat too much junk food.

Come on, nobody wants to hear that.

It's much more interesting

to hear that some additive is either going
to make you live forever,

or kill you immediately.

That's much more fun to read about.

Food companies are deeply invested

in trying to promote a favorable image

so that people will buy their products.

They're very focused and they've got
a lot of money to spend.

[man 11] Right now,
the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

is spending more money
on the child obesity problem

than any other agency
or government in the world.

About a $100 million a year.

The food industry spends
a 100 million dollars a year

by January 4th,

just marketing just unhealthy foods,
just to children.

[Marty] Summer it's a season
that's coming fast.

You're watching everything
just green up around you.

Intensely green.
All different colors of green.

And the sunlight hours are really long,
you get long days,

short nights.

It's a time of...

like intensity,

lots of intensity.

It's the bounty
that we've been waiting for.

We try to pick our greens

in the mornings
when it's still fairly cool out

so they don't get all wilty.

This week, our delivery list

we're taking snow peas, turnips,

agretti, fennel flowers

just a whole menage
of really kind of weird stuff.

They're green beans but they're called
empress green beans.

Empress is the kind.

When they start to get that size,

they get the seeds in 'em,

that's only when they're too big.

These are the best ones,
these little guys.

They're the best ones.

This is one of our trade-up jobs.

Will hates doing beans so...

I'll say, "Okay, you do the garlic,
you dig the garlic and I'll do the beans,"

because I don't like to dig the garlic.

I don't like picking beans at all.

Marty gets out of a lot of stuff
he doesn't like.

[Marty] On a small, diversified farm,

it's important to have
great communication with your co-workers.

We try out best to support each other
as best we can.

However, they think
that I get the cushy jobs.

[Will] I don't know if Dad tries
to get out of a lot of things.

He does get out of a lot things,

but I don't know
if it's on purpose or not.

Milling is not necessarily
getting out anything,

we don't like milling, so he can stand
in the mill room and do all that.

He does a lot.

How much are you talking, a week?

But he really enjoys
talking on the phone and emailing.

[Marty] The job is to get it done.

Maybe not quite to everybody's liking
all the time, but we do get it done.

I did get to help her pick beans
yesterday, you know.

[somber instrumental music playing]

It's not just about us,

it's not about Spence Farm,
it's not about Marty, Kris, and Will.

It's about creating an awareness

that we all are engaged

and reliant on farms,

from where our food comes from.

When we began we were taking product
to the local grocery store,

and one day, one of our neighbors
that lives about four miles over,

she stopped us,

and she says,

"Don't stop doing what you do,

you're keeping me alive."

And she says, "I've got cancer.

I buy as much stuff as I can possibly get
from you guys

because I know it's chemical-free,
it's healthy and it's good for me,

and you're keeping me alive."

It's even more important
for us at that point,

to realize the scope of what we're doing
and why we're doing it,

and to do the very, very best
that we can possibly do.

It's a noble calling to be able to provide
food for your fellow human beings.

[birds chirping]

We had Greg Wade
from Publican Quality Bakery,

come down and help us.

We welcome the extra help
anytime, honestly.

[Greg] I like visiting Spence Farm
as often as I can.

It removes me from
the hustle and bustle of Chicago,

and it strips away
all of that superfluous nonsense

that for some reason, matters here.

If Marty has a bunch
of tomato stakes to pound in,

you know, I'll go down and help him.

[Marty] Our chefs that come,

they're getting to reconnect
with the farm in such a way

that it's really hands in the dirt,

and it gives us the opportunity to explain
why we do things a certain way.

Along the road there,
we've got red clover.

-We'll probably put that into buckwheat.
-[Greg] Okay.

But it you plan on using buckwheat...

My relationship with Marty is one
of the most important relationships

I've ever developed.

As I was learning how to bake with local,
fresh milled wheats,

and other whole grains,

he was also learning how to grow them
and together we were kind of learning

how to store and mill them

and there's been a pretty dynamic process
from there.

We're both inspiring each other
to be better.

This is the White Sonora here.

This is amazing.
Have you looked at it close?

-You know I have tiller in them
-Is it, really?

It's amazing!

[Marty] Greg's interested
in lots of ancient grains

spelled to different oats,
to different heirloom wheats

many, many different kinds of ingredients
that he could utilize.

[Greg] I like the story
about the einkorn as well.

It took a lot of searching to find it.

I'm glad that you did though.
I think it's important

for us as bakers,
for us as a community like,

you know, I just want this around.

[Marty] This year, we're growing

an ancient, ancient variety
of wheat called einkorn.

It's a variety that goes back
10,000 some years.

You know, this is something
that really has benefit to a lot of folks.

It does. I mean, like I was able
to make a really tasty bread out of it

like, awesome texture, awesome flavor,
and have it still be fully gluten-less

and we fed it to gluten intolerant people
and they were completely fine.

If einkorn is

able to be used by folks
who have this gluten sensitivities,

Greg can turn that einkorn
into an amazing bread.

And all of a sudden,
we've opened up a new world

of local nutrient dense,

ancient grain flavors
to folks who are missing that.

-This is exciting stuff.
-[Greg] I'm so stoked.

[Dan] If we really want
to change the food system,

talking about vegetables
and fruits is not gonna cut it.

It's important

But fruits and vegetables represent
about six percent of our agriculture.

Grains represent about 75 percent
of our agriculture.

Our land use.

[captivating instrumental music playing]

The western world was built on wheat.

Just as South America was built on corn,

and Asian countries
for the most part were built on rice.

But at the 60 million acres of wheat,

we grow very few varieties,

it is completely flavorless
and completely nutrition-less.

Changing the food system means,

changing the way we think about wheat.

[woman 3] Modern wheat is bred
to have identical traits in each plant,

and that enables a farmer

who is growing hundreds of thousands
of acres on a maker farm,

control exactly when to harvest,

exactly when to irrigate, and exactly
the amount of chemicals to apply.

But imagine you're a robber,

and you have a key,

you can get maybe into one house,

but you can't get into the next house
and you can't the next house.

Imagine you're a pathogen,
and all the house locks are uniform.

You get into one,
you can get into all of them.

That is the danger of uniformity.

Despite the vast biodiversity,

of landrace wheat, that has evolved
for millennia and millennia,

who of us today has heard
of all these landrace wheats?

Who of us knows what a landrace is?


take the cotton out off our eyes.

We have to realize
we've been sold to Kroc.

And we don't have to buy in,
to a globalized industrial food system.

[solemn instrumental music playing]

A landrace is a population
of genetic diversity.

Year by year, generation by generation,

farmers selected and saved the seeds
of plants that did best in that locality,

but, farmers never selected
from uniformity.

Every landrace is a mixture.

You see movement, sun and light and air
is going into the plants

that are varying in heights

and if we could go under the ground,

we would see all kinds
of teaming biological activity.

Earthworms in soil, and mycorrhizae.
It's a teaming farm ecosystem.

We're standing in the einkorn fields
of Klaas Martens who is a...

wise and experience organic farmer.

And Klaas and I are working together
to restore

almost extinct landrace
and heritage grains and ancient grains.

By visiting various countries,
I was able to collect einkorn

from Bulgaria and the Caucasus and Turkey,

where einkorn is originally from.

And I trialled this diversity
of einkorn genotypes on my farm,

selected the best,
and I gave Klaas Martens a handful.

Klaas pulled this plant out.
This is one plant.

We just want to count the tillers.

[Klaas] We hand-harvested
that first little bit,

and we saw an increase
of many hundreds to one.

If we set 25 seeds times 33,

[Eli] How much is that?

That'd be 800 seeds.

And the next year we had enough
to seed any amount we wanted to.

The increase was manifold.

Seven or eight hundred to one increase.

Which is also a stark contrast
to our modern wheats

where, if you get the 20 to one increase,
you're doing good,

thirty to one, is bragging rights.

So modern wheat, typically
you'd plant 30 seeds per square foot?

-And einkorn, one?

-One or two.
-One or two?

Yes. Which is...
Doesn't work well for the seed seller.

-Modern wheat--
-Looks great for the farmer.

Yes. Modern wheat is great
for the seed company.

Einkorn is the dawn of agriculture.

At the end of the last ice age,
early farmers were discovering this grain.

But I keep finding myself digressing
when I talk about einkorn,

because it's not just the one crop,
it's the system.

If we had a modern wheat field,

the farmer believes this field
is the system,

but he's not thinking.

It includes land in North Africa
where the phosphorous was mined,

parts of Canada
where the potassium was mined,

and all the fuel that moved all of it.

That's right.

[Klaas] Every agronomic problem
that we face on our farm,

has a coat solution that comes in a jug,

is poisonous and costs a lot of money.

I don't call that a solution.

I've also found that every one
of those problems

can be dealt with by improving
and increasing the amount of biodiversity.

We first started running this farm
about 20 years ago, I think.

And the previous renter came to me

and he said, "Let me tell you something
about that farm,

I've got to warn you, nothing grows there,
nothing except weeds."

It had been farmed in an exploitive way,

They were harsh on the soil life
and we look at this einkorn,

it seems to be right at home,
in this hard, clayey soil.

So it's fixing the problem.

And one of my observations from farming,

is that whenever we have a species
be dominant,

it's generally the one
that's the right one for the conditions.

And when we have a weed-takeover a field,

it's quite often nature taking a problem
we created and trying to fix it for us.

Only, we don't make any money
and don't feed ourselves

while nature's trying to fix our mistakes.

We're at a crossroads,
and I think we need to go back

to what these early farmers did.

If nothing else, use the crops they used
for the benefits they had to the soil.

They're part of what makes
agriculture work.

They're part of what keeps people healthy
and well-fed.

But we've separated agriculture
into, agro and culture.

We have a real need to reintegrate that.

[Eli] The exciting potential to combine

the rich flavor and health
of landrace grains,

with the Artisan bread movement today,
is unlimited.

We have a true opportunity to change
our grain food system,

our bread system

from this industrialized monster.

Yeah, she's gonna finish up these,
I'm gonna final shape fruit and nut.

And then she and I are gonna get on sours.

Right now,
we service about 30 restaurants.

We do about 2000 pounds of sour dough
in a week,

about 600 pounds of multi-grain,

for a small artisan bakery like this is...

It's kind of a lot.

How can the staple product
of so many cultures and religions

have sustained life
for thousands of years,

and now all of a sudden in 2015,

it's not. You know?

But look at the ingredient list
on a loaf of bread,

packaged in the store.

There's 50 ingredients in it
and half of them you can't pronounce

and the other half are probably poisonous.

You know, now look at my bread,

with its five ingredients.

We're in this huge celebration
of everything that's going on

in the culinary world.

Chefs are like rockstars these days.

Just 'cause this is whole-grain,
doesn't mean it's not tasty.

But, we wouldn't be able to do it
without the farmer.

Really, the best thing that I can do
as a baker is to take

Marty's really well grown grains

and just not mess with them.

I've got two starters here.

This one from a farm.
You can see all the bubbles on top,

you can see all the life, you know,
looks really nice and fluffy,

and the commodity one is just really
kind of lifeless and cardboardy and stale.

A lot of conventional bread is from
dough to loaf in about four hours,

put that away.

Our sour doughs and breads
take about 60 hours.

Now watch your heads
as you come down here.

We start soakers and preferments
on one day.

This is our sour dough soaker.

This will start fermenting naturally.

Good bread in the bakehouse starts here.

We come in the following day,

and we incorporate them into a dough,
usually with some sour dough starter

for leavening.

We bulk-ferment them for about four hours
before shaping them,

then those will ferments overnight,
in the cooler.

So we got our sour dough, multi-grain,
olive in here,

this is using Marty's glenn wheat.

Everything gets baked and then cooled
and then sent out in the morning.

It's calling singing when you actually
hear the bread crackle as it cools.

And one of the most rewarding sounds
I've come to enjoy.

[Eli] When natural fermentation happens,

you don't need to do anything,
you just need to let nature come alive.

The micro organisms
are digesting the bread

through fermentation
and making the nutrients

biologically available to the human being.

Here are some of the glenn berries.

We'll toast 'em and put 'em in bread,
we'll soak 'em and sprout 'em,

we'll make power bars, that sort of thing.

[Eli] Grains have a natural anti-nutrient

and if you make flour out of grain
and don't ferment it,

you're getting this anti-nutrient
in your system,

which is preventing the absorption
of the nutrients in the flour.

[classical piano music playing]

[Marty] Greg is probably one of
the most amazing bakers

that I've ever met.

Greg is also one of
the most passionate bakers

that I've ever met.

[Greg] I was with my dad the other day,
and he had all these pictures of me

when I was like, five, baking bread.

Should have just realized it then but,

it's been a thing for a while, I think.

I love pretty much everything
about bread making.

I love the feel of the dough,
I love smelling the grains.

If you're on point,
it's an incredibly rewarding experience.

You get to smell it and hear it
crack open in the oven,

and you just feel good about it.

What we're experiencing is
a bread renaissance.

We're realizing just how much
we've screwed up

as consumers, and farmers, and chefs,

and now we're finally turning
that all around.

[Marty] It's August 16th, time for us
to plant some of the fall-root crops.

We had a new calf born on the 3rd of July,

and a couple days later,
we had a litter of pigs,

guinea hogs, born. They all look good.

Things are coming along really well
for the animals too.

In the beginning,
our whole farm experience

never really included
the livestock piece of it,

and I never would have set out
to be a pig farmer.

But as we began this whole idea
of recreating the family farm,

we realized that we wanted to have
some type of livestock component.

The American guinea hog was,
in the mid 1800s,

one of the most common homestead hogs
in the American Southeast.

It really kind of fell out of favor

as we began industrializing
pork production.

In 2007, there were fewer than 200

registered guinea hogs left in the world.

At that point, they were more rare
than panda bears.

We began with a seven-month old
young boar, named Sam.

He's kind of the grand daddy
of all of our pigs at this point.

Today, we have nearly 50 pigs.

[Will] We put our pigs, two pigs per pen,

and each pen is six foot by 10 foot,

and we move those twice a day.

We limit them to that because they will
overeat and get too fat,

like a human, you eat too much,
you get fat and you're not healthy.

[Marty] Our pigs are on alfalfa pasture.

We don't have confined area of manure,
so we're able to fertilize

some of our fields that will have
small grains on, in the years to come.

During the winter time our pigs
are outside in their pens

and we deep-bed them with straw,
feed them hay.

Their temperaments change so much
after you get them on the hay

rather than grain, they calm way down.

[Marty] Come spring, when they're ready
to go back out on pasture,

we'll take that hay and straw pack
and create our own compost.

So, we're able to utilize
a lot of what that pig produces.

It's not about trying to become
the largest guinea hog producer

in the United States and the Midwest.

It's about producing the best quality
guinea hog pork that we can.

And to give those guinea hogs
the best quality of life that we can.

[woman 4] I think a lot of people still
believe that their eggs and their meat

and their diary products are coming
from sort of the traditional family farm.

You know, we sort of think
of it as the backbone of America,

and we assume that's where
our food is coming from.

Which is of course,
quite different from the reality.

[John I.] These large scale confinement
animal feeding operations or CAFOs

are the epitome of industrial agriculture.

[Nicolette] You will have thousands,
or in the case of egg laying hens,

even over a million animals
in one building.

Because they're so crowded,

they're continuously feeding various forms
of medications, often antibiotics.

[John I.] A large percentage
of the livers from beef and pork,

have cysts on them, they're enlarged,

and the reason they're diseased is that
they're feeding in these high intensive,

high energy rations.

So these animals that we're eating,

they're not healthy animals
but they're profitable animals.

[Nicolette] You bring the feed often
from very long distances,

and you then have this enormous
waste stream coming out the other end.

That ends up in the water supply.

[John I.] One diary cow produces much
biological waste as much raw sewage

as 20 people.

So if you've got
a 1000 cow diary operation,

then you've got the equivalent
to a city of 20,000 people.

You wouldn't take the raw sewage
from 20,000 people

and spread it on people's back yards,
you know, spread it in the fields.

And that's basically what we're doing
with the manure

from these hog operations,

these cattle operations
and things of that nature.

Any regulations that we have
on these CAFOs

or any other industrial farming operations
are regulations that had been accepted

by what I call,
the agricultural establishment.

Their regulations
give them legal permission

to do things that we know are polluting
the natural environment

and threatening public health.

This is something that really needs
to be changed.

[enchanting instrumental music playing]

[Nicolette] There's a lot of wisdom
that was handed down over the generations

that was sort of tossed out
in around 1950,

about learning
from the way nature functions

Plants and animals work together,

diversity thrives.

Nothing is wasted, everything is recycled.

Things have to be restored continuously

and if you don't have that mindset,

then you're not gonna be part
of a sustainable food system.

When I was a senior attorney
for a Waterkeeper Alliance,

I was working for Bobby Kennedy Jr.,

we were suing and criticizing
industrial food production,

but we felt like we needed
to hold up examples

of the right way to do things.

And we learned that
the Niman Ranch network

was a good model both,
for the farmer and for the animal

and that it was producing
really good quality food.

And eventually, I met Bill Niman
who's the founder of Niman Ranch.

Come cattle!

Come cattle!

[Nicolette] This was the guy
who was kind of a hero to me,

because he was doing something

very different
from mainstream meat production.

Come on girls, come cattle.

In the late sixties I arrived
in this community.

There was a bunch of people
that wanted to get off the grid,

who wanted to raise their own food

and do everything we possibly could

without relying upon the system
which we, at that time,

didn't have much faith in or trust.

[pleasant instrumental music playing]

[Nicolette] As I got
to know him personally,

I fell in love with him

and eventually accepted
his marriage proposal.

For a vegetarian
and an environmental lawyer

to marry a meat producer-rancher,

that's obviously...
That says a lot, right?

There is one of the descendants
of our first cattle,

Nicolette, of course, describes it,

as one of Girlfriend's great,
great granddaughters.

I can remember well
the first animal we slaughtered

and the effect it had upon me.

It did inspire me to feed people

and I applied my entrepreneurial energy

to growing this business,
to feed more people,

one animal at a time
and after several years,

it became one farm at a time.

[Nicolette] There are many things
that distinguish

the Niman Ranch pork
from the mainstream pork,

and the more people learn about
the way mainstream pork is raised,

the more dissatisfied they are with it.

One of the things that we'd been talking
about for a long time

was having the cattle raised entirely
on grass.

And we'd been experimenting with that
for a number of years,

before he left Niman Ranch.

That was the origin of B.N. Ranch,
which is the company that we have now.

Our mission now is to prove
that grass-fed beef

can be every bit as good
as grain-finished beef,

and it's much better for the environment,
the animals,

and are really for the people who eat it.

This is rye, high energy,
carbohydrate grain

that the cattle will harvest

by walking around
and just clipping these seeds,

in the same way they would eat
a high energy grain ration in a feedlot.

So when you harvest grass-fed beef,
you wanna harvest them

when they've had exposure
for several weeks

to this really high energy grass.

Just like a bear gorging on salmon,
just before it goes into hibernation.

[Nicolette] Just in terms of how much land
exists on the earth,

between 30 and 40 percent is grassland.

If we think about the world food system,

cattle are playing
an incredibly important role

because they're using that 30-40 percent

that in the Unites States
about 85 percent of it

is not land that can be used
for crop production anyways.

Even those people who choose
not to eat meat,

it's still important
to maintain this landscape.

And by the way, if you want
to sequester carbon

this is the best possible way to do it.

[Nicolette] Where you have good grazing,
it actually stimulates vegetative growth,

and it keeps the soil moister,

but also because the hooves are trampling
organic matter back into the soil

leading to more carbon.

Going into the soil and staying the soil.

They are thriving on this dry,
cellulosic material

that we cannot eat and survive.

These animals can convert this
into really wholesome,

complete food for human consumption.

[Nicolette] The kind of farming
that Bill's been involved with

for along time has often been
characterized as niche food.

Neither Bill or I are really interested
in being part of a niche.

We want to change the way food is produced
in the United States today.

We want to change the way people
are eating in the United States today.

[Bill] I'm really hopeful
that what we're doing today,

everybody else will copy

I don't care if they put us
out of business

I will celebrate that other people

are doing what we're doing now

and talking about it
the way we're doing now.

[Nicolette] You've got to love it.

And if you do love it,

then, there's no better life,
I think for us or for our children.

We look at the opportunities
that they have everyday,

it's a wonderful way
for children to be raised.

[Bill] We can't torture animals for food

and we can't continue to poison
the environment.

It's just not a sustainable model.

[solemn instrumental music playing]

[Marty] Moving into the fall season
is kind of like...

You better hurry up and get this done,
because the end is near.

Once the ground freezes,
it's about game over.

It's also a period of abundance.

When we think of Thanksgiving,

we think of this huge table spread out
with this abundance of produce

and grains and meats.

And sometimes,

the weather will change,

and you have to leave and walk away
because that's as far as you can get.

There's a lot to pay attention to.

Some of it's luck,
some of it's gonna be skill,

and some of it's just gonna...

maybe be, by the grace of God,
that you get by.

But it's all part of the experience.

So this morning, as on many small farms,

you become not just a farmer
but a mechanic,

and it's a good thing we have Will
to be our dedicated mechanic.

I'm very proud of our son, Will.

Probably the greatest joy I have

is knowing that I get to spend
almost everyday with him.

We work together side by side,
we dream together,

we struggle together on many things.

I have just the hugest respect for him
and who he's become and is becoming.

[Will] I thought when I was a little kid,
I was gonna be a woodworker

'cause that's what Dad did.

Pretty much just whatever Dad was doing,
is what I wanted to do.

Whenever we got to spend time together,
it was always doing stuff

that he was really passionate about

and just being able to spend time
doing what he loved,

always seemed like a wonderful way
to spend your life.

[Marty] It's important to be able to get
to a certain point in your life

and know that

what you've done is not just for you.

And that you're able to pass the seed on,

and those seeds can be planted
for many, many generations.

Hopefully it will go on
for a very, very long time.

-[man] So if we can shorten this up...
-[Marty] Yeah.

Get a stronger frame, and...

Gets you a little sturdier plant,
let's say.

[Marty] Today we have Gary Reding
from Advancing Eco Ag.

He's been to the farm
a number of times this year.

[Gary] This tells you the genetic
potential of this particular variety,

so, you wanna memorize that.

[Marty] On the farm here,

we're constantly looking to improve
the conditions of our soils.

Making it such that,
we have a sustainable future.

You got quite a variation
of plant health here.

but yet, you've got one
that's almost defoliated

and you have to ask yourself,

"Why me?"

[Gary] One of the biggest problems
we face as farmers today,

is insect and disease pressure.

And one of our biggest fears
is losing our crop to these pests.

In this particular plant, that insect knew

-That, that one was compromised, yeah.
-...that, that one was compromised

through some significant difference
in roots zone or whatever,

but he came and got that plant,
and didn't even touch a leaf,

or the one next to it.

And many people don't look at plants
as having an immune system,

but they're no different than us,
as humans.

We have an immune system
and when it's compromised,

we become more susceptible to many things.

Likewise in a plant.

If it's not got a fully balanced
nutritional plain,

those insects can detect it,

and matter of fact,
that's their purpose in life.

[Marty] Farming is challenging,

and if we can understand
the whole picture,

we'll have some amazing things
for people to eat.

It's got a little more balance
to the flavor, doesn't it?

[Gary] I've worked for John Kempf,

who is the founder
of Advancing Eco Agriculture

out of Middlefield, Ohio.

He comes from one of the largest
Amish communities in the United States.

Came out of school
at the ripe, old age of eighth grade,

entered into the farming industry
at the age of 13,

and started asking the question, "Why?"

[grave instrumental music playing]

[John K.] The challenge
with our current agricultural models

is that they're based
on a warfaring paradigm

of search and destroy.

Identify a specific pathogen,
identify a specific pest,

and figure out how you can kill it.

And if they first weapon of choice
is not successful,

simply get a bigger bomb.

Today, there's a lot of discussion

about sustainability in agriculture.

We cannot have
a sustainable agriculture today.

Our souls have become too degraded,
our plants are too unhealthy.

We first need to have a conversation
about a regenerative agriculture.

A model of agriculture
in which plants developed

tremendous resiliency
to climate extremes, to climate stresses,

to all types of disease and insect pests,

and as a result of those things...

farms become more economically viable.

[playful instrumental music playing]

Starting in 2013,

we began doing a lot of trialling
with plant sap analysis

which is the equivalent
of a blood analysis for people.

When we look at the sap analysis data,

we are able to see precisely
which nutrients are deficient,

which nutrients are in excess,

and often do we find
that it is actually the excesses

that are creating the deficiencies.

If you had excess of potassium,

it will create a calcium deficiency

and you cannot fix the problem
by putting on more calcium.

The only way we can manage that,
is by looking at the other nutrients

that reduce the potassium's dominance.

Manganese serves as a potassium regulator,

and when a plant has adequate levels
of manganese,

it will tend to down-regulate
the surplus potassium

and allow the calcium to flow
into the fruit.

What we are implementing on farms

is a fundamentally different perspective
on how to manage plant nutrition

and how to manage diseases and insects.

The transition can happen immediately.

It doesn't happen on a farm,

it happens in the mind of a farmer.

This block, having just been recovered
last year for the first time,

it did pretty good, would you say?

Yeah, I think the fruit quality is higher
here this year than last year.

My name is Mike Omeg,
I'm a fifth generation cherry orchardist.

My great, great grandparents
started these orchards

and I'm continuing them.

What really triggered me
to start investigating

was that we were having
a complete focus on

just the canopy of the tree.

And we were missing half the tree.

Really quickly I got three worms.

They're moving all this organic material

into the rooting zone of the tree,

where it can do a lot of good.

One of the important things
when you try something new on a farm,

is to look at the return on investment.

Not bad.
That'll make a cherry grower smile.

We're actually making about $1800
more an acre, after our expenses

on the Advancing Eco Ag's blocks

than we are on our conventionally
managed blocks

because they're higher quality.

There's a good canker.

[Gary] I think you can get
a good shot of this.

[Mike] This is a good example
of a bacterial canker

that has... We say dried up.

There's a disease in cherries
that is a devastating disease

and it's one that's faced
all over the world.

It's called bacterial canker.

I just cut into this and I can see
a pocket filled with dried sap.

If this canker was active
when I cut into that,

that sap would just come
flying out of there.

The incidence of bacterial canker now
is very minimal in that block

and dare I say zero.

I was having to actually remove
entire orchards

because of this disease.

For us to be able to stop it
with our nutrition program,

is really remarkable.

Our fruit has become more resilient
to environmental pressures

like rain, like heat events,

and we've seen that our fruit
is pick-able and marketable

when unfortunately some
of our neighbors fruit

that follow a purely
conventional management, is not.

[Gary] I was a customer of John's
before I ever came to work for him

and it all sounded really good.

But almost unbelievable
that you could build soil health

from where it would be self-sustaining,

just like a forest
of oak trees in the woods.

And then when I was looking
to work for him, I thought,

"Well, if that's the case,
what's the future of AEA

if we're working ourselves out of a job?"

And he says, "We've got a lot of acres
to overcome yet."

[classical instrumental music playing]

We're in a potato field in
the desert Southwest of the United States.

If you look down below,
you'll see a lot of dead leaves.

That's not from insects or disease.

That's from a five and a half
hour long freeze that was devastating,

they browned-off, they died

but within three weeks
they were 18 inches tall once again.

This particular plant had 19 to 20
harvest-able tubers.

Normally they'll run 10 to 12 tubers,

so we're looking at nearly double
the number of tubers per plant.

This crop here was tolerant
to a five and a half hour,

26-degree temperature freeze,

that normally would have obliterated
any other potato crop anywhere.

But because it had plant health,

it expanded its adaptability
to a wider range of environment.

And if you take that concept and spread
that across the world,

there's only been so many acres
of tillable land ever produced,

and that has been

shrinking down by desertification,
loss of organic matter,

loss of water resources.

So, one of John's long-term visions,

is to expand the irrigable land
and regenerate that.

And then by doing so,

increasing the amount of acres
we can actually grow

nutrient-dense food from.

And that will help feed the world.

[John K.] It is my vision that

these regenerative agricultural models
that we have developed,

become the mainstream model
around the world.

[Mark B.] How do we improve
the health of our citizens?

How do we treat our land more sustainably?

These questions are answerable.

That's not unanswerable stuff.

But you first have to state your intent.

We don't have a national food policy.

There are countries that do.

There are countries that say,

"Food is gonna be produced to contribute
to the well-being of all of our citizens."

That would be an excellent starting point.

[Nicolette] Food is really unique issue,

because all of us eat,

and there's just this excitement
about rebuilding the food system.

[Rick] We're trying to reconnect
to our food supply

and we have to do it one little step
at a time.

And I don't know if you guys understand

how important Spence Farm is in that.

Because these people are not just farmers,
but they're visionaries.

[John I.] We have a great opportunity
to recreate a food system

that's fundamentally better:

socially, ethically, economically
than anything that we've ever known.

Sustainability is not just about
my children and my grandchildren,

it's about everybody's children
and grandchildren,

not just for seven generations,
but for 70 generations.

The whole idea of doing something
to pass on,

to pay it forward, to make the community
a better place,

that's what all this is about.

[Rick] If our culture is going
to continue to thrive,

it has to be on quality of life.

And that's what the farmers give to us.

Measuring wealth is not always
about counting your dollars.

Sustainability is measured
in a lot of different ways.

For me, personally I think, its...

the relationships that we have
between ourselves

and our friends and our clients,

that makes me feel very rich.