A brand new food documentary, In Organic We Trust, will be screening at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival next week. I took the opportunity to check out a screener of the film last week, and spoke with the director and producer, Kip Pastor, to pick his brain about why he made the film.
Described as “an eye-opening food documentary that looks beyond organic for practical solutions for me and you,” the film depicts a curious and fervent Pastor as he tries to understand the organic food industry and America’s food system. Early in the film, you get the impression that Pastor is enthusiastic about growing food and eating it, and that, ultimately, he just wants to know more about it.
“I love to eat. I love to cook. I care about the environment and my health,” said Pastor. “As I learned more about food, I learned that we have to address our agricultural system in order to address issues of health.”
The film opens with Pastor asking people on the street, “Do you know what ‘organic’ means?” With baffled expressions, they either admit that they don’t know or try to conjure some sort of definition. Pastor then turns to the expertise of farmers, researchers, chefs, and nonprofit folks to explain what organic is, and what organic is not.
“Making a movie about organics is not easy,” explained Pastor. “I read recently that 78% of Americans have eaten something organic at sometime, so everybody’s heard of it, but not everyone knows what it is.”
In case you’re one who doesn’t know what it means, “organic,” as defined by the USDA, is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering may not be used.[…] If you see the USDA organic seal on a product, the product is certified organic and has 95 percent or more organic content. Definitions are necessary, albeit somewhat plodding. Now, back to the film…
The film portrays organic certification as an imperfect solution to concerns about public health and the environment, and then moves on to look at all kinds of grassroots solutions like urban farms, farmers’ markets, and youth gardens. Most of the story is told with voiceovers or dialog involving Pastor. As I viewed the film, I empathized with Pastor as he struggled with confusing details, definitions, and bureaucracy, and then felt relieved as he found inspiration and answers from farmers, researchers, educators, and children.
“For me, film is one of the best mediums to disseminate information to a broader audience,” said Pastor. “To really engage with people, you have to tell a story, so it was important to me that this film was a personalized journeyâ”€this film was essentially the story of my journey exploring food and agriculture.”
Pastor is the CEO at Pasture Pictures, creative director & partner at Picture Garden, and a producer at Motion Maven. He has a BA in Diplomatic History from UPENN, and a Master in Fine Arts in Producing from the American Film Institute. He spent three years making In Organic We Trust. It premiered in February, and will be appearing in a number of film festivals across the country, including the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival on April 23 and 24, where Pastor will make an in-person appearance.
“Not only are the Twin Cities great for food and sustainability, but they’re great for film and the arts. Let’s come together to watch the movie, and let’s stay and talk about what it means to us.”
Here’s the trailer: