What could possibly have been more heart-

                                                                                        warming than seeing the line for "Good Food,"

 a new movie about Northwest farmers and sustainable food, stretching around the block? Maybe it was the wild applause the SIFF audience  gave, once they got inside, at the mention of a sponsor, the  Essential Baking Co. (Bakery staffers were handing out free chocolate chip cookies -- big, chewy, chunky cookies -- which made the long will-call line downright bearable.)


I'm the already-converted, so I didn't need any of the film's convincing of the benefits of the food local farmers produce and the community they help create. Still, I liked hearing the history and seeing some of the places where so many of the vegetables, fruits, grains and animal products I buy are produced -- to see Hilario Alvarez, say, chomping on one of his hundred varieties of peppers, or a worker on his farm talk about planting the same fruit trees, years ago, that he now harvests. I've always known on some level that Skagit River Ranch's chickens and cows and pigs are happy and healthy animals, but it was still viscerally enlightening to see them on the big screen, and hear details such as how the older hens, killed on most farms after they moult and produce fewer eggs, are welcome to live on at the ranch and remain part of the ecosystem there and lay as they please.  Eiko Vojkovich of Skagit, who holds an M.BA., said on film that she has run the numbers and run the numbers and run them again. They still don't work. She's not in farming for the money. There are other reasons people live that life.


Two interesting points I picked up talking with Eiko at the film's after-party (which directors Melissa Young and Mark Dworkin invited the whole audience to attend -- talk about creating a sense of community!): On the down side, with the price of organic grain tripling, the ranch isn't raising broiler chickens this year -- when it comes to chickens, it's focusing on eggs instead. (It's a point against this New York Times article on the potential benefits of rising food prices. Price hikes affect the little guy too, not just the factory farmer.) On the bright side, the farmers markets are doing well enough that the ranchers are attending just three per week this year (University District, Ballard, and Bellevue), down from six markets last year. That's a big savings in time and effort and gas. As the movie showed, the grueling market days start at 3:30 a.m. and don't end until after dark.


Anne Schwartz of Blue Heron Farm, one of several other farmers in the film to attend its premiere, told the packed house at a post-show Q&A that she had left the Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market early to make it to the screening. What a sight it was for her to see that line of people waiting and wanting to watch the show. Schwartz has been in the business since the 1970s, and told the crowd, voice trembling for just a second, that "A lot of people told us we were going to dry up and blow away, and you are the reason we didn't blow away."


The film will be shown again at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at the SIFF Cinema, 321 Mercer St.


Posted by Rebekah Denn Rebekah Denn at June 5, 2008 2:00 p.m.






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