Happy Earth Day

Every time Earth Day rolls around, we are forced to reflect on what actions each of us make in our daily lives that work towards the protection of our environment.  Some celebrate the natural beauty around them, some wonder ‘we love our earth but how can we tell her so?’ and for others it’s just another day.

Here are some steps that you can take in your every day to help the environment:

  • Compost. You don’t have to see Symphony of the Soil to know that composting is important (though, it does help). Composting reduces waste while helping create healthy soil that is able to produce good food.
  • Reuse. It’s important to be aware of the waste you create. Little things make a big difference. Having a coffee/tea thermos that gets filled at coffee shops can reduce that waste. Having a water bottle that you refill does the same. Going out to eat later and know that you’re going to have leftovers – bring a small Tupperware with you. Saving jars from pickles or salsa and using them to hold household items like nails or screws.
  • Eat and shop organic. Most people complain that eating organic is too expensive. While this may be true, if you consider the health benefits that organic foods provide, you may end up spending more money on doctor’s visits than you would buying organic foods. It’s good for you.
  • Shop local. Shopping local not only helps the local economy but it also reduces the amount of fossil fuels that are used to get your goods to you. Most towns and cities have farmers’ markets available. Buying straight from the farmer helps connect you with your food and can be cheaper than buying through a big super market.

We at Lily Films are also taking this wonderful day to share with you our latest version of the Symphony of the Soil movie poster.

Symphony of the Soil poster

Artwork by Will Kim. Design by Sarah E. Gonzalez. Copyright Lily Films 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AND we are happy to release the first Symphony of the Soil trailer

 

Happy Earth Day. Let us know how you are spending it.

on Twitter… @soilsymphony

on Facebook… https://www.facebook.com/SymphonyoftheSoil

Soil into the Holidaze

Symphony of Soil Trees in Snow

As the Holidaze are thrust upon us here at camp Lily it has become apparent that 2012 has been so busy we’ve had had little time to reflect upon the accomplishments of this passing year. As I sit down to write this post, it becomes apparent that there is, perhaps, too much to be thankful for for one meager blog post.

Most importantly, we are thankful that in 2012 we finished the film! Not only that, but 2012 brought the film festival and community release of Symphony of the Soil, and saw communities around the country and around the world be informed by its beauty and grace. We’re grateful for all of the people from those communities who have sent us heartfelt thanks after being touched by the media. We’re also thankful that we were able to share the film with all of those who made it possible- sending it to the four corners of the globe. We’re thankful that some of those copies made it through the treacherous Indian mail system to Jaspal in the far corner of the Punjab, and to Hans Herren World Food Prize winner, and to the skilled crew that made the film possible. As we hear back from each of them, one major filmic cycle has been completed. They gave to us and we have now returned the present.

We also are grateful for what is yet to come- to the coming year, 2013, which will see us make our theatrical debut and with luck, will see audiences receive the film well and have it spread far and wide.

We are confident that 2012 laid the ground work for success in 2013- and that with your help, dear reader, 2013 will too be a joyous and celebratory year.

From us here on Mt Tam- Happy Holidays to you and yours! Here’s to the SOIL in the  New Year!

- Jessy Beckett

Why Screenings Matter

There are few times in filmmaking when you can feel how your work affects people. Most of the work happens in dark rooms, alone, behind computers, completely unconnected from the reason you’ve begun the journey.

Screenings are the opposite. You’re in bright room, filled with people, who are connecting about the message of the film. We’ve had dozens of screenings where this is the case.  Questions from the audience, a diverse panel, an insight that sparks debate, an engaging discussion. These are the reasons that public screenings are so important. They encourage conversation and learning between interested parties. They spread the message, facilitate networking, and amplify the impact of the movie. Symphony of the Soil has enjoyed a great run of screenings such as this in the past few weeks. We’re grateful for the folks who organized them and look forward to doing more!

Symphony of the Soil Screening, UC Davis

Professors, Extensionists, Farmers, and Filmmakers Hash it out UC Davis

Symphony of the Soil, UC Merced
Public screenings of the film are now available. Participate in spreading the good word about soil by emailing:  jessy@lilyfilms.com

Soil and Food, Post Election

On this day, November seventh, 2012, we know who our president and political leaders will be in America for the next four years. We know that we will have the same cast of characters that we’ve had since the last election two years ago plus and minus a few faces and we know that Californians’ barely declined to endorse a proposition that would label GMO foods. What does this mean for soil and food?

Symphony of Soil, Soil and the ElectionThough we here at Lily Films are happy with the results of the national election, we will be carefully watching congresses’ ability to make positive change in the fate of our food system. Will they begin to pay attention to the growing call for a healthy, more localized food supply? While there are some who may be inclined to be negative about this prospect, we have some reason to hope.

At a recent screening of Symphony of the Soil in Tokyo, inquisitive citizens asked me what I thought of the Obama administrations’ agricultural policies. My answer to them mimics my feelings today.

We live in a nation where monied interests have caught hold of the political system. Though they have not yet figured out how to rule the game in it’s entirety, they do enough to damage the functioning of the machine. To this end we live in the only industrialized nation that hasn’t labeled GMOs and where the food system is so opaque it’s hard for even those of us who study it full time to make heads or tails of it. We have soil loss, nitrogen pollution of our streams and rivers, farm workers who get paid nothing and are poisoned by the chemicals we spray on our food. Birds that sit in cages too small for them to turn around, and cows that have never seen the light of day. A nation that has lost touch of where food comes from and what real food is, and a food system that wants to keep it that way.

But for all of the darkness and suffering in our food system, this election today reaffirms some small signs of hope.

The Obama family has planted an organic garden on the White House lawn, and encouraged the nations’ families to do the same. Michelle Obama has traveled the country encouraging school kids to eat more healthily and avoid processed foods in order to avert diabetes and obesity. Kathleen Merigan is the assistant Secretary of Agriculture and has presided over a marked increased in USDA attention to organic and local food- including the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food campaign. There’s a cost-share program in the Farm Bill that helps farmers pay the price of transition to organic and government funding for beginner farmers and ranchers. In California, the majority of citizens have now heard the phrase ‘GMO’. And though Prop 37 was outspent 5 to 1 by corporate interests who want to keep the veil of secrecy over the industrial food supply- we, the consumers, almost won.

Our office received an email from the Prop 37 organizers this morning that said it perfectly, ‘we may have lost the skirmish, but we will win the war’. That’s the way we here feel about the election. We didn’t get everything that we wanted out of this election, but the nation’s direction, given Newtons’ first law of motion, will continue to propel us towards a more just, fair, clean, and soil friendly food system if we just keep pushing away.

-by Jessy Beckett

Bad Drought? Start with the Soil.

The reason commodity crops are failing in the midwest is not the majority fault of the drought. Period.

Does the drought have some part to play in the massive crop failure occurring across the states at this present moment? Yes, of course. The imposition of unprecedented heat and lack of rainfall has effected plant health and viability.

Is climate change, as everyone is saying, playing a key role in the weather pattern? Yes, of course. Increasing climate volatility (as Bill McKibben’s latest article in Rolling Stones clearly articulates) may very well have something to do with this extraordinary hot-dry spell. Could we as a species have foreseen this imminent disaster and done something to avert it.?

Here’s the kicker: Yes.

Rainclouds_Tim_Axford

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Drought Warnings: Missing the Point

For the last ten days all eyes have been on the US corn belt, which has been experiencing a massive drought. Now, don’t get me wrong, drought is a big deal, it absolutely effects agricultural livelihoods and waterways, not to mention crops and animals that depend on water. This being said, the commentary that’s been raging on about drought bringing higher food prices like today’s piece in The Guardian, misses the point.

Will some types of food prices be affected? Yes. This drought will push up the price of chicken, pork, and beef- animals who, when industrially grown, are primarily fed on corn, the principle victim of the drought. The drought will also push up the price of corn oil and corn syrup, which, when chemically re-configured, are found in most processed food.

Corn_Symphony of the Soil

This is where commentators are failing to take the next step in their analysis. Which types of food prices are going to be affected by this drought? Animal products and processed foods.

The newspapers act as if Americans won’t be able to feed themselves without hamburger, sodas (rich in corn-syrup), and a bag of Cheetos. In times of crisis, the talk of the obesity scare and worries about diabetes go straight out the window.

Crisis like these are a one of the few times that we as a society have the chance to re-evaluate our nations’ agricultural priorities. What if The Guardian stopped shouting about the growing food crisis and started promoting alternatives? How about heading down to your local farmers’ market- which, for the most part won’t have been affected by the drought, and buying some carrots- which are probably better for animal health, your health, and the planet in the long run anyway.

-by Jessy Beckett

Guest Post: Food and Extreme Weather: It’s the Soil, Stupid (Tom Phillpot)

Normally we here at Symphony of the Soil don’t repost other’s writing- but this article from Tom Phillpot hits the nail on the head. This is what we’ve been saying!! 

Food and Extreme Weather: It’s the Soil, Stupid —By                                  Written for Mother Jones magazine  | Mon Jul. 9, 2012 3:00 AM PDT

As the climate warms up and “extreme” events like heat waves and droughts become more common, what will become of food production? I started to examine that question in my last post, published Wednesday. A front-page article in Thursday’s New York Times brought a stark reminder of why the topic is crucial. Reports the Times’ Monica Davey:

Already, some farmers in Illinois and Missouri have given up on parched and stunted fields, mowing them over. National experts say parts of five corn-growing states, including Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio, are experiencing severe or extreme drought conditions. And in at least nine states, conditions in one-fifth to one-half of cornfields have been deemed poor or very poor, federal authorities reported this week, a notable shift from the high expectations of just a month ago.

The message from the Midwest is clear: Chemical-intensive, industrial-scale farming is vulnerable to spells of hot, dry weather—some of the very conditions we can expect to become common as the climate warms. In my last post, I argued that the solution to this problem favored by US policymakers—to keep industrial agriculture humming along with novel seeds engineered for “drought tolerance”—probably won’t work.

What might? I think the answer lies outside of some Monsanto-funded university lab and right beneath our feet: in the dirt. Or, more, accurately, in how farmers manage their dirt.

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Guest Post: The Benefits of Dry Farming a Vineyard Organically

by Brian Jones, Jonesing for Wine

Symphony of the Soil, Sonatas of the Soil DVD cover
I recently watched Portrait of a Winemaker featuring John Williams of Frog’s Leap Winery in Napa Valley. This is part of Sonatas of the Soil Volume One which is directed by Deborah Koons Garcia. Deborah directed the widely acclaimed The Future of Food which focuses on genetically modified foods. Her latest documentary, Symphony of the Soil, premiered last weekend.  I’ll have a much shorter post about it in a couple of days since it isn’t directly related to beer, wine, and/or spirits.
Having talked to many winemakers and vineyard managers while working in the industry, having family in the industry, being a wine writer, and going wine tasting, I can safely tell you that every winemaker/grape grower can talk about their product well and why their method is better than the rest. With that being said I think John Williams is a straight shooter and they have put forth a solid segment with strong historical, viticultural, and visual reasoning.

Response to Biochar: SF Chronicle

Kimberly Gomes recently wrote an article on Biochar for the SF Chronicle exploring its’ potential to ameliorate the issue of nutrient loss in low carbon soil. Biochar is a substance we here at Lily Films have often mused about. In our short film, The Promise of Biochar we explore the substance (carbon made from burning biomass in low-oxygen situations through a process known as pyrolysis.)

It has been hailed as the perfect blend of indigenous wisdom and modern technology, and many claim it to be the silver bullet of climate change, soil exhaustion, and resource depletion. But can one substance really achieve all these goals without any externalities?

Biochar, Symphony of the Soil

Picture by  Harley Soltes 

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Farm Bill 2012: Remembering the Soil

A picture of a tractor over the text: 2012 Farm BillEvery five years congress debates and reauthorizes a piece of legislation known as the Farm Bill. More aptly nicknamed the Farm and Food Bill by many food activists, this legislation pays for everything from food stamps, to conservation programs, to agricultural research priorities. Originally authorized during the Dust Bowl, and pushed by Hugh Hammond Bennett- the man who started the Soil Conservation Service (known in its present form is known as the NRCS)- the Farm Bill was enacted to serve two primary purposes. First, to support farms across the country in times of economic depression, so that farmers wouldn’t starve when prices hit bottom and, secondly (and most important to our cause) to mandate that farmers who received government aid enacted simple soil conservation techniques that would prevent the likes of the dust bowl from happening again.

While we as a nation have clung mightily to the concept of supporting farmers in times of need- we have forgotten Bennett’s impetus that saving our soil should be a national priority. Congress has since unlinked the direct payment (commodity-crop subsidy) program from the necessity to conserve the soil- thereby allowing egregious soil mismanagement by farmers who are simultaneously being subsidized by tax payer dollars.

Instead of a hand in glove approach, soil conservation practices have since the mid 80′s been encouraged through the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)- which pays farmers to put marginal land out of production, and gives grants to growers to plant hedgerows, wildlife corridors, and beneficiary insect habitat.

This year, everything is set to change. As congress is trying to slim down anything that could be construed as wasteful fat off of the national budget, the direct payment program is on the chopping block- backed by an odd mix of environmentalists and large corn-belt farmers. Good Food movement activists who have, for decades, tried to eliminate the subsidies to the nations largest (and primarily conventional) farms are thrilled the direct payment program looks to be going the way of the Dodo.

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