I have been thinking about how “From the Ground Up” started and what I want it to be now. I started digging around and found that I began research into urban farming in 2004. Seriously 2004. Thirteen years ago. Think about it, where were you in 2004? Where was the USA in 2004? Deep in a war in Iraq, George W. Bush was elected for a second term, and in my neck of the woods the Bay Area was starting to slowly recover from the Dot-Com Boom & Bust. My husband and I were finally able to move to better place since the rents had started to come down. We had found a great place with a yard full of fruit trees and raised beds in the sunny Mission District in San Francisco. I was so excited to grow food, so I started researching how to get started, that was when I came across amazing urban farming projects that were helping all kinds of people in cities around the world, it changed my life. I was taking a documentary filmmaking class at the time and one thing led to another – “From the Ground Up” was born. The main challenge then (and continually) is that urban farming is done in so many ways, for so many reasons, by so many different people. How to make a coherent story? It took a few years for the stories to sort themselves out, a lot of trial and error on my part, and the cooperation and guidance from the many urban farmers and film makers I have met and worked with. On a trip to Massachusetts I decided to check out an urban farming project I ran across in my research, Nuestras Raices in Holyoke. It was exactly the kind of project I was looking for – community based, youth involvement, positive civic action and welcoming people. Filming there has been a highlight of this project, they have inspired me more than I can explain. In 2005 we began filming senior citizens who had Victory Gardens during WWII and were still active food growers. In 2007 I met Karen who was fighting the city of Sacramento to keep her front yard edible garden. Then in 2008 Slow Food Nation decided to hold an event in San Francisco and work with local urban farmers to build a WWII inspired Victory Garden across the street from San Francisco City Hall. I could not have asked for a better project to tie the stories together, also the timing and location were fortuitous. I was able to be there at the beginning and film through the entire lifetime of the garden, it was a great opportunity. The people involved in the project were open to me filming and generous with their time and knowledge, I cannot thank all those people enough. There were more gardens, people and projects that we have filmed over the years, so many beautiful places and people. We began editing and editing, and as they do, things changed over the years, personally and politically. The doc has been in rough cut stage since 2013 when I ran out of steam. We have continued to work on it in dribs and drabs, but no major progress. Which I find kind of heartbreaking. I love this project, the people I have met through it and what I have learned in the process of making it.
Why I am I bringing this up? I am feeling a lot like I was in 2004, overwhelmed by politics, questioning what being a “Good American” is, wondering what we can do as citizens to build better communities, ones that are inclusive and healthy. We have discussed the term “Patriotism” quite a bit in the making of the doc, the archival footage we use from WWII films encourage planting Victory Gardens as a patriotic duty. The word means many things to many people, there seems to be no consensus. I have been reading articles and historical quotes about patriotism trying to wrap my head around it. Here are some quotes that reflect my feelings about it this week:
“True patriotism hates injustice in its own land more than anywhere else” Clarence Darrow
“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it” Mark Twain
“Fighting corruption is not just good governance. It’s self-defense. It’s patriotism” Joe Biden
“You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who says it” Malcolm X
“Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first” Charles de Gaulle
What are yours?
The motivation to finish the documentary is back and I have been reviewing the rough cut and other footage, thinking about ways to bring it into the current world.
Thank you for your interest and support! Feel free to contact me with any questions and to donate to help with the financial costs of finishing the project.
It has been too long since I have last posted and things have changed dramatically.
I will start by filling you in with the changes in my life, then the film and then the big picture.
Well, changing to a new city, home and job(s) created a lot more chaos than I expected. I was uprooted and transplanted. When you transplant a fully grown plant it can be a shock to it. It may go through a stage where you don’t think it’s going to make it. Then little by little you see it starting to recover, it is a little less droopy, new leaves start to appear, but you are still disappointed when it fails to blossom the first year. Ok, that last part is about the doc project, the relocation was hard on my creativity and drive. I no longer am a member of a community garden nor do I hang out with other filmmakers as much. My filmmaking support system is a bit too far away, it is still there but, just not as easily accessed (kind of like trying to fertilize a plant from across the yard). I am making an effort to connect with them more and have been actively working on the the film. Also, I now have a new community and job that I love very much, I started teaching yoga about a year ago. Yoga provides the balance I need to continue to be creative when most of the filmmaking work is done in front of a computer.
I started From the Ground Up when George W. Bush was president. Looking back, a lot of the decisions I made about the film were very much influenced by where the country was at that time politically. Then things changed, Barack Obama has been a very different leader and our country has changed so much in the last 8 years, in retrospect I think making the film felt less urgent. Now, a huge political shift is taking place and finishing this movie has never felt more urgent. The main film is very close to being finished, final editing, a couple of animations and music is all that is left to do. I have been working on finding ways to finish the last steps as quickly and inexpensively as possible. Some of the short films are finished and can be seen on Vimeo, there are other short films that will have to wait until the main one is done.
Why do I feel like this film NEEDS to be finished and seen? From the Ground Up is about much more than growing food, vegetable gardening is like a trojan bunny – cute an innocuous – until you open it up and see how many things includes (climate change, water safety, local economies, self-reliance, food security, etc…). All three stories in the main documentary are about people who are taking action to make their cities better, from changing a front yard garden ordinance to feeding the hungry and getting involved in local politics. We see these ideas through the urban farmers as well as through the WWII propaganda films that remind us that getting involved in community action is also patriotic. We plan for the video to be used for outdoor screenings, where organizations can distribute how-to guides, seeds, and information about urban farming and local food organizations. We think this will be helpful in rural college towns as a tool for people with different backgrounds to be able to come together over something that they have in common, growing good food.
We could use your help to finish the film, we are trying to raise $1,000 by the end of the year so we can start 2017 ready for action. Please consider donating any amount through our fiscal sponsor and your donation will be tax-deductible. Please go here: http://www.sffs.org/filmmaker360/from-the-ground-up#.WFmwxCMrIiU
Thank you and you will be seeing more from me very soon.
Kristi Stephens Adams
PS – If you have any questions please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Many changes have been taking place for me personally that have kept From the Ground Up on the back burner for a bit. That is no longer the case and I have so much to tell you that I am still working on a post all about that. In the meantime, I wanted to let you know about a group that is inspiring me right now, so please read on…
Growing some of your own food is especially rewarding this time of year, you can pick a salad in your yard, which is the best thing ever. Sharing with friends and neighbors, figuring out new things to do with all that squash. It is a joy and a privilege. Here in the over-priced Bay Area having a space to garden is a privilege that not many have. Which is why community gardens are so important, they provide not just space to garden, but open space for neighbors to meet and soak up nature. I am really excited about Land Actions campaign. Land Action is a grassroots organization whose goals are to “obtain properties for urban microfarms and organize housing, creating support spaces for community-building while facilitating a locally grown urban food supply.” They are currently fundraising for their 100 Microfarms Initiative.
Here is the description from the IndieGoGo page:
“Starting in July of 2015, LAND ACTION is excited to partner with urban farmers to initiate and sustain 100 urban farms in Oakland over the next 5 years. These microfarms will include tiny home farmhouses, creating affordable housing for urban farmers and organizers. The farms will also serve as demonstration gardens and community farms, helping spread knowledge on food sustainability along with growing hundreds of tons of vegetables to be distributed locally.
We are selecting properties based on their long term viability to stay farms indefinitely.”
I went to the campaign launch at the Buried Seeds Medicinal Garden at 27th Street & West in Oakland to meet the people involved. It was a crazy hot Sunday and dedicated people from the nearby Ashby Community Garden, Wild Oakland and more had come to pull weeds and turn soil in the sun. At 5 o’clock everyone gathered to talk about why they are there and how keeping gardens and open spaces in neighborhoods is necessary.
Many plots of unused land are abandoned due to tax default, often cities sell these lands to the highest bidder (developers usually) with no thought to how it will affect the people who live there and the existing businesses. There some urban farms have started on such pieces of land and have enriched the neighborhoods and brought beauty, healthy food and spaces for neighbors to meet. Gardens create safer and healthier communities and we would love to see many more of them. We are supporting the IndieGogo campaign and we would like you to join us. Please go the their campaign page and contribute if you can, then share it!
Keep cool and eat your vegetables while they are fresh and in season!
Kristi Stephens Adams
From the Ground Up
Here in the Bay Area spring has arrived, sunshine, longer days and then scent of blossoms in the air. The move went as smoothly as can be expected, it has been a busy few months settling in. Our new place is full of light, within walking distance to shopping, restaurants and a nice path along the bay. We have started planted our all container garden – so far so good. Finding room for all the plants varieties has been a challenge – so many to choose from and so little space. Next year I will expand vertically.
Even amid the moving mayhem and holidays we have made progress, we have a pretty darn solid rough cut that we are proud of. We are working on music, and looking for an illustrator for the animations. We need to secure some of the archival footage and newspaper clippings for the Sacramento story. The final step is to hire a professional editor to put the final polish on it, for this we will need to raise more money. We did not receive the two grants we applied for in the fall. We have begun to reach out to smaller foundations and are brainstorming other fundraising options to get us to the finish line.
In the meantime we have been working on the plans for the updated website, investigating distribution options and working on a long-term sustainable future for the project. We want it to be available to anyone who wants to see it and for them to share in their communities, but we need to find a way that the project can pay for itself. We are looking at partnerships with existing organizations, pay-per view, donations and sponsorships. If you have any thoughts on this or any ideas you would like to share, please feel free to contact us. In the meantime we have some really great new interns that are assisting us with research and editing the the short videos, and they are coming our great. We should have a some available on-line soon, so make sure you follow us on facebook, twitter and now instagram as well.
Big changes are in the works. We are moving to the East Bay, the rent increase on our home/urban farm turned out to be too steep. After a three month search we have found a new home (apartment) in Alameda, a sunny little island town in San Francisco Bay just off Oakland. Our new landlord is putting in brand new raised beds for us and additional water spigots, so even though the new yard is smaller it will have some improvements. It is a blank slate which I am really looking forward to filling with color and delicious fruits and veg. Due to the lack of space I will have to be creative in finding enough space to grow seedlings, but I will find a way. Saying goodbye to our home of 11 years has been tough, but the hardest part is saying goodbye to our neighbors. I have enjoyed having them be a part of our lives, sharing garden goods, closing each others garage doors when forgotten, seeing their kids grow, helping them with problems, all that everyday stuff that we take for granted. I have never known so many of my neighbors before and it has been a pleasure. We will miss them. I am looking forward to meeting our new neighbors, especially the ones who have this lovely little garden:
What does this mean for the the documentary? Well, things have been moving a bit slower than we had planned. Since our last blog post we have continued the editing of the main documentary, researched music and archival footage, and went to Seattle for the American Community Garden Association annual conference to participate in their first video festival (one of our short videos won first place – yay!). If you are not familiar with the ACGA please go to their website and see what they do and think about becoming a member, we are!
We have been applying for grants and have made it to the final round on one and are still waiting to hear back from another. Due to the move we did not have a fall seedling sale, but there will be more in the future, it is such a great way for us to meet gardeners in our community. It is a small, but useful way we have raised money for the documentary, which is much needed at this stage. If you want to contribute, you can make a tax-deductible donation through our fiscal sponsor the San Francisco Film Society. We will send you a surprise thank you gift! If you would like to participate in other ways (rough-cut feedback, have skills you want to share, etc…) please let me know, filmmaking is a collaborative process and we want you to be a part of it. Also, we want to give a big thank you to all the urban farmers, entrepreneurs, activists and eaters for inspiring us to keep the project going. If you want to see who we are smitten with follow us on facebook and twitter.
Thank you for your support!
Director of “From the Ground Up”
Editors Note: Nick Schrader is a colleague of mine, he is married to a chef and they really really like good local and seasonal food. I have brought him “extras” from my yard and he has alway returned with something outrageously delicious to share. Thank you Nick!
Only Eat Strawberries in the Summer
Consider the strawberry at it most potential. At its summertime peak, a strawberry is a deep ruby red on the skin, then, throughout its interior flesh. The scent of a strawberry can be quite strong, reminiscent of sweet lime. There have been times while at the market you can smell them from across the way. The strawberry is soft, slightly delicate, and once bitten, melts on your tongue with the slightest press on your palate. It tastes succulently sweet and typically kept in check by its tart acidity. The smattering of seeds on its exterior at times will give a hint of green bitterness that can round out the flavor profile nicely when aware of its subtleties. This, to me is a strawberry at its finest. Nothing can beat having a strawberry when they are at their best.
The best strawberry I ever had reminded me of sex. It’s cliché because its true. My wife works nights in a restaurant and I meet her there to walk home. She has just finished the dinner shift and is cleaning up when I walk in. We exchange quick greetings when she says, “Oh, you have got to try these strawberries we just got in.” Okay, I think. Whatever. I’ll eat a strawberry. At first glance it looks like a good berry. Plump, bespeckled with seeds. A cute, leafy green hat perched on its mound. I lay it on my tongue and bite from the inverted peak. My teeth lay into it easily, coaxing the flesh apart. I immediately salivate. The berry melts in my mouth with the gentle pressure I apply on the roof of my mouth. It mixes with my saliva and dances across my tongue exciting every taste receptor. It blankets my sense of taste. It reminds me that I’m alive and so in the present that I forget and future that was planed for the rest of that evening. I turn to my wife and say, “Lets get out of here.” That strawberry came from Dirty Girl Farms outside of Santa Cruz. I don’t know what they are doing there, but I want to publicly say thank you.
Strawberries growing season differs for each region. We typically get our best strawberries by August. But for other parts of the country it could be earlier in the summer or later. But it always grows best in North America in the summer. If you buy strawberries in the winter, they most likely didn’t come from North America. They were most likely shipped to your market from Mexico or California. Fruits and vegetables that have a summer growing period can grow in Mexico because days remain relatively the same year round. Where as, here in North America our days grow shorter in the winter.
With this, consider winter strawberries. First of all, you won’t find them in farmers markets, unless they are bought wholesale from a distributor. (Some stands are known to do this.) In grocery stores, they come packaged in plastic clamshell containers. They are packaged either by the grocery company like Safeway or Whole foods, or bought from a fruit company like Driscolls. These Strawberries are a pale red exterior that quickly fades to a white interior and typically have little to no scent. They are bitter over sweet or acidic.
One may argue this is a biased argument. It is. I much prefer having a strawberry in the summer. Even if you don’t care about them, you can see there is a world of difference in these two strawberries. So, why do we eat Strawberries in the winter?
Eating fresh fruits and vegetables of the season changes the paradigm of my reality. It supports local agriculture. I frequent my local farmers market to buy produce for the week. The market give me the opportunity to talk with the farmers themselves on their products, how and where they are raised, and most importantly, What’s good to eat! Farmers markets are a great resource to learn more about what’s happening in your agro-community. Once I began caring about what I eat, the more interested I became on the background of foods. Now I have a strong understanding of which farmers grow apples, why another has amazing poblano peppers, and why Gordon of Hamada farms is passionate about growing citrus fruits (which are amazing).
Finally, I have found a respect and appreciation for food. It’s an amazing feeling when you connect with flavorful food. I refer to those moments when your not really paying attention to what your eating, maybe your locked in a conversation with an old friend in a restaurant, when you have a bite of Strawberry shortcake that grabs your attention. For a brief moment you focus on the flavor. That Strawberry is flavorful because it’s seasonal. There is a reason for that strawberry. It is unique to the time of year. That strawberry wouldn’t taste the same in any other time or place. Eating becomes an event.
With that comes appreciation. I have grown admire and desire fruits and vegetables for their season, because I wait for their season. Asparagus comes once a year in early spring. Those strawberries come to me in mid summer. Kabocha squash in October. Chicories and Pomagranate in December. I find myself excited with anticipation for the flavors of the fallowing season. Then I ask myself. I hope those strawberries are as sexy as they were last year.
Last weekend we have the honor to screen a few of our short videos at the Bay Area Maker Faire thanks to Homegrown.org and it was a fantastic experience in so many ways. The Maker Faire is “Part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new, it is an all-ages gathering of tech enthusiasts, crafters, educators, tinkerers, hobbyists, engineers, science clubs, authors, artists, students, and commercial exhibitors.” We were part of the Farm + Food Film Festival at the Homegrown Village which was host to great demos, local organizations and business like the East Bay Urban Agriculture Alliance and my favorite local resource for all things homesteady Farm Curious.
We screened five short videos that are part of the larger project that is “From the Ground Up”. The overall project consists of a 30-minute documentary that is intended for community screenings and a series of short videos that will be available on-line. We have other exciting plans in the works! Two of the shorts we showed are available on our YouTube channel if you want to check them out. We will be adding the others soon. We had the great fortune to be screening with Farm Shorts, Kala, Scott and Jessie were incredibly supportive and fun to spend time with, I really enjoyed their company and their short films, please check out their project. The only feature film that screened was “Symphony of the Soil” about how soil is built and why it is so important to care for it. It is a beautiful film full of important information that everyone needs to know. The pilot episode of Food Forward screened as well on Saturday, I am really looking forward to seeing the rest of this program. On Sunday, Randy Hall showed his short documentary “Udderly Direct”, everyone learned a lot about what the fuss about raw milk is about, check it out. We screened on Saturday and Sunday, it was great to see the reactions and meet people, the Maker Faire crowd is most definitely our audience. A couple people asked how they could join a CSA and another was super excited to go home and plant a garden today, yeah! I owe a huge thank you to Jennifer Wehunt of Homegrown.org, Kim Dow of the Maker Faire and Kala & Scott of Farm Shorts for making the weekend such a pleasure and success – Thank you!
What is in store for the near future? Well, we are preparing to start the final edit of the 30 minute doc, which will begin in mid-June. We have a team of people working on editing the short videos and you should start seeing more of them soon. I will finally get around to doing some gardening of my own, we are able to stay in our rental house for the time being, so I better get some plants in the ground.
Thank you so much for your continued support!