“Ingredients,” the Film, and Oregon Agriculture

By Nancy Smorch

Mike and I are traveling to Oregon for the big Michigan State – Oregon college football game this weekend. I’ve never been to Oregon, but for some reason I’ve always thought that if I were looking to move somewhere else, Oregon would be one of the states I would consider. There’s something about the land that seems to be drawing me in.

So when Mike asked if I wanted to go to the game, of course I said yes! I’ve learned quite a bit about Oregon in the time since we’ve made our travel arrangements (about 4 months ago), and, believe it or not, I haven’t been this excited about traveling since we went to Italy two years ago.

We’ll be staying in the Willamette Valley – apparently home to some 300 vineyards! We’re about 45 minutes or so outside of Portland, which is home to numerous amazing restaurants and, apparently, Oregon has some pretty amazing nature as well. Rainforests – who knew??

So, I’m on the plane from Grand Rapids to Minneapolis and the ride gets a little bumpy. It doesn’t take much for me to get a little nervous on plane rides. A few bumps, and I pull out my iPad to watch some episodes of Modern Family to distract me. This time, I pulled out my iPad, pulled up my videos, and the first one that pops up is a documentary called, “Ingredients.”

Check out the trailer:

I decide to go with it, figuring it popped up for a reason, and I watch the whole thing.

Would you believe, the first scene of “Ingredients” is from a farm in Gaston, Oregon, some 30 minutes outside of Portland, called Ayers Creek Farm. Then they interview a lamb farm in Junction City, Oregon, and go on to visit a number of other farms and restaurants in Oregon. And, one of the vineyards they visit is actually on our list of must-see vineyards (Bergstrom Wines) – a list given to us from Peter Eizel, from Martha’s Vineyard in Grand Rapids.

Turns out Bergstrom Wines practices biodynamic farming, a term I had heard a number of times, but honestly didn’t know a whole lot about. Biodynamics, as explained by Bergstrom Wines, follows the flow of nature. They talked about following the lunar cycle and how the cycle of the moon influences the tide of the ocean and it also influences the flow of sap up the stems of the plants. So, for the vineyard it means that there are certain times in the cycle that the sap flows upward towards the fruit, and there are times that it flows back down toward the roots. They time the picking of their grapes according to this cycle – they don’t want to pick the fruit when the sap is up in the fruit, otherwise it will be a diluted product. Rather, they want to wait until the sap is down in the roots, then they will have a more concentrated fruit and thus a more concentrated wine. I found that fascinating (I know, a little geeky)!

There were so many aspects of the movie I found interesting and it was very inspiring for me, yet still a little unsettling, in terms of the food supply in this country.

According to the film, only 1% of the U.S. population is classified as farmers, yet they are expected to grow food for a population that is getting bigger and has been demanding more food. That statement alone just blows my mind! How can 1% of the population possibly grow enough food to feed the entire nation?

Add to this the fact that in the year 2000, for the first time in history, there were less acres of farmland than the previous year. Plus, agricultural imports have increase four times over the past decade. On top of that, the U.S. spends less on food, per capita, than any other industrial country. Sounds like a recipe for disaster if you ask me!

We’ve been conditioned to believe that for should be cheap and that cooking is drudgery. We’ve also been taught to believe that cheap food is our right, and we’ve been conditioned to become creatures of convenience – expecting dinner to be ready in less than 15 minutes and grabbing convenient food on the go when we don’t have 15 minutes to wait for food to be cooked for us.

With the rise in industrialization of agriculture, food has gone from something that is grown for nourishment, taste, and enjoyment to a commodity (this is an entire book, in itself!).
This really isn’t a system that can be sustained for much longer, and fortunately there is a grass roots movement of people like yourselves, who are demanding good quality, nutritious food, who are willing to spend a little more for food with taste and nutrients, and who are willing to either grow some of their own food or who are supporting the local farmers who are working hard to provide them with good quality food.

So, keep up the great work! These last few weeks of the season, continue to go to your farmers markets and connect with and learn from the people that are willing to do the hard work so that we can all enjoy good food – we need them – we need more of them. Maybe these conversations and connections will inspire you to play around with growing your own food and planning ahead for next season. Who knows, maybe there’s a farmer in you as well??

Check out the movie, “Ingredients”and keep up with us for food inspirations from Oregon – and maybe a little college football hype as well :). GO GREEN!