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Viewing our Food, From Paddock to Plate

Jul. 18, 2013

By Annie Donnelly, Slow Food USA intern

Is it possible to operate a truly organic and sustainable farm today? In the short documentary “Where the Food Grows”, New York-based film student Noah Throop finds out.

Where the Food GrowsThe focus of Throop’s documentary is Hayters Hill, a family-run grass-fed cattle and free-range chicken farm in Byron Bay, Australia. The film offers a rare view of the daily operations, trials and triumphs of a modern family farm as we follow farmers Hugh and Dave along in their daily tasks.

We recently caught up with Throop to chat about his inspiration, his Australian experience, and hopes for our food’s future. Check out his interview below.

What inspired you to make this documentary? What do you wish for the public to take away from this film?

During my junior year at Skidmore College, I chose to spend four months studying environmental studies abroad in Australia. I spent much of the semester narrowing down my focus for a film.

Having grown up on a small farm myself, I am aware of the emotional and gratifying force of growing your own food in your backyard. I have also become increasingly aware of the great disconnect between consumers and producers of food. I therefore chose to portray the lives and farming practices of the family at Hayters Hill Farm because I sought to use film to foster greater public discourse on food production. My film is meant to invigorate viewers to reenter a lost dialogue between themselves and their food.

The farmers you feature, Hugh and Dave, mention that, ideally, they would have a closed loop operational system (therefore not having to export any processes, like butchering, outside of their farm). The current conditions make it almost impossible. What do you think the biggest hurdle is in reaching this closed loop system? Do you think it’s possible?

Unfortunately, there are significant obstacles that both Hugh and Dave encountered on a daily basis. They would ideally grow their own grain for their stock of cattle and chickens, but the availability of land space is constricted. As far as state regulatory effects on their cattle and chicken operations, unless they were to go through a lengthy, complex certification process to be declared organic, they are unable to do so at this point. As Dave discusses in the film, it becomes difficult to avoid shortcuts.

The struggles they face are quite possibly similar to those faced by many small-scale farmers around the world who are attempting to provide for their families while caring for and nurturing the land. But their struggles and difficulties should not detract from what these farmers do. Their business allows for close communication between themselves and their customers. This transparency has lasting benefits that far outweigh the convenience and cheap price of industrialized food in a supermarket.

Tell us about your favorite farm experience.

I had many memorable experiences while filming this documentary and working at Hayters Hill Farm. The work on the farm is exhausting and endless, but there is an obvious passion and joy that each of them brings into their craft that makes the process worthwhile. Observing this behind the camera and developing close relationships with my subjects and their work was the most rewarding aspect of the project. I feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to trace the path of the food produced here, “from paddock to plate.” There is no greater satisfaction than ending a day eating the food that you helped to produce and create.

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