By Graham Meriwether
My name is Graham Meriwether and I’m a proud member of the FilmShop. I’ve been on the road since July with our documentary, American Meat, a solutions-oriented film surveying the current state of the U.S. meat industry. The following is a piece I wrote after a special screening of our doc in Washington D.C. last week:
Tonight we all learned that there’s hope for the 2012 farm bill.
After the super-committee failed to reach consensus last week, the doors were reopened for a national conversation about agriculture…which is good news for everybody.
Why’s that? Because people like Susan Prolman who runs the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) will be able to share common-sense solutions to our nation’s agricultural challenges. How? Through initiatives like the Beginning Farmer Bill which helps provide funding to new farmers, and the Local Food Bill which- yep- helps support local farms in every which way- through supporting farmers markets, helping farmers to produce food for local markets, and educating us everyday folks about how, why and where we can get this local food.
What can you do?
Contact your state and federal elected officials and let them know that you support the Local Food Bill & the Beginning Farmer Bill. Right after you’ve done that- join the pulse of agricultural knowledge at Food Democracy Now! where our good friends Dave and Lisa will let you know about the precise moments when to take action about food topics that matter.
Chipotle Steps Up
One person at our screening of “American Meat” tonight asked if we need to focus on supply or demand to grow our movement. Maureen Moodie of Arcadia said we need to do both- that from the supply side- in the urban area of DC there’s more demand for local food than can be met, the challenge is how to inspire young people to consider a career in agriculture.
That is why it was so exciting to have Phil Petrilli- who manages Chipotle restaurants in the Northeast region standing right there. For those who don’t know- Chipotle has recently started sourcing pork from local farms for a few of their restaurants. The first was Polyface Farms- which sourced pork for the Charlottesville, VA Chipotle. The program saves cash because produce doesn’t have to get trucked around the country to get to a restaurant. Instead of traveling thousands of miles- now it travels tens of miles. It also means the produce is more fresh, and it helps to create more jobs. The one-farm-to-one-restaurant program has been successful- and now is at a number of Chipotles- in Texas, the D.C. area, and soon to be PA. They’re essentially writing the book on how to locally source a major chain restaurant, and it’s pioneers like Phil Petrilli who are making the nitty gritty logistical side of distribution happen.
If half of the 1300 Chipotles source locally, that will create tens of thousands of jobs for young people- right smack dab in the middle of the worst job market for people coming out of high school and college. Let’s put a square peg in a square hole- let’s employ these young able-bodied people in a rapidly expanding profitable enterprise also known as sustainable agriculture. If we see the niche market jump from 1% to 10% over the next 5 years, we’ll see a lot of jobs be created and a much needed revitalization of rural America.
The pieces are starting to fall into place. It’s an exciting time to start farming, and an exciting time to be eating, too.