by Nancy Stiles
As part of the ongoing Food on Film series, catch a screening tonight of In Organic We Trust, brought to you by Slow Food St. Louis and Chipotle. The 2013 documentary asks questions about that ubiquitous "organic" food label and what it means for our food system.
"There's so much more going into this than that little stamp, and people need to actually be involved in their food," Chipotle's Wayne Prichard tells Gut Check. "They need to ask questions, they need to know farmers, they need to know suppliers, they need to know middlemen, and they need to be educated about food, and that's something that is obviously missing in our society."
Prichard says most fast-food chains wouldn't be able to stay profitable while buying from local sources and focusing on sustainability, but Chipotle's business model allows them to do just that. "And, more importantly, it's the right thing to do," he says.
Chipotle has paired with Slow Food St. Louis for the second year in a row for the film series. Prichard says the two organizations -- one for-profit, one not- -- make a good partnership because they have similar missions: to educate consumers about food choices.
"[In Organic We Trust] ties precisely into our mission here with Slow Food St. Louis, which is exactly ask before you eat," says Kelly Childs, co-leader of Slow Food. "We really want to get this food discussion going and keep it going as broadly as possible. You can make whatever choice you're gonna make, but we just want to help see people making more informed choices."
Next: why this matters to St. Louis.
There's a $5 suggested donation for the screening, which will be at 7:30 p.m. at Schlafly Bottleworks (7260 Southwest Avenue, Maplewood, 314-241-2337). The money benefits Slow Food's Small Farm Micro Biodiversity Grant, which has awarded $50,000 in micro grants to more than 40 local farmers since 2009. The grants are used to cultivate heirloom variety produce and heritage breed animals. Childs says the grants have resulted in over 250 new varieties and breeds entering the St. Louis marketplace.
But wait: Why is that good? "Right now we're using chemicals to deal with a lot of issues like weather patterns and climate change and bugs -- but what historically has happened is we have used different varieties to deal with these issues," Childs says. "As far as the food side, we have lost about 50 percent of that by not continuing to cultivate that and to focus on so few varieties and commodity crops."
St. Louis is actually a great place for consumers to learn about these things and develop relationships with their food, Childs says, because the city's not too large that we lose touch. Here, it's easier than ever to meet the people who are producing what you eat. "We have noticed the conversation in St. Louis around our local food system get much more sophisticated over the past few years," she says. "People are becoming quite wise to the complexities involved in sustainability. We're starting to see some real growth even thought we still don't have all the answers."
Sam Wiseman of Sunflower Savannah Farm, one of the grant recipients, will also be doing a Q&A after the screening. If you still need another reason to go and be part of the conversation, Prichard promises some free Chipotle food, too.