'Food, Inc.' panel at Ragtag fields questions about local foods

Wednesday, July 29, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — Panelists who spoke after a sold-out showing of "Food, Inc." Monday night at the Ragtag Cinemacafe generally agreed that consumers should vote with their pocketbooks by buying locally grown produce.

The documentary focuses on the nation's food industry and uncovers practices the film argues are being hidden from consumers. The documentary looks at how the nation's food industry is controlled by only a few large corporations that it says suppress dissent for their practices and neglect the livelihood of U.S. farmers, worker safety and the environment.

After the movie, the audience had many questions for the discussion panel, which was made up of local organization leaders and businesspeople.

The audience posed questions about the availability of locally grown products for people in the Columbia area, healthy and local food in public school cafeterias and consumer power.

"You have to make it known what your preferences are, you have to want it," said Steve Hanson, regarding what he said is the need for consumers to show an interest in locally grown foods by buying them. Hanson is the director of Columbia Sustainability Partners, which advocates local food sourcing, urban gardens and efficient transportation.

The event was an opportunity for panel member Casey Corbin, executive director of Sustainable Farms and Communities, to put in a pitch for the fundraising effort to give the Columbia Farmers' Market — and locally grown foods — a permanent home in a structure at the market location at the corner of Ash Street and Clinkscales Road.

The Columbia Farmers' Market has been providing local produce since 1980. The market has grown over the years and now regularly sees about 4,000 customers on Saturdays.

Another panel member, Jake Davis of the Show Me Local Food Coalition, said that "consumers vote with their pocketbooks" and that there is power in people buying local foods — a point made repeatedly in the film.

At least one audience member, Casi Lock of Columbia, said she already does that. She said she grows her own vegetables, prepares her own food and shops locally so she doesn't have to support industrial agriculture. She said she came to watch the film because she has been interested in sustainable agriculture for many years. 

"I grew up on a farm and started reading when I was young about how food was being produced," Lock said.

She said she thinks the way food is being produced is not best for individuals or the community.

Other panel members included Tim Gibbons of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center and Patchwork Family Farms; Adam Saunders of the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture; Ron and Courtney Rottinghaus, owners of Uprise Bakery; and Bill McKelvey of the Community Garden Coalition.

Showings of "Food, Inc." are scheduled daily at Ragtag through Aug. 6.

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