“Ingredients” (2009) is an inspiring and mouthwatering documentary about the local food movement in the United States. It has a dual regional focus as it explores the state of the local food supply in Oregon and New York State. The filmmakers also interview multiple restaurant owners from the Portland area who source their ingredients directly from local farmers. The message is simple, yet important: Local food tastes better, is healthier, and is more environmentally sustainable.
Generally, most Americans feel rather disconnected from their food today. Food is a commodity on the international market. The majority of it is highly processed and sourced globally. Americans do not only spend the least amount of money on food among the industrialized nations, they also spend much less than they used to. According to a 2012 article in The Atlantic, our spending habits have changed significantly over the past 100 years. While Americans spent 43 percent of their income on food in 1900, the percentage dropped to 30 percent in 1950. But that was not the end of it; in 2003, the percentage of their income that Americans spend on food has dropped to an astonishing 13 percent.
Greg Higgins, one of the chefs interviewed for the documentary, draws a connection between the plummeting percentage of our income that we spend on food and the amount we spend on health care. While Americans spend the least amount of money on food among industrialized nations, they spend the most on health care.
Not surprisingly, the family farm has all but disappeared and the market is controlled by a handful of large corporations. One of the farmers interviewed for the documentary laments that being a farmer is not even included as an occupation in the Census anymore. Due to their shrinking number, farmers are grouped with other occupations in the category “Other.” Yet, although the actual role of the American farmer has diminished, the idyllic image of the American farmer has lived on and is every present in the cultural identity of Americans. Pictures gracing the packaging of industrially processed food products seek to make us believe that a caring family farmer created the product in an idyllic landscape. The starkest contrast between the reality and the advertising image of the American farmer, however, is the iconic Dodge Ram 2013 Super Bowl commercial entitled “God made a farmer.”
Using beautiful imagery and emotional music, the deep voice of the narrator makes viewers proud of the almost inexistent American farmer. Needless to say, the few family farmers, who do still make a living in the United States, are not likely to actually be able to afford the Dodge Ram truck.
In conclusion, it is certainly worthwhile to watch “Ingredients” but what is even more advisable is to explore local farmers’ markets and restaurants that rely upon locally sourced food. Here is a good place to start: