Winning by Losing
by Kara Lofton
In a stunning representation of courageous, nonviolent, civil disobedience, the 30-minute documentary Save the Farm (Cinema Libre Studio, 2011) documents the efforts of farmers in South Central Los Angeles to save their 14-acre community farm—the largest urban farm in the nation—from development after it was secretly sold back to the original owner by the city of Los Angeles.
The South Central Farm was broken up into 350 individual plots that were used to provide organic produce for low-income families in a neighborhood rife with poverty. On weekends the farm hosted a farmers' market that provided affordable organic produce to others in the community who would not be able to pay Whole Foods prices for their carrots. "It's really created a community a space, a community nucleus that South Central really lacks," said one man in an interview.
As the film progresses, the viewer becomes more and more shocked and disturbed that the city of Los Angeles—for reasons that are never discovered—would sell a community plot of land to an individual for development when it is obviously doing the community so much good and is costing the city virtually nothing to maintain. Done behind closed doors, the deal reeks of corrupt politics, and one wonders how the local government—which is supposed to care for the people—can get away with an action that is so clearly against the common good.
Throughout this film, producer-director Michael Kuehnert is able to captivate the hearts of his audience through compelling photography and interviews with farmers, community members, activists and celebrity supporters such as Alicia Silverstone and Willie Nelson. Ultimately the film is an inspiring documentation of how everyday people can make a difference in their own lives and the lives of those in their community.
The only thing lacking from Save the Farm is an absence of any Christian reaction to the injustice except by Reverend Peter Kreitler—an Episcopal priest and active environmentalist from the Los Angeles area who is briefly shown giving a blessing or sermon at the farm. The lack of Christian presence in the movie makes one wonder—was it there and simply not documented? Or did Los Angeles Christians simply not make the time to advocate for social justice in their community?
Remarkably, according to urban farmer Tezozomoc, 2013 National Resources Defense Council Growing Green Award Winner for Food Justice, "In the politics of impossibility you win by losing." Efforts on behalf of food justice abound, and an even broader, more robust movement of community organizing has resulted.
As Christians, let's make a stand with our urban brothers and sisters who fight so hard—with so much hope and without violence—for such basic rights as the right to feed themselves with food they grow by their own sweat. We can help! To learn more, visit South Central Farmers Health and Education Fund (SCFHEF) or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or 800-249-5240.
Read about more efforts for food justice in PRISM's recent food features, "Just Eating" and "Waste Not, Want Not."
Kara Lofton is a summer intern at ESA and a full-time student at Eastern Mennonite University.