Schlafly film series goes green, offers workshops
(by Stacey Rynders - February 17, 2010)
March is a hotbed of film activity in St. Louis, so the preview spotlight shines early this year and starts with the Good Gardening Good Food workshop and film series. In its third year, the Good Gardening event, a how-to urban workshop series, is expanding to include eight free documentary screenings, though donations are welcome.
Hosted at Schlafly Bottleworks March 15 through May 8, Frank LeBeau of Brick City Gardens paired with Slow Food St. Louis to coordinate films introducing each workshop topic.
“The films are an entertaining and enlightening way to learn about the problems with our food supply,” said LeBeau, founder of the Good Gardening workshop series. “The workshops offer practical solutions and information on how to grow safe, nutritious food at home.”
The Good Gardening film series will screen in the Crown Room at Schlafly Bottleworks the Monday before each three-hour Saturday workshop. Events are scheduled a week or two apart.
“There’s an increasing interest in home gardening and organically grown foods,” LeBeau said. “Home gardening is an enjoyable activity that gives people the satisfaction of growing their own good food and taking responsibility for their own health.”
The Good Gardening series opens with Homegrown, a documentary about a Pasadena, Calif., family that grows more than 6,000 pounds of produce annually on their small, suburban plot. Titles showing of the same ilk include Dirt! The Movie, Farming With Nature and The Real Dirt on Farmer John.
“This series is set up so that you will have success gardening,” said Kelly Childs, a co-leader of Slow Food St. Louis. “It is empowering people with knowledge.”
However, the series is not catered simply to agriculture gardening. It also touches on the topic of raising livestock in an urban setting. Mad City Chickens, which Childs describes as a “whimsical and serious documentary,” corresponds with the workshop Chickens 101 – Raising Chickens in the City.
Big River, which screens April 20 along with Farming with Nature, is a sequel to the more widely distributed King Corn by Ian Cheney and Kurt Ellis. In this second documentary, Cheney and Ellis move a step beyond the corn field to follow the path of herbicides and fertilizers used in the production of corn. This adventure turns into a river journey to the Gulf of Mexico.
“The film series touches on a number of environmental and health issues,” LeBeau said. “The rise of degenerative diseases, such as diabetes, obesity, autoimmune diseases, autism and cancer, in America are in part a reflection of the poor-quality foods we consume.”
Not surprisingly, the series culminates with two heavy hitters – FRESH and the St. Louis premiere of A Chemical Reaction.
The recent food exposé documentary “Food, Inc. is the prequel to FRESH and demonstrates what is wrong,” said Childs. “FRESH is more, ‘Here are the problems and here are amazing solutions.’ It’s a great follow-up.”
Still up in the air is the premiere date for A Chemical Reaction, a documentary that chronicles the success of a Canadian community’s ban on the use of pesticides and herbicides, despite the legal influence of the chemical makers. The effects of the win are influencing communities throughout North America.
While sometimes encountering controversial issues, the documentary series provides a span of perspectives regarding current farming practices and those seeking to change them.
Previous Slow Food St. Louis film screenings have yielded audiences of 75 or more, while the workshops cater to about 30 people, though twice as many can attend. It is advised to arrive early for the films, which open for seating at 7:15 p.m.
Workshops are $45 each or $210 for all six sessions with topics including composting, permaculture, organic gardening and pest-free gardening.
“My inspiration for creating the workshops is a lifelong interest in nutrition and health,” said LeBeau. “When I moved to St. Louis in 2004 and traveled throughout the Midwest, I became aware of how much corporate farming had taken over our farmlands. The workshops are intended to educate people on how to successfully grow truly healthy food in their own backyard gardens while eliminating the unnecessary use of toxic chemicals.”
If the Good Gardening series appeals to you, then consider also checking out the March 1 screening by Slow Food St. Louis of Consuming Kids. Also playing at Schlafly Bottleworks, this film takes a critical approach to the targeting of the child consumer and its influence on our society.”
• For Good Gardening Good Food showtimes and workshop reservations, visit