Please, let’s not pretend that you have something to do on Monday night.  I’ll see you there.

Where’s there?  At the debut of Big River, the latest film by Curt Ellis and Ian Cheney. It’s the follow-up to their 2007 documentary, King Corn, where they travel to the county of their great-grandfathers in Iowa and grow an acre of corn.  They drive from Massachusetts, but the real distance they cross is the gap in our knowledge of what it means to be a farmer today.

When the guys first walk on to the field, one of them asks, “So, how big is an acre?”.  It’s the first of many questions they answer by working the land and interviewing Iowa farmers.  In the end, they produce nearly 180 bushels of corn on their acre; their great-grandfathers would have been thrilled with 40 bushels.  These yield numbers suggest progress, but no one seems happy.  “We’re growing crap,” explains one farmer who doesn’t serve the crop to his own family.

In Big River, Ian and Curt paddle down the Mississippi River to investigate the effects of toxic farming pesticides on the waterway, particularly the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico.  I’m eager to learn what they uncover from their first question to the last.

Come one and come all!  Here are the event details:

Monday, March 15, 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM (Screening at 7:00 PM)

Brecht Forum 451 West Street (btwn. Bank and Bethune Sts.) Manhattan

Tickets FSNYC Members – $25 Non-members – $35 Tickets may be purchased here.

Refreshments generously donated by: The New York Wine & Grape Foundation, the Good Beer Seal, the Cleaver Company, Hot Bread Kitchen, Lucy’s Whey, and Martin’s Pretzels.  Event proceeds benefit the Food Systems Network of New York.

Photo courtesy of

I never cared about baseball until Game 7 of the 2004 American League Championship Series: Red Sox vs. Yankees.

A dear friend from Boston had spent weeks explaining the trials of his beloved Sox to our crew.  Without him, Game 7 was just another game in a little known perennial season.  But our friend gave it context, and thus, we cared.  When Johnny Damon hit a grand slam and shot the Sox towards the World Series, we all leapt up and embraced like the war had been won.

I had a similar experience – minus the hugs – on Saturday while listening to Rafter Sass talk about mushrooms.  Sass’ passion reminded me that when we share our knowledge of something we love, we inspire others to care, too.

His lecture was a part of a day-long Skillshare at the Germantown Community Farm.  The farm, located in the Catskills, held a series of workshops under the guiding principle of Do-It-Yourself Agriculture.  The audience listened in a barn classroom; as the crowd grew, people overturned buckets to make seats.

What’s cool about mushrooms?  Answer: the potential for cultivating them ourselves.  As people bring our food sources closer to home – digging deep in our gardens, hosting cheese-making parties, and keeping bees on the rooftop, for example – we’ve overlooked mushrooms.  To get them so far, we’ve either 1) foraged in the woods, which is fun, but unpredictable and uncommon or 2) bought the cellophane-wrapped products of industrial processing.  There has yet to be a middle ground.

Sass has a new approach and he calls it “mycoscaping.”  It is the Do-It-Yourself manner of mushrooms. It comes from his appreciation of permaculture, or the observation of wild eco-systems and our recreation of them.  Mycoscaping means cultivating mushrooms somewhat systematically (and locally) while simulating the environment in which they thrive.  As one example, he demonstrated a case where he had grown wine cap mushrooms in the mulch of a client’s garden.  In another, he grew them in the tree crevices of a new orchard.  A different slide showed elegant wood logs in a client’s kitchen growing mushrooms like organic artwork.

In Sass’ words, it’s time for mushrooms to be a part of our “local food sovereignty,” and he’s bringing the food to its “growing edge.”

Rafter Sass Presents in the Barn Classroom

Rafter Sass Presents in the Barn Classroom

Image of Farm Sustainability: Electric Fence via Solar Power

Image of Farm Sustainability: Electric Fence via Solar Power

Nighttime on the Farm & Dinner is Served; Grab the Fiddle - Contra Dancing is Next!

Nighttime on the Farm & Dinner is Served; Grab the Fiddle - Contra Dancing is Next!