By JENNIFER K. BAUER
That’s why in 2010, as he was living in drought-stricken Southern California, he was struck by the sight of rows of expansive, manicured green lawns.
“I wondered, why are we wasting water on all this stuff that we can’t even eat?” recalled Hatch, whose question inspired his latest documentary film, “Plant this Movie,” which he will present at 7 p.m. Monday, May 11 at the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre in Moscow.
Hatch is a filmmaker with an activist bent. His first documentary, 2007’s “Overdrawn,” documented the controversial lending practices of major national banks, mainly how non-sufficient funds fees from signature debit cards had become a massive source of income.
With the image of the green grass pricking his consciousness, Hatch read “Food Not Lawns: How to Turn Your Yard into a Garden and Your Neighborhood into a Community,” by Heather Flores, and joined a local chapter of the Grow Food Not Lawns movement in Claremont, Calif. He began making a documentary that eventually included farms around the globe.
Narrated by Daryl Hannah, “Plant This Movie” visits a diverse range of farms, from an acre on a rooftop in New York City, to green spaces in Shanghai, China; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Lima, Peru; Los Angles and New Orleans.
The film shows the urban farm movement is about growing high-quality food but it is also about solving pressing environmental issues and knitting together fractured communities.
“I think one of the first things people can learn is the type of food we’re getting in the mainstream food system in America is not very high quality. The meat is raised on factory farms. The vegetables are raised using a lot of chemicals and pesticides. If people start to grow some of their own food, almost always that food is going to be organic. It also eliminates the cost of transporting that food from thousands, or tens of thousands of miles away,” said Hatch, a 1990 Lewiston High School graduate who now lives in Portland, Ore.
Another book that informed the film was “Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket,” by Brian Halweil, where Hatch learned that the U.S. exports almost the same amount of apples it imports from the United Kingdom.
“I think one of the main advantages in making food that’s organic and close to home is that it solves a lot of the environmental issues people are concerned about today,” Hatch said.
Another benefit to urban farming he found every place he visited was the growth of community.
“It’s almost impossible to have any kind of urban farming project without creating a community of people at the same time. One of the demographical things happening in our country right now is that single-parent and single-person households are increasing. There’s a trend in our society toward more and more social isolation,” he said.
In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Hatch visited a farm worked by a population of people affected by HIV/AIDS. One woman told him that before the project she rarely left her home. The farm had transformed her life.
“The benefit was not just the food they were eating, which was helping their antiviral medicine have more efficacy, but the social benefit, being part of a community of women in the same boat they were,” Hatch said.
“Plant This Movie” premiered at the Portland Film Festival in 2014 and has been screened in Barcelona, Los Angeles, Phoenix and the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Nevada City, Calif. Hatch said he hopes to have the film available online this fall.
Blogs about the project and updates are available online at plantthismovie.com.
If You Go
What: “Plant This Movie” by filmmaker Karney Hatch
When: 7 p.m. Monday, May 11
Where: Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre, Moscow
Of Note: A Q&A with Hatch will follow the screening