On Tuesday, the Environmental Studies Program, Sustainable Bowdoin, and Bowdoin Dining joined forces for the screening of a documentary called “Growing Local.” The film, a 2014 Camden International Film Festival Official Selection, depicts Maine’s local food movement and the difficulties faced by its farmers during a time of change. Recent graduate and Bowdoin Organic Garden alumna Shannon Grimes ’14 hosted the event.

The three segments of “Growing Local” tell a different story of the challenges faced by local farmers. In “Changing Hands,” a father struggles to pass the family’s organic dairy farm on to his son without plunging either of them into debt. “Pig Not Pork” looks at the efforts of an entrepreneurial butcher to connect local farmers more directly with consumers. The final segment, “Seeding a Dream,” tells the story of a young couple who revitalize an aging farm and open a general store that becomes a gathering place in their community.

Following the film, a panel of three local farmers led an open discussion. The panelists, Tristan Noyes ’05 of GroMaine LLC, Kristin Pierson, an apprentice at Crystal Spring Community Farm, and Sarah Wiederkehr of Winterhill Farm answered the audience’s questions regarding the film and the panelists’ farming experiences.

Pierson emphasized the impact institutions like Bowdoin can have on the local food economy.

“[Bowdoin] seems like a small enough school in a really perfect location to be able to source a lot of food,” she said.

According to Bowdoin Dining, the college currently acquires 34 percent of its food from local vendors. 

Eliza Huber-Weiss ’17, who attended the event, said she is glad Bowdoin encourages conversations about local food, but she was also disappointed by the low attendance at the discussion.

“I think at Bowdoin it’s easy to say I support this cause and I’m fighting for this, but then it’s also easy to say I have lots of work to do so I’m not going to go [to the event],” Huber-Weiss said. “It’s so easy to not think about where your food comes from, especially when it’s so nicely presented to us.”

So what can Bowdoin students do? The panelists ask that students educate themselves about agriculture and think about where their food comes from.

Several of the farms featured in the film also offer apprenticeships to students who want to get more involved in the local food sourcing movement.

Noyes posed a challenge:

“There could be a lot of really interesting work done around creating a map of all the farms in the state of Maine. That doesn’t exist right now,” Noyes said. “That’s something a student could take on and it would be a very valuable project for the whole state.”

More than anything else, the film and panelists emphasized the importance of consumers in keeping local farms afloat. It’s our responsibility to care about where our food comes from and to build a community around local eating.

“I think what this film really emphasized for me was the importance of the community around farming. It’s one thing to grow a vegetable and market it, and it’s another thing to grow a community and market that,” said Huber-Weiss. “There’s nothing quite like seeing someone pull a beet out of the ground and being like ‘I’m going to eat this later!’”