Gambier — A documentary developed by students at the Kenyon College Rural Life Center has received recognition through an international competition that promotes the visual arts community.
In an effort to promote locally grown foods and produce, the students developed a public education film, “Where does your food come from?” The film received a Telly Award, which honors the best local, regional and cable television commercials and programs, as well as video and film productions, and work created for the Web.
During the 2007-08 school year, students Caroline Vanderhaar, Mary Claire Walsh, Kristin Kvernland and Maureen Reese participated in a nine-month course pertaining to the series Food For Thought. The course concluded with the creation of a mini documentary, done in collaboration with I-CONN Video. Seven and a half minutes in length, the film addresses several issues on the economic benefit of buying locally, community strength, preservation of rural character and the impact of local family farms.
“The film itself was a project done as a part of our broader countywide effort to create a sustainable local food system in Knox County,” said Howard Sacks, professor at the Rural Life Center. “[The project] is something that we have been working on in collaboration with organizations around the county for about a decade now. That goal, to build a local food system, is in support of trying to sustain small-scale family farming in Knox County — to help preserve rural character, which is the primary goal of the county’s long-range plan.”
In service to that goal, the film involves educating the public and bringing an awareness to the importance of agriculture.
“Local sustainable food systems — that is to say, to have people put more of their food dollars directly in the hands of local farmers so that those dollars can recirculate throughout the community — by doing that we support the economy, preserve family farming, and help preserve that rural lifestyle that we all care about,” said Sacks.
The film is one component in a series on farming called Food For Thought, which incorporates a variety of projects and all local sources.
“We have, through the Rural Life Center, done a wide range of public projects, radio series, exhibits, booklets — and we did a series in the Mount Vernon News several years ago — all designed to raise public awareness about food and agriculture and its place in our community, so this is one of a lot of different projects,” said Sacks.
Through previous presentations given by Sacks, Matt Star of I-CONN Video learned of the project, and teamed up with the Rural Life Center in its endeavor to improve the knowledge of local agriculture.
Most important, Starr said, the video holds a significance that can be shared with everyone.
“Every food purchase you make is a conscious decision, and buying locally makes sense because I know that people in my community are going to use that money and circulate that dollar,” he said.
The documentary was created to provide a visual additive in presentations, and for communication throughout the local community and around the country. Many avenues are being taken to promote the video’s importance by showing it on YouTube and various places in the county.
“We chose to do a mini-documentation so it could be part of a presentation that Howard could take with him all across the country,” said Starr.
For the students, the award signified their educational achievement, but it was also recognition of their shared effort with the community of Knox County.
“I grew up in the city,” said Vanderhaar. “So to me, being a part of a rural community [here at Kenyon College] and being able to see where my food comes from, being out on the farms, and meeting the people that are actually providing us with a vital resource for our country, just has been such an important part of my education.”
After she graduated from Kenyon, Vanderhaar went to work with the local community in Denver by being a part of urban food initiatives, including community gardens and encouraging local food sources.
“Buying local foods makes you more aware of what is going on in your region or state,” she said.
“Being able to connect the classroom to real life was really important to me,” said Reese. “And especially because it was our senior year and we had been living in Knox County for four years and it was really the first time for a lot of us to meet people [outside of Gambier], and work with them toward a common goal.”
“I think it is exciting that so much of what we were talking about in Knox County is a movement that is happening nationally, globally, and beyond,” said Walsh. “And I think that it is great that it can be seen on YouTube, and that it is so easily accessible by younger generations.”
“I came to it from an environmental perspective because that is something that I am very passionate about,” said Kvernland. “But now more than ever with the huge health crisis our country is going through, and economically, I see it as such a good opportunity to empower people to reconnect with their food and to the land and realize that you are surviving off of nature that is feeding your body.”