Reaping the lessons of food production

Cycling from Vancouver to Mexico, a group of young Canadians set out to find the reality behind organic food production. Little did they know what was ahead of them in their quest for understanding organic growing. The road trip proved to be the opposite of what they set out to do. Forearmed with knowledge on the food industry gleaned from various sources, knowledge they intended to share, instead they ended up discovering what the world had to tell them.

Diversidad team cycling from Vancouver to Mexico. | Photo courtesy of Stefan Verna

On April 12, the Kitsilano branch of the Vancouver Public Library will be presenting the documentary Diversidad – A Road Trip to Deconstruct Dinner. The film follows a group of Canadians who traveled by bicycle for the purpose of showing the impact of the World Trade Organization and industrial agriculture in the food we eat and how it affects our lives.

The making of a documentary

Before hitting the road to film Diversidad, Montreal-based Stefan Verna and Jean-Marc Abela, directors and producers of the movie, had to study what free-trade agreements were and their impact on local farmers, on workers as well as on ordinary citizens.

Shooting crops across America. | Photo courtesy of Stefan Verna

“We also had to research industrial agriculture and any alternative models that existed. Jean was living in Ottawa at the time so he would come in to Montreal on weekends and we would do these research sessions to be prepared once we hit the road,” says Verna.

Being responsible for directing the documentary, both directors also had to be part of every aspect of the caravan to Mexico. Fundraising, finding sponsors, meetings on the road, presentations and biking were also part of their daily lives. It was an intensive adventure.

“On top of that, we had to film, anticipate what was coming next and deal with our pro-consumer equipment. It was a physically exhaustive experience. Also, we had never worked together before, so we had to find a working and aesthetic process that fit our respective approach to documentary filmmaking,” says Verna,

Despite all the difficulties, Verna and Abela had no doubts about continuing to film the documentary. The political and activist nature of the project were what mattered. Besides, the whole caravan had already begun to work as a collective unit. Friends were being made on this wonderful journey.

“We hadn’t travelled much before making this film, so we got to discover the U.S. West Coast and some of its breathtaking scenery. We met incredible people who are deeply committed to food sovereignty,” says Verna.

Mexican encounters

However, the most important part of the trip was yet to come. In Mexico, they had contact within the indigenous culture and learned how much it is still alive.

“We were pleasantly shocked how alive the indigenous culture in that country is and how they impact the agricultural practices of its peasant farmers,” says Verna.

The hard work paid off. The film has been out for six years and now it’s playing in small festivals, universities and colleges all over the world.

“[It] has even inspired a group of young students to create a Facebook group “Future of Food” to share ideas and information about how to make our food, our bodies and the planet better,” says Verna.

Diversidad is influencing people in a positive way to better know what organic food is and how important it is not only for our own health but also for the lives of people who depend on it to survive.

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