Amherst Residents See Solutions Beneath Their Feet At Outdoor Film Screenings Of “ Kiss the Ground”

Film screening of "Kiss The Ground" at the Holcomb barn in South Amherst on 10/15/20. Photo: Mina Liang

“Everyday we’re bombarded with what’s broken in the systems we’ve created.  But this holistic regenerative approach focuses on what works: using Nature’s age-old technologies to restore healthy ecosystems. If  humans, through their ignorance and hubris created the problems, then humans, with our love for this earth and each other, can fix it.” 

These are the inspirational words of Lenore Bryck, founding member of Western MA Climate Action Now’s committee for Regenerative Farming, Forests and Food Systems. This past week, their group and two others co-sponsored four outdoor screenings of the new Netflix documentary on regenerative agriculture: Kiss the Ground. 

The other two groups also have deep roots in the local community — Western MA Regenerative Food System and Mothers Out Front. Western MA Regenerative Food System seeks to align growers, processors, distributors, consumers, educators, climate and social justice advocates around the goal to grow 30% of the food supply in the Northeast by 2030 using regenerative farming practices. The Regenerative Farms, Forests and Food Systems Group leads systems-change in education and policy for forest protection, regenerative farming and food justice advocacy. Mothers Out Front sponsors forums, host speakers, and partners with allied groups and municipal officials to advocate for justice-based climate change policy.

The outdoor screenings brought together about 80 residents of the Western Massachusetts community: food justice advocates, healthcare providers, homestead farmers, gardeners, educators, students and the simply curious. Socially distanced, speakers kicked off the screening by sharing about their group’s life-affirming actions to counter the climate crisis. While the pandemic has been isolating for many, the screenings were a breath of fresh air and a reminder of the sacredness of the land upon which we all depend for our survival. On the organization of the screenings, Gabor Lukacs – a homesteader from Amherst – commented: “I was impressed how well the outdoor viewing was set up: large square areas were marked for groups of people who attended the movie from the same household, and extra chairs were available for those who didn’t bring their own. The Holcomb Barn was a great place to watch the movie.” Additional outdoor screenings are being planned for the future. 

Kiss the Ground explores the damaging effects of current farming practices and their contribution to the carbon emission crisis. Amidst the dark message of how current policies incentivize farmers to exploit land resources for profit, the documentary offers hope in a simple yet powerful ally right beneath our feet: the soil. The film reveals the research and practice of regenerative farming which avoids the harmful practice of tilling, while promoting methods (e.g. cover cropping, rotational grazing) which help regenerative topsoil, turning malnourished lands into fertile fields. 

When the film was released on September 22, 2020, Tim Holcomb – a member of The Regenerative Farms, Forests and Food Systems Group – was inspired to share the documentary’s vision with the community. “Backyard and farmyard outdoor screenings are part of the way we are getting the word out about the importance of soil health in food production. In this time of the pandemic we thought we could give folks a safe way to publicly assemble outdoors, enjoy the last semi-warm evenings of the year and learn about the incredible promise of regenerative agriculture” said Holcomb. 

Filmmaker and founder of FilmUp Christina Chironna shared her inspiration from the movie screenings: “Kiss the Ground awakens us to the possibilities of reversing climate change with regenerative agriculture. The gentle rhythm of this timely, environmentally conscious documentary is truly food for the soul.”

The richness of the soil and the mass of living organisms within it offer answers for how we can sequester carbon and potentially reverse the harmful effects of the climate crisis. Lukacs shared: “The gathering reminded me that I cannot exist for a second without the constant support of the Earth. I was especially inspired by how simple it is to support the soil to become rich and regenerative, despite how our current US farming practices directly damage the soil.” 

Bringing neighbors together with a shared vision inspired Brittany Wood Nickerson, a world-renowned herbalist and Amherst native: “I see regenerative agriculture as a means of healing climate change and the earth’s ecosystems – healing being a process-oriented, holistic model of change that creates positive outcomes for all systems, human and nonhuman.” Russell Mariani of the Center for Functional Nutrition shared his positive reflection as well: “Kiss the Ground and the vision it represents celebrates the symbiotic relationships between healthy soil, healthy food and healthy human beings.” 

While the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way communities interact, the co-sponsoring organizations remain extremely active, planning for future gatherings and actions over Zoom. Bryck shares: “Our work at Western MA Climate Action Now starts here, on the land, in the soil, with each other. And we have the most powerful ally on our side: Nature itself.”  

To learn more, visit the organizations’ websites or reach out to the contact person listed. To join the movement of Western MA Regenerative Food System, please see the working document or reach out to Madeleine Charney. To access Climate Action Now’s Regenerative Farm, Forests, Food Group Resources, visit the website. To attend a meeting of Mothers Out Front, see their website or contact Andra Rose. To host a screening of Kiss the Ground, reach out to Lenore Bryck or Tim Holcomb.

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