Monday, February 4, 2013

Top Five Best Farm and Food Documentaries

      I am an avid watcher of documentaries. If they center around farming or agriculture, I'm especially interested. The majority of the food documentaries I find are on Netflix Watch it Instantly. They actually have quite a nice selection with different varities of nonfiction videos. I have had folks ask me what I reccommend. So, I thought I'd put out my top five favorites and then throw in some extra, "non-farmy" videos too.  My ratings are based on a few criteria and they are as follows:

          Cinematography (or how well the movie is ''photographed'')
          Pace (how the video moves along... are they dragging it out?)

1. Food, Inc.  ------------ Overall Best Documentary for a "beginner" 
Food, Inc. is a wonderful beginner's guide to having eyes opened about the current state of the food industry. It does not dive too deeply into political/social/cooperate issues. It introduces us to Joel Salatin who is one of the faces of the home farm movement. This is not a documentary for the well informed because you will not glean any new information.  However, I'm placing it at number one because it is a good, overall look at the issues faced with our food supply.... from cruelty to the farm animals to the big businesses behind the scenes. The cinematography is nice and the pace moves along nicely. Unfortunately, at my time of writing this post, Netflix does not have the watch it instantly feature available for Food, Inc.   
2. Farmageddon ----------- Best for showcasing plight of small farms
Farmageddon is a documentary that makes the big vein in the side of my neck bulge. It's a call to action and gets me fired up whenever I watch it. Your eyes will be opened to the ridiculous travesty of how small family farms are treated by the government. Big food cooperations are all about money, NOT food for health. The cinematography is pretty good and the pace is moves along nicely. This sits at number two because small scale farming is near and dear to my heart. The government control over small scale farmers is a HUGE issue. Farmers should not have to hide health sustaining crops in secrecy  for fear of ruin from the government.

3. Frankensteer ------------ Best for showcasing the beef industry
This is a must see for the meat eaters out there. Question: What percentage of the cows on an industrialized cow farm are fed antibiotics? You have to watch the documentary to find out. Follow the cattle industry to see how the animals are treated and how and what they are fed. This is a little more objective and allows both sides to speak. However, all of these food documentaries are biased towards eating cleanly, so it shouldn't be a surprise that your take away will be pro small farm. The cinematography was more journalistic in style and there's not much pretty scenery to look at. The pace is moderate. It sits at number three because I think it is important for meat eaters to know what they are eating, and this is an entire documentary dedicated to beef.

4. King Corn ------------ Best for showcasing the corn industry
King Corn was an enjoyable watch. It follows two young Bostonian males on a quest to plant and grow an acre of corn in corn country and then follow its plight in the American food industry. Although a little bit silly, it has some useful information. Corn is in almost everything. I especially liked the part of the film where they attempted to recreate high fructose corn syrup. Although they won't be winning any scientific accolades any time soon, it definitely made me stop and think about the nasty stuff that has oozed its way into every crevice of the food industry. It sits at number four because it was an enjoyable watch, and I no longer consume high fructose corn syrup because of it!

5. Ingredients ----------- Best cinematography
I love photography, and I enjoy watching some movies just for the scenery. This is a luscious documentary. Is it realistic? Maybe not as much as some of the other mainstream documentaries out there. Portions of it can come across as being a little bit pretentious. There is an introductory history lesson into the growth of the food industry in the US. The cinematography is top notch, the content is moderate and the pace is moderate to slow. It sits at number five because of the pretentious tendencies. I think small scale farming should be accessible to everyone from all demographics.

Some of the Food documentaries that I have seen that did not make it onto my Top Five List:

Forks Over Knives: boring, overly subjective without showing real science to back up claims

Hungry For Change: sensationalized. The first half was okay and then went downhill from there.

Food Matters: I'm a science person. This is supposed to be more of a science-based documentary. However, I found the information to be sensationalized, hand picked and very.... boring. I couldn't make it through the entire documentary.

Here are a few extra documentaries that I enjoyed watching: 

The Natural History of the Chicken
The Natural History of the Chicken is not what you think it would be. There is very little chicken history involved. This is more of a fun look at different chicken owners. It runs that gamut from a lady that bathes and diapers her pet chicken to a farm that free ranges and provides meat for their family. It's a cute little jaunt through crazy chicken territory.

Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead
I found this video to be very thought provoking. Could I juice for 90 days... or 10 days? I doubt it. My body requires fiber. However, the journey that the two men in this video embarked on was refreshing to watch.

If you are ever in a down kind of mood, then check out this documentary. Whatever your circumstance, happiness can be found within yourself. Will more money make you happy? Will a bigger house make you happy? Travel along with folks from different walks of life and see for yourself.

I really can't tell you how many times I've watched this documentary. If you love horses, this is a must see. This story follows Buck across the country helping horses, yes, but he's really helping the people that own them. Horses are a mirror to our soul, and Buck has a good one. From a troubled childhood to raising a beautiful, happy family of his own, go see why he has become a true horsemen.


  1. Wow, do we have the same taste or what? Not only have I seen all those you have listed here (I thought I was the only one who watched that PBS special with the woman who brought her frozen chicken back to life!) but, I totally agree with your analysis. Thanks for putting it all down!

  2. LOL at the frozen chicken! And you are very welcome for this post. If you have any that you would like to add, let me know! I want to make sure that I try and see them all. Thanks

  3. I think I saw that one, too... didn't the diaper woman also take the white Silkie swimming with her? Good list! My husband and I have seen three of your top five (not "Frankensteer" or "King Corn" yet, but we're working through the genre). I would add "Fresh" as well -- lots more of Joel Salatin, and I kind of view it as a sister film to "Food Inc." I know it was still on Netflix as of a few days ago. :-)