Remember the road trip I took this past summer? My family and I drove a 1966 Airstream across the state to research and promote a documentary TV show I was producing for PBS called Food Forward, and I wrote about my adventures in this column. The road trip and the literal and figurative potholes we hit along the way are fading into memory, but Food Forward lives on.
Next month, on April 9 at 7:30pm, KQED will air our first episode: “Urban Agriculture in America.” The show will play on PBS stations across the country for most of the month of April.
The 30-minute program explores the growing urban agriculture movement and travels to New York City where city farmers are growing food on the only real estate available-rooftops; to the industrial blight of West Oakland and Milwaukee, where urban pioneers are creating jobs and fresh sources of food; and to the up-from-the-ashes city of Detroit, where inspirational urban farmers are creating a greener future for their city
Of all the places I visited to shoot this episode, Detroit was the most mind-blowing by far. The city looks like it has been hit a bomb, with countless buildings and homes caving in on themselves or burned the ground. White flight and the relocation of auto-industry jobs have devastated the city.
All those vacant houses and the basic need for fresh food, however, have given way to a thriving urban-agriculture movement unlike anything else in America. I think the footage we shot brings it to life. We even have a dope hip-hop song. It’s performed on the streets of Detroit by rapper Money Wellz, who wrote it just for the show. It’s a heavy but uplifting song.
Food Forward began more than three years ago. I was sitting in Metro‘s office when I got a call from an old friend who said he and a producer wanted to create a food show. He wanted to know if I was interested and if I had any ideas. I had been reading Derrick Jensen’s powerful critique of industrial society in A Language Older Than Words. I was wondering how I could use my position as a food writer at Metro to showcase solutions to a food system rotten to the core. How about a food show not about celebrity chefs or cooking competitions but about regular people creating a healthier food system? Thus Food Forward was born.
If I had known then what it would take to get the show produced and funded, I’m not sure I would have signed on. Given the financial, organizational and personal pressures required to make a television show, it’s a wonder TV-at least good TV-gets made at all.
We’ve still got a ways to go. We have a contract with KQED to produce 12 more episodes, and the fundraising challenges are huge. But for now I’m looking forward to April 9. Tune in and check out Food Forward for more info.