Kiss the Ground is an hour and a half long movie on Netflix that took me four hours to watch.
Why? I kept having to pause it out of frustration. It was hard to make it through, and I was taking to social media to explain my thoughts and gather other people’s opinions. Fellow agriculturalists shared my frustrations.
I think the worst part about it all is that the premise of the film — regenerative agriculture — is actually a very good one! Yet it was drowned out by insults and propaganda, which really helps no one. We all care about the planet, and we all need to do our part to combat climate change. But it’s so easy for people to blame farmers when they have never grown food a day in their life, and urban areas seem to very rarely want to point the fingers to themselves as a large contributing factor.
I came from a regenerative farm in Iowa. After more than 20 years of no-till farming, cover crop adoption, soil testing, and crop rotation, the farm I lived on had earned awards for “farmer of the year” and practiced the principles mentioned in the movie. Ray Archuleta and Gabe Brown are two of the main experts in the film, and I strongly agree with most of what they say.
The problem, however, is the communication efforts put forth.
Although the premise of the film is a good one, we are never going to change hearts and minds by insulting those who do things differently. Kiss the Ground started off so good for the first 10 minutes or so, but then they go on to suggest comparisons of chemicals and conventional agriculture to warfare and the concentration camps of Auschwitz.
The camera crew, music, and editors knew what they were doing when trying to paint traditional agriculture in a “doom and gloom” manner with an agenda. They also had many “statistics” in the film that didn’t come with sources or citations to the claims. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
This is when I took to Facebook & Twitter:
This is when many farmers stopped tuning in. No one ever won anyone over by being a jerk. So how about … instead of comparing agriculture to the friggin’ NAZIS, while sharing the same old readily debunked elementary “glYpHoSaTe is bAd” arguments, we actually focus on the topic at hand? Farmers are already misunderstood. The last thing we need is to throw fuel on the anti-science fire. Let’s just be nice, OK?
That was my main problem. What a missed opportunity!
A few other points:
Part of the funding and collaboration came from the Center for Food Safety. which is basically an organic industry sponsored lobbying group and not a credible source of information. My guess is that this is where the anti-GMO, anti-chemical fearmongering came in to play. My eye-rolls were strong when they used scary music and hyperbolic language and topics like “Monsanto!” (I’m shocked. Sarcasm.) “Genetically altered!” “Poison! Warfare! Subsidies! Synthetic chemical sprays! Toxic! GMOs!” Aye aye aye. So much anti-science fearmongering, there is an insane amount of regulations and safety testing that go into ensuring the safety of our very science-savvy and successful food supply.
Other than that, there were some very inspiring points in the film!
I really enjoyed the Markegard couple who raise grass-fed beef in California. It was educational and inspiring, where they didn’t feel the need to bash anyone else. Rotational grazing, is great and it looks like they do a wonderful job.
Gabe Brown’s part was the same. I came from a farm that used a majority of his living ecosystem practices, and I would stand by what he says. However, I felt they painted these livestock scenarios in a slightly unrealistic manner. And where does he sell that many diverse commodities? Other regions of the U.S. do not always have these marketing infrastructure luxuries. They filmed in summer where the weather was nice, but what about outdoor pasture raised chickens in his North Dakota winter snowstorm? And would his pigs freeze to death? Don’t get me wrong … I am a fan. But the problem with presenting methods of farming to the general public is that things aren’t always so black and white. There are many gray areas, and it’s a very complicated industry.
Another concern with the film is they really ripped on feedlots. Again, every system has its pluses and minuses, and while grass-finished beef clearly has environmental benefits, feedlots do as well. Actually, studies show that grain-finished beef has a much lower carbon footprint. Let’s not forget, cattle account for just over 2 percent of U.S. GHG emissions. Not causing nearly the destruction the film would like us to believe.
A couple more uplifting parts of the film were restoring lands like the Baseline Study in China and the composting bins of San Francisco. How cool is that? Food waste is a major problem that more people should indeed be more conscious of. Turning desertification to regeneration is a beautiful thing.
Overall, I am a huge fan of the regenerative farming movement. But my fear is that the terminology could again become watered down or divisive. I hope this isn’t the next “organic” or “non-GMO” trend, where they feel the need to bash other forms of agriculture that don’t quite do it the same way. Let’s get more farmers on board with this as we all want what’s best for the planet, just don’t insult them in the process. This isn’t how we change hearts and minds; this is not the way to effectively communicate and implement positive change.
Overall, my opinion of Kiss the Ground is that it was a missed opportunity; enough with the bashing already! Is it the worst ag film out there? No. Could it have been done better? Absolutely. And of course, celebrity names always get people’s attention. I wish more agriculture movies were 100 percent truthful and lifted up our farmers while still incorporating celebs.
Farmers are amazing, resilient people. They often times have the odds stacked against them despite the fact that our entire lives and all of humanity depends on the work they do. Let’s thank them and respect their under appreciated hard work. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely! Just like every aspect of our lives. But we’ve come a long way and are continuing to go in the right direction, just like so many other industries. Let’s celebrate and inspire them without using misinformation, insults or hyperbole. We’re all in this together.
Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is a farmer, public speaker and writer who has worked for years with row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.