Friday, April 17, 2009

ASPARAGUS! (Stalking the American Life)

Asparagus! Stalking the American Life - the multiple award-winning documentary film about the “Asparagus Capital of the Nation” in Western Michigan – will be simultaneously broadcast on all Michigan PBS stations on Wednesday, April 29, 2009 at 8:00 PM. These stations include: WGVU-TV Grand Rapids; WFUM-TV Flint; WDCQ-TV Saginaw; WNMU-TV Marquette; WKAR-TV East Lansing; WTVS -TV Detroit; and WCMU-TV Mt. Pleasant.

The 53-minute broadcast is being sponsored by Farm Bureau Insurance and The Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board. Farm Bureau Insurance is one of Michigan’s major insurers, protecting over 480,000 Michigan policyholders and nearly 70% of all Michigan farms. Known as Michigan’s Insurance Company because of its commitment to the state, the company has been serving Michigan since 1949 and has a statewide force of 450 agents. The Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board, led by Executive Director John Bakker, is a grower-sponsored organization which provides combined efforts of marketing and policy for the Michigan asparagus industry.

The award-winning documentary film by Anne de Mare and Kirsten Kelly tells the story of Oceana County, Michigan, whose spear-struck residents built their identity and economic survival on asparagus, but now find themselves taking on the U.S. War on Drugs, Free Trade, and the Fast Food Nation, all to save their beloved “roots”. Asparagus! Stalking the American Life journeys to the heart of Asparagus Country to discover why one little vegetable matters so much.

Asparagus! Stalking the American Life had its World Premiere at the acclaimed Full Frame Documentary Film Festival - the largest documentary film festival in the U.S. - and has been popular on the festival circuit for over two years. It garnered Best Documentary awards at the Rural Route Film Festival in New York and at the East Lansing Film Festival, as well as Audience Awards at the Newburyport Documentary Film Festival and Waterfront Film Festival.

The film also won the W. K. Kellogg Foundation Good Food Film Award at the Media That Matters Film Festival and a special finishing funds grant from P.O.V./American Documentary through New York’s Museum of Television and Radio. The film most recently played in New York City at the Food For Thought Film Festival in April and launched a series of town hall discussions on food policy, U.S. agriculture policy and local sustainability.

The DVD was released in Spring of 2008 and is available at well as several Michigan farm markets and independent restaurants and stores. The film has been traveling the country for the last two years on the “GrassRoots Film Screening Tour” reaching out to community and educational groups. The tour began with a special screening sponsored by The Food Literacy Project at Harvard University on April 29, 2008.

The documentary is a 4-year independent film project of Michigan native, director Kirsten Kelly, and her film partner Anne de Mare from New York, who worked extensively with Michigan arts, humanities and agricultural organizations from the film’s inception to its completion. Kirsten was raised on an asparagus farm in Oceana County and was a proud member of the pre-teen asparagus dance troupe “The Oceana Stalkers.”

The filmmakers were honored in December of 2008 to be chosen for the “Michigan Agricultural Communicators of The Year” award by Michigan Farm Bureau.

Thirty years ago, Oceana County, Michigan proclaimed itself the Asparagus Capital of the Nation! Hailed as “Green Gold”, asparagus was exactly what this poor rural community needed - a spring cash crop at the end of the long cold winter. Asparagus quickly became Oceana’s biggest claim to fame, with everyone from the local clown band to the dance teacher inspired by the “Super Stalk.” Then, in a twist of fate, the U.S War on Drugs ushered in a free trade agreement that threatens to take it all away.

Virtually overnight, Oceana’s asparagus farmers find themselves smack-dab in the middle of international drug policy and the turbulent global economy. They call an Emergency Asparagus Summit, pull up their bootstraps, and jump head-on into the fray. While Mrs. Asparagus advocates at Oceana’s National Asparagus Festival, the farmers leave their fields and head into a world of high-powered marketing thinktanks and Asparagus CheezePak Volcanoes-- determined to save their most prized crop. This is the story of one rural American community scrambling to keep its proud identity and source of survival against impossible odds. “Asparagus! Stalking the American Life” journeys to the heart of asparagus country to discover why one little vegetable matters so much.

PBS Broadcast Sponsors: Farm Bureau Insurance (Michigan’s Insurance Company)
The Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board
Film Production Major Sponsors: P.O.V. / American Documentary, Inc.
The Birdseye Foods Foundation
The W. K. Kellogg Foundation
The Community Foundation for Oceana County
Holland Area Arts Council
Michigan Arts Council
Rural Arts & Culture Program
of the Michigan Humanities Councl
Honee Bear Canning Company
The Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board
Peterson Farms, Inc.

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