Southern Independent film circuit presented “Eating Alabama”

Up before the crack of dawn. Up before the rooster crowed, while the night mist settled over green grass to become morning dew. Up before the milk cow shifted uneasily from the weight she carried in her utters. Up when the creak of leather harnesses and horses’ breath were the sole sounds accompanying the crunch of boots over hay and the moan of a barn door opening.

The farmer awakens before everyone else to tend his herd and his crop, to sew the land with seed and reap the fields’ bounties. The farmer feeds his family and his community. The farmer eats seasonally and he eats locally. The farmer leads a simple life… Or so the story went sixty, fifty, and even forty years ago.

This is what “Eating Alabama,” a film in the Southern Independent film circuit, showed to students in the nearly full Western Carolina UC Theater on Feb. 19. The filmmaker, Andrew Grace, was at Western to introduce his film and answer questions after the show.

“Good food goes a long way toward a good life,” a phrase often repeated throughout the film, explains what director and producer Grace and his wife set out to do over 4 and half years ago. They returned to their home state of Alabama in search of what was missing. To find out why exactly food matters and to return to the way their grandparents ate: like farmers.  They wanted to go back to a simpler way of life and so they challenged themselves: for one year, they would only eat food grown locally by Alabama farmers or food manufactured in Alabama. While both of their family histories were steeped in agriculture, neither of them then imagined how the agribusiness had changed since their grandparents’ time.

“Every time we ate together, we felt like we were finding something that had been lost,” said Grace in the opening scenes of his documentary. He and his wife spent over a year traveling the state of Alabama in search of the almost nonexistent farmer to learn, not only about food, but about a disappearing lifestyle and a disappearing history.

“Eating Alabama” is a film of trial and error, chronicling the journey it took to discover the “rhythm and progression” of finding something more important, something that’s been lost.

“I really see my opportunity as a filmmaker to share a story with you,” said Andrew Grace in a question and answer session after the viewing of the film.

“Before seeing this film, I thought that it would be easier to find local food because there are still a lot of farmers left in the South, but I realize now that is not necessarily the case… The [filmmakers] wanted to try to support their community of farmers by only eating locally grown food and I think that is really important in the economy that we live in today. We need to support our farmers who work so hard in order to put food on the table… It might be easier or cheaper to find [imported food], but it is important to me to support my community, just like they did in the film,” said Christa Lindsey, WCU freshman.

Described as “visually stunning” by an audience member, “Eating Alabama” was able, through humorous scenes of their own trial and error and through interviews with real, local farmers, to weave a story of family, food, tradition and discovering what it means to find the “simpler way of life.”

“Eating Alabama” will be played on public television in July 2013.

To find more information, like “Eating Alabama” on Facebook, follow them on Twitter or go to their webpage