Before the Plate made its debut before a sold-out crowd of about 500 people in Toronto earlier this month, according to producer Dylan Sher.
The filmmakers shot a segment on Grant Craven and his family’s farm near Chatham. Although the corn he grows isn’t actually consumed by diners at Toronto’s Canoe Restaurant and Bar, it plays a role in growing one of the items.
The corn is sent to the Greenfield Global ethanol plant in Chatham. Across the street, Truly Green Farms takes in Greenfield’s waste carbon dioxide to heat its greenhouse operation, which produces the tomatoes used at the Toronto restaurant.
Sher said including the Craven farm “was a bit of a creative step out of what the theme of the documentary was,” but the filmmakers felt it was important to tell the story of Craven working towards passing on the operation to his daughter Amanda.
“That brought in this amazing perspective of the new generation of farmers and females in farming and I think that’s definitely a big piece right now,” said Sher, who returned to the Craven farm Wednesday for a commercial shoot for Pride Seeds.
Craven said he appreciated how the film tried to explain how food makes its way to big cities. He said farmers now make up a very small percentage of Canada’s population, so he doesn’t hold people’s lack of knowledge about food production against them.
“Most of the urban society today is two or three generations removed from the farm,” he said. “That’s where the gap is and the onus is on us to try to fill that gap. That’s what Before the Plate is all about.”
Sher grew up in Toronto, but decided to study agricultural business at the University of Guelph. He had known about the Craven farm because he met Amanda at the university, where she was studying agricultural science.
He said he knew little about where his food came from before he started touring farms and he thinks people without a base understanding of agriculture tend to go to the wrong places for answers about their food.
The documentary, which is directed by Sagi Kahane-Rapport, weighs in on some of the debates about genetically modified organisms, pesticides, antibiotics and hormones.
Sher said some people may still want to avoid GMOs after watching the film, but he hopes they at least have a better understanding of them.
“I don’t think a lot of people know what a GMO actually does or why they were developed or the advantages they bring, but we also talk about the risks that they try and mitigate,” he said.
“We had some very prominent researchers saying, ‘Listen, the things that you’re concerned about are concerns. Here’s what we’ve done to make sure that it’s not a problem.’”
The team is working on securing distribution for the film, said Sher, who added it will eventually be available online and there may be some local community screenings.