Next time you are riding the “green wave” down Springfield Road, hitting the green lights and congratulating yourself for saving money on gas and helping lower harmful emissions that damage the environment, it might be worth considering the efforts of an Okanagan College professor and local urban farmer.
Last year, instructor Marc Arellano cycled 425 to 450 kilometres, lost 20 pounds, turned his pre-diabetic condition around and produced an incredible documentary on urban farmer Curtis Stone, well-known in the media as the cycling farmer.
The film, Spinning Green, will be screened at the upcoming World Community Film Festival organized annually by instructors at the college, and the proceeds from the screening will be split with the Kelowna Community Food Bank.
Arellano has donated about $10,000 to the project as he says its a community initiative.
“To me, I see it as an investment in my daughter’s future. This is a community that we all have to live in and I see her and her friends and I think what kind of world are we leaving them?” he said. “…I always want to be able to say I did specific things to try to make the world a better place.
“That’s essentially what Curtis is doing too. He’s walking the talk. He’s not just talking about environmentalism or leaving a small carbon footprint. That’s how he lives his life.”
Stone and Arellano met shortly after Stone started his urban farm. He had gone public with a pitch to have others donate to his compost and was looking for land or reclaim for food production. The instructor noticed his efforts in the news and made a mental note.
Arellano was working on a documentary about the orchard industry called Strange Fruit at the time—the proceeds would later go to the Glenmore Elementary School community garden— and he was realizing that people don’t know where their food comes from; even his wife’s students would answer “the store” or “the factory” when asked how a meal lands on their plates.
“We started pulling up our front lawn because we didn’t want our daughter to have the same misguided notion,” he said.
Stone, meanwhile, was launching his efforts to farm abandoned lots and people’s yards within the community, using only a bicycle for transportation.
The two met at the screening of Strange Fruit and by December of 2010, their documentary project was underway.
Stone now travels internationally doing speaking engagements about his farming, but at the time he was centered at his Ethel Street farm where he and Arellano would meet.
“He’s leading by example,” said the documentarian, noting Stone’s terms for making the film included a caveat to ensure Arellano would join him in forgoing the car and cycle for the entire project.
Within the Okanagan, Stone is well known for these efforts. He has regular spots on both CBC and private radio, he’s been extensively covered in every news publication and he is a regular on local panels focused on green issues, booked to speak whenever a conference can find an angle as his talks are so impassioned.
“It’s great if you live in Kelowna and you can see what he does, but wouldn’t it be neat to show the world what kind of transformation and change one person can bring about in a community?” Arellano said of the inspiration for Spinning Green.
Aside from the obvious cycling pun, Stone’s form of farming is called SPIN farming, or small plot intensive farming—hence the name.
In addition to growing food that’s not genetically modified or sprayed with pesticides, and drastically reducing the carbon footprint of the food as it’s local and grown entirely without the need for oil or gas, Stone’s work encourages the community to think about food in a different manner, Arellano contends.
“Canada imports over 40 per cent of its food from other countries,” the filmmaker said. “If you think about the fossil fuel debate, coming to the end of cheap fuel (peak oil), we’re going to have to prepare for the eventuality of having a secure food source close to home.”
The documentary will screen in conjunction with a short film from UBCO professor Denise Kenney called Bee Line. Looking at the collapse of the bee, Kenney takes women doing interpretive dance in an agricultural context and juxtaposes it on a Joe Rosenblatt poem.
A third film in this local environmental vein, examining what makes a weed a weed, will come out in the fall from Victor Poirier of the Centre for Arts and Technology; he was not able to finish for this first showing.
As such, the first two films will screen March 9 at 4:15 p.m. in the Okanagan College Student Theatre. Admissions to the films is free, though donations for charity are accepted.