By Shelley Rogers, Buzzworthy Blogs

In the past decade of my life, I have largely centered my career on the food system and sharing the stories of organic farmers – first, with the feature film What’s Organic About Organic?; and, now, with a short documentary called Hungry for Justice: Spotlight on the South that premiered online on World Fair Trade Day, May 10, 2014.

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My documentary film-making mentor, George C. Stoney, always said, “If you don’t change as a person in the process of making a film, you’re doing something wrong.” This, along with many of his other pieces of wisdom, have stuck with me, and I always strive to honor his legacy, focusing honestly and sensitively on socially relevant stories.

Shelley Rogers with camera

And, indeed, my films have changed me and I hope they begin to change the audience too.

While making What’s Organic About Organic?, I changed in many ways — from a critic of marketing labels to an organic loyalist, from a student to a professional, and from an inquisitive observer to a friend.

In the process of making the film, I developed personal relationships with the people who shared their stories with me. Some now feel like brothers and sisters to me, while one in particular became my collaborator, my best friend and, later, my husband — Marty Mesh.

Shelley Rogers and Marty Mesh

Now, with Hungry for Justice, my focus has shifted from production practices to relationships in the food system. My relationship with Marty, as a co-founder of the Agricultural Justice Project, has given me an insider perspective on how this group of nonprofit organizations has come together over the past 12 years to hash out critically important questions:

  • What constitutes fair labor practices in the food system?
  • How can relationships be more transparent and equitable for all stakeholders?
  • How can farmers and buyers come together to determine fair pricing?
  • How can a certification program verify all of this for a marketing claim?
  • And, perhaps most importantly, how can farmer and farm-worker voices be engaged throughout the process to ensure the program has integrity?

In the process of making this film, I’ve transformed again from being an inquisitive observer to becoming an increasingly active participant. I have formed a friendship with Jordan Brown, founder of The Family Garden Organic Farm, who is featured in the film – as he was the first farmer in the South to pursue Food Justice Certification.

When I moved to Florida, our family joined Brown’s Community Supported Agriculture program, and in the process of getting to know him, eating his food, and interviewing him, we struck up a friendship. Now, not only have I had the opportunity to share his story as a farmer who is a stalwart pioneer, but I’ve also been able to start working with him to help distribute his produce and market his farm.

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It gives me profound pleasure to share the fruits and vegetables his farm grows. To see the happy faces and healthily growing children week after week at the farmers market and CSA drop-off brings me joy and restores my faith in the potential we all have to help reverse some of the damage that has been done to our food system.

After all, we all eat every day. The choices we make when we buy our food affect real lives.

  • I want to make choices that support justice, respect, and equality.
  • I want to create connections with the people who grow food in my community.
  • I want to share knowledge and broaden awareness to change the food system.

Our personal transformations have great potential to transform the food system.

If you’d like to learn more, view the documentary, or join the Feeding Justice Screening Campaign, please visit the Hungry for Justice website. We’d love for you to host a free screening or participate in our Feeding Justice Audience Challenges!

Shelley Rogers’ dream is to use media and video as a means to create social change and help give voice to stories that seldom get told. Shelley believes in the power of stories to humanize issues so that sharing knowledge can open pathways for understanding. Through her company, Little Bean Productions, she works to create a vision with collaborators that will be both resourceful and resonant. Shelley’s passions include sustainable food systems, social justice and public health.

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