‘Kiss the Ground’ is a groundbreaking film about regenerative agriculture
By Caden Sullivan
On November 18, the City of Santa Monica’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment and SustainableWorks presented a free documentary film screening and Q&A on Zoom. The film “Kiss the Ground” was released on Netflix this year and tells the story of regenerative agriculture. The collaborative event was hosted by SustainableWorks co-executive director Gina Garcia and moderated by Sarah Spitz, master gardener at UC Cooperative Extension LA County. The film’s directors, Rebecca and Josh Tickell, were joined by Anthony Myint, Zero Foodprint’s director of partnerships, to answer audience questions after the screening.
Over the course of 80 minutes, “Kiss the Ground” lays out obstacles, incentives and potential effects of regenerative agriculture on our planet. Narrated by Woody Harrelson, it tells the story of light at the end of the tunnel. As humans have over-tilled, over-plowed and ruined soil with malpractice and chemicals, this new direction for farming is as easy as increasing the levels of carbon below the soil. By adding compost, other organic matter or even live plants to our farming soils, we can create a scalable regulation for carbon levels in our soil and atmosphere. Put simply, our farms need to be living ecosystems—not deserted strips of broken soil.
“Look, if we can move the production agriculture model in the U.S. then we can move it in the world,” Josh says. “And if we can do that, we can heal the planet.”
The Tickells are leading activists in the regenerative movement, although they didn’t start out as filmmakers. Each of them has a unique backstory in environmental activism and Josh also wrote the book “Kiss the Ground.” As activists and authors, it was sometimes difficult for them to visually represent a complex problem on the screen, especially on a microscopic level. During the panel, they described one of their favorite filmmaking moments as the first time they saw their graphic artist’s representation of global cooling and drawdown.
“That, for me, was a defining moment where I went from despair to hope,” Rebecca shares. “A feeling like I could live life again.”
Regenerative agriculture is a win-win for everyone involved: better soil cultivates better crops. Gaining traction and support for the movement, however, can be difficult. Zero Foodprint is an organization dedicated to making it possible for any consumer to scale regenerative agriculture by partnering with restaurants, encouraging composting and a number of other actions to make the food supply chain carbon neutral.
“When we began in food, climate and conservation work, every solution was kind of like, ‘Do less harm, delay the inevitable, don’t do the thing you like to do,’” Myint says. “Then you learn about regenerative agriculture and it’s like, ‘Oh, we can eat our way out of the climate crisis.’ Why don’t we scale this as quickly as possible?”
Another focus of the event was the seven “Action Items” challenge from the panel to the audience. They include:
• Support regenerative farmers by shopping at your local farmers market.
• Start a home garden.
• Compost. Divert food waste in the landfill and supercharge your garden.
• Encourage your favorite restaurant to become a Zero Foodprint business.
• Support organizations that are working towards a sustainable food system.
• Take a class to learn more about soil health and regeneration.
• Get involved in the policymaking process to enact laws to support regenerative agriculture.
The panel presented these Action Items prior to showing the film and afterwards surveyed the audience on which ones they would pursue. Three people who answered the survey won raffle prizes, which included a copy of the book “Kiss the Ground,” a gift card to local restaurant Socalo, and a free class on soil health and regeneration. Close to 300 people attended and the survey revealed that 65% of those who answered were likely to support organizations working toward a sustainable food system, 62% were likely to compost and 59% were likely to shop at their local farmers market.
SustainableWorks did a lot of homework to set up this virtual screening and they hoped the film would send a message that Garcia made clear: “If we don’t do anything after absorbing this knowledge, then we really are missing the point. Knowledge isn’t power; it’s only potential power. It becomes power when we use it.”
• Support SustainableWorks at sustainableworks.org
• Support Kiss the Ground at kisstheground.com
• Support Zero Foodprint at zerofoodprint.org
• Support the City of Santa Monica’s office of Sustainability and the Environment at smgov.net/departments/ose