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Gaining Ground is a feature-length documentary film by Elaine Velazquez and Barbara Bernstein, which tells personal stories of farmers making extraordinary changes in their farming practices to feed their local communities sustainably grown produce and grains. The documentary interweaves experiences of urban farmer-activists in inner city Richmond, California, a small family farm in rural Oregon converting from commodity dairy to chemical-free produce and a large farm in the Willamette Valley transitioning from grass seed to organic grains. The film personalizes class, gender, race and environmental justice issues by rooting them within narratives of compelling individuals. As these stories unfold, the film explores the devastating effects of the 2012 Chevron Richmond refinery fire on Urban Tilth in inner city Richmond and the impact of the 2013 discovery of GMO wheat in Eastern Oregon on Stalford Seed Farms in the Willamette Valley. While the movie is sober about the obstacles to creating change, at the same time it points the way toward hope. Gaining Ground instills in its viewers the potential to create change on a personal, local and global scale.

Guest Speakers:

Elaine Velazquez, filmmaker

Elaine Velazquez has decades of experience illuminating important social issues through the power of personal stories. Her work includes Gaining Ground, Moving Mountains (SE Asian refugees facing the culture shock of arriving in America after the Vietnam War); Some Of These Days (a personal look at women aging in our society) and three social action videos produced for ballot initiative campaigns: Common Cause/Common Sense, Fighting For Our Lives and Gay Lives Culture Wars. Her award-winning work has been broadcast nationally on PBS and on WNET (New York City), Oregon Public Broadcasting and KPTV (Portland, OR) and screened at numerous film festivals and venues including Margaret Mead Film Festival, American Film & Video Festival, Chicago International Film Festival, Denver International Film Festival, Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Film Festival and the New York Museum of Modern Art.

Barbara Bernstein, musician, composer, performance artist, and radio and video producer

Barbara Bernstein’s award-winning radio documentaries have been internationally broadcast on public and community radio stations and her features have been heard on NPR, PRI, the BBC, Pacifica Network News, This Way Out and Making Contact. Her work includes Fighting Goliath (about the turbulent growth of tar sands development); Heavy Weather (exploring connections between increasing extreme weather and our changing climate and landscapes); Sculpted By Fire (about the important role that fire plays in shaping western forests and sustaining healthy forest ecosystems); Salmonlands (about the cultural significance of diminishing salmon runs in the Northwest); Rivers That Were (about the industrialization of the Colorado and Columbia Rivers); In Jesus’ Name (an in-depth investigation of the Christian Right) and the soon-to-be-released documentary film on food justice, Gaining Ground, co-produced with Elaine Velazquez. She also plays viola and cuatro in a French Cabaret and Tango band.

Vicki and Charlie Hertel and their son Chris, farmers from Sungold Farms in documentary

Sungold Farms is a small, sustainable family farm located in the beautiful, fertile Tualatin Valley near Forest Grove. It is owned and operated by Charlie and Vicki Hertel, and their son Chris. Chris is the fifth generation to operate the family farm.

For two generations, the farm was a dairy operation. The soils are deep and rich and perfect for vegetable and fruit production. They take pride in offering only the healthiest and highest quality fruits and vegetables. They do not use pesticides, and carefully rotate their crops to maintain soil health and fertility. Most of the farm work is done by the family, with some seasonal help from friends in the peak of summer. Their main outlets are local farmers markets and their CSA Harvest Share program. Chef orders are welcome, as are canning and freezing orders.

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Harry Salford and Willow Coberly, Greenwillow Grains farmers from documentary

Harry Stalford and Willow Coberly own Greenwillow Grains, an organic grain farm and milling operation committed to sustainable practices and sharing truly “whole” grains to the Willamette Valley and beyond. The operation produces stone-ground wheat, rye, barley, buckwheat and triticale flours, as well as organic whole grains and rolled oats—all of which it distributes itself, deepening its ties to the local economy and community.

Harry and Willow cite several reasons for their commitment to local food, all of which revolve around creating a healthier community. Keeping dollars in the local economy, limiting potential outbreak of diseases, and having food supplies in a crisis situation top the list.

Based in Brownsville, Oregon, Greenwillow Grains is a leader in the local food scene.  They are the originators in the Willamette Valley of the now popular “Fill Your Pantry” events where local farmers and food producers come together to share their bounty at bulk prices.  They work with schools and environmental programs and are part of the Oregon School Nutrition Program and have frequent field trips to the farm to foster young farmers and educate all children about where their food comes from.

They are members of the IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements) and the Domestic Fair Trade Alliance.

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