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Environmental documentary ‘Common Ground’ screens in DC

“This movie is a tremendous teacher of what needs to happen”

Common Ground” showed Nov. 13 at the Miracle Theater in D.C. The documentary aimed to inspire and urge audiences to fight for change in the agriculture system through compelling storytelling.

“Common Ground” is a film about regenerative agriculture and the corruption in the United States’ farming industry. It was directed and produced by Josh and Rebecca Tickell and is a sequel to their earlier movie, “Kiss the Ground,” which is available on Netflix.

The film played for a sold-out theater, and after the airing of the film, the audience heard from a panel of the filmmakers and contributors of “Common Ground,” — Robyn O’Brien, Rick Clark, John Boyd Jr, Josh Tickell and Kara Boyd — who answered questions and provided further insight on the documentary. 

In the panel and introduction to the film, the creators urged the audience to tell everyone about the movie. Actor Ian Somerhalder, known for his role in “Vampire Diaries,” is one of the co-producers of “Common Ground,” as well as a narrator in the film.

“Please share this with people, anyone you can,” Somerhalder said. “We need you.”

The documentary asks for a nationwide shift to regenerative agriculture, a way of farming in partnership with nature. Regenerative agriculture is characterized by the use of cover crops, zero tilling and no chemicals. This way, the film says, soil health is preserved, eliminating the need for harmful pesticides and herbicides and allowing the dirt to sequester greater amounts of carbon. 

The film highlights the efforts and success of white, Black and Indigenous farmers across the U.S. switching to regenerative agriculture. It stresses that regenerative farming methods, as compared to industrial farming, improve the significance of soil health. 

The panelists expressed that regenerative farming is a topic that concerns everyone, not just farmers. 

Josh Tickell, the director and producer of “Common Ground,” is a filmmaker and activist who has been working to bring attention to environmental issues for over 20 years. His books and documentaries propose practices that guide us to a renewable, more sustainable future. 

“This is not just a climate conversation; it's a food justice conversation, it’s an inclusion conversation,” Tickell said. “Part of what’s missing is an inclusive narrative.”

The documentary said that the well-being of humans and the environment will increase when farmers use all-natural practices. It specifically focused on the downfalls of the Farm Bill, legislation that regulates subsidies of certain crops. 

The Farm Bill provides funding and natural resources to farmers, allowing them to maintain and protect their land. This support ensures a stable food-to-table pipeline. 

The majority of agricultural landowners in the U.S. are white, and the population of Black and Indigenous farmers are falling victim to a discriminatory and broken financial system, according to the film. 

John Boyd Jr., panelist and president of the National Black Farmers Association, is fighting to end financial discrimination in the farming industry. According to Boyd, Black and Indigenous farmers have historically struggled to maintain their land and acquire loans from the federal government. 

“The land knows no color, it never mistreated anybody,” Boyd Jr said. “People do.” 

The panel explained that demanding agricultural legislation, regardless of your political affiliation, is crucial to approaching the climate crisis. Increasing the quality of the food we eat and addressing climate change requires bipartisanship. 

We often think farming is a red state issue,” Tickell said. “But no one ever told me that food was a red state issue.”

According to author and agriculture activist Robyn O’Brien, people who want to be a part of the change from industrial to regenerative farming should call their local member of Congress. 

“Just be brave, get involved,” O’Brien said. “Food security is national security.”

Before the film, Somerhalder told the audience that the documentary faced a great deal of censorship. The movie is not yet on a streaming platform, and Tickell added that the streamers have been resistant. 

“A lot of people don’t want this film out there,” Somerhalder said. 

The Film explained how markets that receive their profits from industrial farming fear losing money from regenerative methods. These are likely the people who could be behind some of the  censorship that Somerhalder mentioned.

Even with some pushback, “Common Ground” has been touring the U.S. since its premiere in September and has a goal of reaching 1,000 theaters. 

Indiana farmer Rick Clark, who is featured in the film for his regenerative farming and soil health initiatives, is hopeful for a better future. He expressed his gratitude for “Common Ground” and believes that the film can change the way we approach these issues. 

“This movie is a tremendous teacher of what needs to happen,” Clark said. 

Edited by Soumya Sahay, Zoe Bell, Patricia McGee and Abigail Pritchard. Copy editing done by Isabelle Kravis and Luna Jinks.

As the semester comes to an end and one of the founding members leaves American University, Section 202 has decided to take a trip down memory lane. For our fans, old and new, who are wondering how Section 202 came to be, this episode is a must. Listen along as hosts Connor Sturniolo and Liah Argiropoulos reminisce about the beginning of Section 202 and how it got to where it is now.

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