Whether you march on Earth Day or simply enjoy the view from the top of the ski slopes, the twelfth annual Colorado Environmental Film Festival welcomes you to Golden this weekend.
This year’s festival highlights 56 films from ten countries, including the world premiere of How We Grow, a feature-length documentary that follows millennial farmers in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley.
Departing from the doom-and-gloom approach of many food films, co-directors and Coloradans Haley Thompson and Tomas Zuccareno's documentary shows how they identified an environmental problem and just got to work fixing it.
“The way we feed everyone now is so bad for the planet,” Zuccareno says. "And what we love about our farmers is how they’re really caring for the soil. Not only does healthy soil give us tastier carrots and prettier tomatoes, but when soil is healthy, it sequesters carbon.”
With the help of micro-financing, mentors and leased open-space acres, the farmers in the documentary are reviving land and forming a community around locally grown food. Nearby chefs champion the produce, farmers'-market shoppers are embracing unfamiliar vegetables, and Roaring Fork Valley schoolchildren are learning how fun it can be to chase chickens.
Facing short growing seasons and increasingly unpredictable weather, the film’s protagonists learn to adapt.
“Casey [Piscura], from Wild Mountain Seeds farm, is a seed saver,” says Zuccareno. “He’s selecting varieties that survived the frost. Nature picks her own genetics. It’s not about new innovations. It’s about getting back to the old way.”
Thompson, a Colorado native, understands the unique challenges of farming at 7,000 feet. Her father mentors the young farmers in the film.
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“This summer will be interesting, considering the lack of snow,” Thompson says. "There’s either not enough water or it’s snowing in May, and [the farmers] keep persevering. They’re not going to quit because they had a bad year. If you need faith in humanity, this is it.”
Both directors and several cast members will attend the CEFF screening. The festival has nearly doubled its attendance in recent years, but the vibe remains Colorado casual: Film-goers may find themselves enjoying a pint at Mountain Toad Brewery alongside directors or while perusing an EcoExpo, where you can see live raptors and learn about bringing solar power to your neighborhood.
“We have access to these amazing films,” says festival director Nicole Bickford. “We’re showing films you might not get to see in other places, and they’re important stories to be told.”
CEFF runs Thursday, February 22, through Saturday, February 24, at the American Mountaineering Center, 710 10th Street in Golden. Opening night is sold out; tickets are available for other screenings through the CEFF site. Choose between a single session, which cost $3 per child and $8 per adult; day passes from $18 to 22; or a full festival pass, including a beer mug that entitles you to free refills, for $50.