Introducing “Unbroken Ground:” A Word from Stephen Jones
Today, we’re pleased to share our latest short film, Unbroken Ground, directed by Chris Malloy (180° South) and presented by Patagonia Provisions. It stems from the belief that our food can and should be a part of the solution to the environmental crisis—grown, harvested and produced in ways that restore our land, water and wildlife.
Here to introduce the film is Stephen Jones, director of the Washington State University Bread Lab and one of the people featured in Unbroken Ground. Steve also joined us for many of the local screening events at Patagonia stores across the country. We loved having him. Following the introduction, you can watch the film in its entirety.
Monika whispered in my ear so that Birgit and the 200 people around us couldn’t hear: “There’s a bottle in the bathroom … Hudson Double Charred.” Shit. Birgit heard, so did Sarah, but they both smiled yes. It had been a while since I’d heard that one, of a hidden bottle in a bathroom, and never in a Patagonia store but yeah I have heard that one (certainly at one of the weddings of one of my brothers, yeah that brother) and yeah it was plenty to make me want to follow her (or the bottle?) around the country. New York, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, La Conner. La Conner? Yeah La Conner, we’ll get there. And yeah there was a film too, and we’ll get there too.
The problem was that in the SoHo store there are two bathrooms and I was in the wrong one. Unbroken Ground was about to start, and I was in the wrong bathroom. Bad start to a New York premiere. Blaine Wetzel was there from Lummi Island with his birch bark tea, ready to go. Chris Malloy, our surf and all kinds of other stuff hero, missed a flight and was stuck in some shit airport in some who-knows-where town. I was in the wrong bathroom looking for a bottle of whiskey that it turns out was just one door down.
Okay, texting Monika now. “Wrong bathroom cowboy,” was the reply. Got it. Okay, all set. I exited and apologized to the 13 angry folks that actually needed the bathroom by saying, “Oops, wrong one.” No one laughed, and actually no one even acknowledged that I said anything. Tough crowd. “Hey, sorry, I’m from La Conner … well, near La Conner, Bay View actually but yeah! Hey! New York! The Big City.” And yeah the film had started. Okay. Show time.
Unbroken Ground, four short chapters, the last two about folks in the Pacific Northwest where I’m from. As Yvon says in the film about farmers, students, scientists, fisherfolk—revolutions start at the bottom. By us, all of us, at least all of us that give a shit. To see the very north end of the Pacific Northwest on a screen in a city (any city) and to watch the crowd (it was always crowded) we began to think that in each new stop we would be helping to define us, us in the crowd. Those of us that want our food to very simply just have less crap in it, food that people can have easy access to and that we can all afford, because someone somewhere thought that it was a good idea to pay us enough so that we can all eat food that is real. Food that started with a real farmer or fisher or rancher. Someone that is offering us some level of care.
New York was just the first stop. The last stop for me (they didn’t send me to Hawaiʻi, seriously?) on the Unbroken Ground Super Cool and Awesome World Tour 2000 (editor’s note: not the real name) was San Francisco. Monika, Sarah and their crew decided to take the film out of the store and show it on a wall. A huge wall. Outside. On the roof of the San Francisco Art Institute. On a full moon, cold (hey, it was July) San Francisco night. Josey Baker from The Mill was there, the only one of hundreds that was wearing shorts (put on some pants man!), keeping us fed with his Hundo bread. And Frida Kahlo was there, she and that husband of hers hung out right there in the early ‘30s. She probably smoked a cigarette while leaning against that wall.
And there, right there, as outside as you can get in San Francisco, on a 30-foot tall and 50-foot wide wall were birds (!!!) and fish and wheat and buckwheat and barley and people I knew and places I could feel. I had seen the film 33 times before (yeah I count) but I watched and listened and waited for the geese to come up one more time over Crystie and Keith’s buckwheat in Chimacum and to see the people and places I know best: Dave Hedlin in front of his barn in La Conner, holding court from the front seat of his shitbox pickup (which sadly has since been composted); Brigid, that’s her on the combine and those are her hands holding the beans; Bethany, going from the lab to green house, like she does every day; Colin, just sort of standing there (Thinking? Maybe. Of what? Lunch? Probably); and the boats off of Lummi on an oh so typical cold enough to say it’s a cold sort of day. And I watched like I had never seen any of this or them before that night. And a few hundred other people watched. Most whom probably had not seen these people before or been to these places and have not felt and tasted the dust of farming and the type of cool water breeze we know every day up here, but they did that night. In the city. And Frida was there.
If we’re open and ready for it there is a soft but crushing beauty in hope. Chris Malloy gets us there—gently—in this film. We all know how screwed up our food system is. But we need somewhere to go, right now, somewhere that is beautiful, somewhere where someone gives a shit beyond themselves, and they reach out to all of us, and without waving their hands and screaming and foaming at the mouth bring us to a place of hope.
Watch the film.