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Rebecca Gerendasy
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Rebecca Gerendasy is an award-winning filmmaker and veteran video journalist. After 20 years at KTVU in San Francisco, Rebecca formed her own film company, Potter Productions, Inc., producing critically acclaimed work that emphasizes story at the heart of each project. In May of 2006 she co-founded Cooking Up a Story, one of the first online television shows dedicated to the subject of people, food, and sustainable living. Rebecca continues to bring the people behind our food to life, through stories and information that focus on agriculture, ecology, and the environment. Her work has been seen on Fox, CBS, NBC, Food Network, CNN, and others.

Entries by Rebecca Gerendasy

Traditional Dip Net Fishing: The Yakama Nation Tribe (VIDEO)

(0) Comments | Posted June 19, 2014 | 12:12 PM

Lyle, Washington In south-central Washington, the wild Klickitat River, one of the longest undammed rivers in the Pacific Northwest, flows 95 miles to the Columbia River. Just below Lyle Falls, near the town of Lyle at the mouth of the Columbia, the Yakama Nation tribal members set up their fishing spots along the rocky canyons above.

Scott Spino, a member of the Yakama Nation tribe explains the importance of the Klickitat River providing both a sense of identity for his tribe, and for their livelihood.

They typically use traditional dip nets for fishing: a 28' long pole with a 9' netted hoop at the end, that when extended into the fast moving current, is designed (along with the requisite skill of the experienced fisher) to catch 4 or 5 fish in a single haul. Scott Spino explains, "[We] throw the pole upriver, from the spot where you are standing at, and then it goes down with the river, and then you feel a fish, and you feel it bump your pole, and then get into the net, you pull up as fast as you can, and hopefully you have the fish in your net. Your pole kind of shakes, and then you pull up, hopefully you are quick enough..." to catch something, he says.

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As the caught fish accumulate to 5 or 6 in number, some individual fish weighing as much as 25-30 pounds, the fishers place them into gunnysacks, and haul them to their cars. There, the fish are stored in ice chests as the fishing continues until (hopefully) all the tubs are filled.

As Spino mentions during the interview, fishing is the lifeblood of the Yakama Nation tribal community. As a river tribe, many of the members fish for annual subsistence, and for revenue from commercial sales to fish buyers, and from direct private sales. The fishing season begins around the end of March, and extends through to mid-November with different runs of salmon and steelhead trout.

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Spino began learning how to dip net fish at about 10 years of age. He watched his grandfather, father, and older brothers before fishing himself. Though Scott works full-time during the day, he fishes at nighttime with a headlamp to collect his own harvest. As is evident from the video, the canyon walls are rugged and steep, and the wooden platforms that are built along the rocks are not easy to reach. While fishing the tribal members use ropes to secure themselves to their platforms, as the raging Klickitat River is treacherous even for seasoned fishers.

Originally published on Cooking Up a...

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Designing Modular Garden Blocks for Raised Beds (VIDEO)

(0) Comments | Posted June 9, 2014 | 1:46 PM

What's it take to turn an initial idea into a finished commercial product?

For Doug Holcomb, and two fellow classmates, it was a MBA course assignment that inspired them to create a set of interlocking garden blocks to make a raised garden bed. As Holcomb explains, there are would-be gardeners that would like to plant their own backyard garden, but lack the tools, or perhaps the engineering skills to build their own raised beds.

These plastic garden blocks from TogetherFarm that Holcomb and his colleagues designed, fasten together without the need for tools, are lightweight and more durable than wood, and can add extra color to a garden area.

I asked Mr. Holcomb if he had other ideas for his plastic garden blocks, and his eyes lit up.

"We have quite an extensive product roadmap for TogetherFarm. The amazing thing about having a modular system is that you can add on different components that all interlock with each other," he said.

One of his future plans involves creating a plastic base for the garden block walls that could be used on outdoor decks, and apartment balconies. Other ideas would provide a cover for the raised beds, and add-ons such as a modular block bench next to a planter box design.

What these three young men seemed to have learned--beyond the future of TogetherFarms-- how to forge the necessary building blocks of an ephemeral idea into a solid commercial reality.

Originally posted on Cooking Up a...

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Copper River Salmon in Cordova, Alaska (VIDEO)

(0) Comments | Posted May 29, 2014 | 11:46 AM

Written by Fred Gerendasy

Cordova, AK -- Bill Webber and Bill Bailey are two longtime residents of Cordova, Alaska, whose livelihoods, and way of life revolve around the fishing industry. As we see in the video, both Webber, a third generation Alaskan fisherman, and Bailey, one of the founders of Copper River Seafoods, a local seafood processing plant, harbor a deep respect for their way of life, and for the natural environment.

As part of the Copper River Salmon Marketing Association July 2013 media tour, Rebecca and I were invited to visit Cordova, Alaska, to learn first-hand how the Copper River Salmon ecosystem operates.

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Cordova, Alaska, and the Copper River Delta

The salmon spawning riverbeds and interconnecting tributaries that feed into the 300-mile long Copper River flows to the Gulf of Alaska. A vast contiguous wetlands is also part of the 27,000 square mile Copper River Delta Watershed. This watershed supports the natal streams where the beginning and ending salmon cycles take place. Salmon are migratory creatures, they spawn in freshwater riverbeds, mature to a certain age, migrate to the ocean for a few years (the actual number of years varies by species), before returning home to spawn, and die.

It is this special ecosystem where the natural world and a regional economy entwine. A symbiotic relationship -- born out of necessity -- but designed to nurture and sustain the salmon fisheries of the Copper River and Prince William Sound region. There's also a political component that requires governmental oversight and science-based resource management in order to protect the fisheries from over harvest, and from environmental degradation.

Cordova, Alaska, is situated 150 miles east of Anchorage on the southeast portion of Prince William Sound. Its permanent resident population of roughly 2300 may as much as triple in size during the commercial summer fishing season. To the southeast, Seattle is a distant 1300 miles away.

There are only two ways into Cordova: by ferry boat, and by plane. During the summer months there's as many as 20 hours of sunlight; conversely in the winter, as few as several hours of light. It takes a special person to live year-round in Alaska, and like other coastal cities here, commercial fishing is the lifeblood of the community.

Bill Webber, Alaskan Commercial Fisherman

Bill Webber is part of an established fishing family dating back to the late 1800s, or early 1900s, when his grandfather as a 12-year-old boy made his way independently to Alaska from Holland. He spent his entire life salmon fishing in the Prince William Sound, hunting, and otherwise living off the land.

Bill began fishing on his father's boat in the mid-1960's, at age 7. His father had been a salmon seiner, and salmon gillnetter, and also fished for herring and crab. At 19, Webber started fishing on other boats, and fisheries in the summer and winter, throughout the year. "In my younger years -- my 20's -- I used to crab fish in the winter, fish herring in the winter months," Webber explains.

One of the ways that Alaska's fisheries are protected by the state from over harvest, commercial fishing permits are issued in a finite number for all "types of gear, the optimum number of entry permits for each administrative area". The Copper River and Prince William Sound administrative area permits for gillnet fishing are about 574, though this reported number fluctuates slightly based upon different sources.

Today, Bill Webber fishes only for salmon in the Copper River Delta and Prince William Sound.

"My fisheries pretty much happens in the summer months from mid-May to the end of September. I started my other business, my winter business, which is a boat building and fabrication [shop]. This boat you are on right now, I built 2 years ago -- designed it and built it -- and I've got a lot of boats in this [fishing] fleet that I have built, and a lot of deck work".

A couple of years ago, Bill lost his previous boat while passing through one of the bar entrances on the Copper River Delta in the Gulf of Alaska, a testament to how dangerous commercial fishing is, even for those like Webber with decades of marine experience.

"It was kind of a fluke set of [conditions], a series of big waves that came through when I was making a judgment call. It shouldn't have happened but these things do happen, and here I was 43 years into the fishing game, and it finally happened to me."

"I felt like part of me was gone. Our boats are our tools. It's how we make our living that they are extensions of us. You can look at a boat, and how it's set up can tell you about that person, that person's abilities, what they are doing. Things do happen, and so it can be very dangerous," says Webber.

We are on Bill's new boat, the Paradigm Shift, heading toward "the flats", in the Gulf of Alaska near the mouth of the Copper River. Also on-board, are Bill's wife Lori, and his regular deckhand, Todd Blaisdell. Since we are in between runs, most of the Sockeye have passed, and the Coho have not quite arrived, we are here to experience what it's like gillnet fishing, and for filming purposes.

There's not a whiff of danger in the air, the water is almost smooth as glass, and although there's wind, it's mainly from the speed of the moving boat. As Bill Webber looks out at the water, I ask him what he looks for when he's fishing.

"I look at the water. I know this geography, I've fished here all my life. We look for tide rips out here. Usually when the tide's coming out, you end up getting these tide riffs that form out here in the water. Sometimes there's color differences. They'll be some darker water and green ocean water, and that's usually evidence of a pretty active tide rip. The fish will congregate right in those little corridors..."

Commercial fisherman are farmers of the sea. They don't plant seeds in the soil, they harvest from the bounty of the sea. Bill Webber tells us what being a commercial fisherman means to him, "fishing is... a way of life. It's something we always look forward to every year and through my tenure, we've had ups and downs just like any industry does. We experience good times and good years and bad years and bad times." ..."It's what I grew up with. It's what I know." Webber explains that everything he learned in life about building boats, the electrical and wiring components, hydraulics, manufacturing, welding -- he learned because he was a commercial fisherman. "it's takes a mechanical mind to want to learn these things."

The boat stops, and the net is reeled out. I stand on the bow looking at the nets resting on the water, as we wait for the sign they will be reeled back in. Aside from the financial rewards, I can almost imagine what it must feel like to reel in a sizable haul from a spot of ocean with my nets extending out just 900 feet.

Bill Webber recounts this story that may be telling:

"I remember one time, there were 25 boats. We're fishing this tide rip line out there. There was a brown water and a green water [forming], a real definitive line. And I had 200 fish that I caught in my set, and the guy to the east of me had seven, and the guy to the west, had five. That's what we all want [he laughs], to be the lucky one."

Originally posted on Cooking Up a...

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Counting Copper River Salmon at Childs Glacier (video)

(0) Comments | Posted May 22, 2014 | 11:17 AM

Cordova, AK As Elliot Johnson of Alaska Department of Fish and Game explains in the video, the Childs Glacier monitoring station is responsible for counting the returning salmon as they complete their ocean migration back to their native spawning grounds in the Copper River Delta.

Their monitoring station uses sonar waves, essentially "echo location"; 26 beams form the pie shaped image that displays on the computer monitor capturing an image of the fish as they swim by.

These counts are incredibly important to the local commercial fishing fleet because they determine when the commercial season begins for each of the different salmon runs. The Chinook, Sockeye, and Coho runs occur from May through September, though the actual commercial fishing harvests are kept quite short.

"This first opener is usually around the middle of May", says Johnson. He continues, "Well, in the case of this year [2013], we had a late ice-out and we didn't start seeing fish until about the 30th of May; we usually start seeing fish up here around the 20th. So, how I mentioned earlier that they're able to close the fishery if conditions aren't, if we aren't seeing numbers, well that's what happened.

So at the first opener, it was marginal, I think they caught 60 or 70,000 total and it was a 12 hour period. 3 days later was the next opener, had about the same. The 3rd opener, it was 12 or 24 hours, they caught almost 400,000 fish. And they were like Whoa! Okay, hit the brakes and we still had zeroes here at that point and we still had zeroes for a whole other week. So here the fishermen are like, We just slammed them; There's fish everywhere!; It's going to be a great year!; but, zero - zero - zero - close fishing, close fishing. We haven't seen any fish in River, so they're not sure if they're going to over-harvest.

Part of the management is spreading out the fish, the run, into spawning grounds. So, you don't want to over harvest early and you don't want to over harvest late, you want to take a little bit throughout, because part of the reason for that is maintaining that genetic diversity, so the early fish coming in typically run farther upstream and they're going to spawn a little bit sooner. So if you lose the early run fish, you're going to shorten the length of your fishing period because now you've lost those first 2 weeks of fish returning, and likewise on the end of it."

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According to the recent 2013 report by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, the state of Alaska contributes over half of all fishery production in the U.S., creating tens of thousands of jobs, and generating almost 7 billion in annual revenue. Not surprising, the Alaska state constitution mandates that its fisheries operate in a sustainable manner consistent with careful monitoring, and reliance on science-based policies and procedures to protect and maintain its fish populations.

One of the defining characteristics of the Copper River Salmon (Chinook, Coho, Sockeye, Pink salmon, and Keta), is the buildup of fats (rich in Omega 3 fatty acids) needed for their arduous 300 mile journey from the mouth of the Gulf of Alaska near Cordova to their final spawning grounds in the Copper River Delta. As a result, the wild salmon caught in these pristine ocean waters are incredibly delicious, at their physical peak, and are (as previously noted) of high nutritional value to eat.

To read the entire post, please visit Cooking Up a...

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Annual Fermentation Festival Opens Up the World of Ferments (VIDEO)

(0) Comments | Posted April 11, 2014 | 11:02 AM

If you haven't yet heard, fermentation -- the process by which foods are partially broken down by living microorganisms -- is big!

Consider some of the more common ferments that many of us know and love: beer, wine, sauerkraut, bread, yogurt, and pickles -- all are ferments, and that just scratches the surface.

Many foods can be safely preserved for long periods of time only because they can be fermented. Not only that, science is beginning to catch up with nature in terms of our understanding of the important role that microbes play in human health. There are billions of microorganisms that live in our gut; their varied composition and number are now suspected to play a significant role in maintaining individual health.

Of course, food preservation and personal health are not the entire benefit package of eating fermented foods. The variety of ferments and their different individual tastes, are also a big reason for their growing popularity.

And that's where three local friends, Liz Crain, author of The Food Lover's Guide to Portland; David Barber, owner of Picklopolis; and George Winborn enter the picture. Since 2009, they have produced Portland's annual fermentation festival that celebrates the culinary wonders of fermented foods. The perennial festival is a National Geographic-like expedition of recognized and exotic ferments representing different food cultures. This event brings home fermenters, professional fermented food producers, and the general public together for a night of indulgent ferment tasting pleasure.

The fermentation festival is an opportunity for beginners to experience first-hand a variety of foods under one roof. Even more, it tastefully illustrates how the tiny world of microorganisms looms so incredibly large upon the culinary world -- and beyond.

Originally posted on Cooking Up a...

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Sourdough Starter: An Old Family Treasure (VIDEO)

(4) Comments | Posted April 3, 2014 | 2:11 PM

You might say Robert Jordan is the keeper of the flame by preserving the family's sourdough starter for so many years.

As Jordan explains in the video, his mother, Jean Rentz Jordan, who passed away in 2013 at the age of 88, had eaten pancakes as a child from this same sourdough starter. Though he is not able to verify the claim, it was family lore that the starter came from his grandmother during the Alaska Gold Rush of 1898.

This sourdough starter consists of flour and whole milk. The sour flavor is a result of the yeast and a certain type of bacteria (Lactobacillus) present in the air (or in the flour itself) that remain in balance with each other. Too great a population of yeast, and the bacteria are not able to reproduce, without which, there can be no sourdough style dough.

For those who want to begin their own starter from scratch, here are several recipes:

Sunset's Reliable Sourdough Starter (Sunset Magazine)

Basic Sourdough Starter (The San Francisco Exploratorium)

How to Make Your Own Sourdough Starter (the Kitchn)

Basic instructions for maintaining the sourdough starter, and creating the batter to make fresh pancake mix (as seen in the video) can be found on Cooking Up a...

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How to Make Authentic East Coast Bagels (VIDEO)

(0) Comments | Posted March 27, 2014 | 3:22 PM

Nicole Rees, a food scientist, and Lisa Bell, a former pastry chef, demonstrate how to make authentic, East Coast bagels from basic ingredients. One big advantage of making your own bagels at home is the freshness. Bagels are meant to be eaten almost right out of the oven.

For the accompanying recipe, please visit Cooking Up a...

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Trash Fish: Guess Who's Coming to Dinner (VIDEO)

(0) Comments | Posted March 13, 2014 | 12:41 PM

Portland, OR Four top chefs team up as part of a national Chefs Collaborative fundraising effort to raise public awareness of overfishing, and create demand for alternative fish species that are not presently at risk.


Fueled by heightened consumer demand, the larger, more popular fish are being overfished. The hope is, by creating desirable alternatives for less threatened "trash fish" (and other fish) lower on the food chain, this will help restore a more sustainable balance to fish population levels.

To read the entire post, visit Cooking Up a...

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Why Eating Trash Fish Is Good for Eaters, Fishermen and Ocean Fish (VIDEO)

(1) Comments | Posted March 6, 2014 | 11:58 AM

How do you change human behavior, a difficult proposition in itself, let alone when a big problem is largely invisible to the public eye?

When it comes to the problem of overfishing, Lyf Gildersleeve of Flying Fish Company, a sustainable seafood buyer and retailer, sees education as the key. As we see in this video, there are varieties of non-targeted, commercially caught (bycatch) fish, that are not generally known to the eater. By establishing a commercial demand for these "trash fish," it would help reduce the demand pressures on the most popular ocean fish that are being over-harvested.

2014-03-06-Lyf_Gildersleeve.jpg Gildersleeve shows three of the four "trash fish" (Ivory King Salmon, Pacific Skate, Wolf Eel) that will be used for a Portland Chefs Collaborative fundraiser event to raise public awareness of overfishing. At the dinner (video coming next Tuesday), guests taste a variety of "trash fish" dishes prepared by four renowned restaurant chefs, to demonstrate how each fish can look appealing on a plate, and also be delicious to eat.

As once a commercial fisherman himself, Mr. Gildersleeve understands the economic pressures small commercial fisherman face. If more eaters become aware of these lesser known fish, adding additional species of fish to the commercial mix can also help strengthen the viability of these fisherman who rely upon the local marine environment to provide for their economic sustenance.

We have long been advised to eat more fish; perhaps it's time, to eat more kinds of fish, too.

These are the 10 most consumed fish species, in order of quantities consumed*

Shrimp
Canned Tuna
Salmon
Tilapia
Pollock
Pangasius
Crab
Cod
Catfish
Clams

*National Marine Fisheries Service; 2012 figures.

Additional Resources:

The Monterey Aquarium Seafood Watch Program Buyer's Guide offers a comprehensive list of commercially available fish species to avoid eating entirely, along with a list of more sustainable alternatives.
A Sea Change (The Pew Charitable Trusts, 11-2013)

Originally posted on Cooking Up a...

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Experiencing Pastured Pig to Plate First Hand (VIDEO)

(0) Comments | Posted February 19, 2014 | 1:08 PM

2014-02-19-KBhosespigs2.jpg As a food writer, and blogger, Kathleen Bauer prefers to write from first-hand experience. The idea came to her after responding to an offer from a farmer to purchase half a pastured pig. After agreeing to the purchase from Clare...

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Record Number of Fall Chinook Pass Through Bonneville Dam (VIDEO)

(3) Comments | Posted October 23, 2013 | 3:09 PM

Cascade Locks, OR - 2013 marks a record year for the Chinook (King) salmon runs on the Columbia River. Over 1 million salmon have passed through the Bonneville Dam located near the mouth of the Columbia River. Historically, the Fall Chinook run is the biggest single run of the year...

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An Urban Farmer in the City (video)

(0) Comments | Posted September 11, 2013 | 2:28 PM

Portland, OR Throughout her young adult life, Amanda Morse has worked entirely in the nonprofit food sector. In college, she designed an interdisciplinary major in sustainable food systems. She worked 2 years in a youth garden project for Americorps, and 4 years in education with Food Bank, also running one...

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An Expert Explains the Maps of the Ogallala Aquifer of the Texas High Plains

(0) Comments | Posted September 5, 2013 | 1:42 PM

Lubbock, TX - In this video, Lucia Barbato, of the Texas Tech University Center for Geospatial Technology, explains the various maps of the Texas High Plains region. The Ogallala Aquifer was formed millions of years ago, and no longer has an effective recharge capacity in this region. This...

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Jo Robinson: Eating on the Wild Side (VIDEO)

(0) Comments | Posted August 7, 2013 | 1:12 PM

Jo Robinson's new book Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health takes careful measure of the last 15 years of scientific research in the fields involving food and nutrition-- tens of thousands of individual studies, and boils them down into a sizable number of...

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Smoked Squash Rockefeller and Horseradish Bacon-wrapped Grilled Shrimp (VIDEO)

(0) Comments | Posted June 27, 2013 | 11:56 AM

2013-06-27-Jeffatweber.jpg Something a little different for this summer's outdoor cooking fun! Jeff Stehney, owner of Kansas City's Oklahoma Joe's BBQ restaurant, and the legendary barbecue competition cook of Slaughterhouse Five, demonstrates how to barbecue Smoked Squash Rockefeller and Horseradish Bacon-wrapped...

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A Young Oregon Winemaker (VIDEO)

(0) Comments | Posted June 17, 2013 | 1:34 PM

McMinnville, Oregon Remy Drabkin grew up in a community where exciting new winemakers were helping to shape the nascent wine industry in Oregon. Her first job at age 13 was working the harvest for one of the Oregon pioneers, Ponzi Vineyards. Remy always knew that she wanted...

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An Interview With Deborah Madison: Vegetable Literacy

(0) Comments | Posted June 11, 2013 | 1:17 PM

Veteran food author Deborah Madison's new cookbook Vegetable Literacy draws inspiration for its recipes directly from the garden. Growing a variety of one's own plants in a food garden, and witnessing what they look like through their various stages of growth provides distinct advantages in the kitchen. "Because...

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The Art of Blending Wines: From Barrel to Bottle (VIDEO)

(0) Comments | Posted June 3, 2013 | 11:51 AM

2013-06-03-BlendingHuffPo.jpg Newberg, Oregon For James Frey, owner and co-winemaker at Trisaetum Winery, Vineyards, and Gallery, the art of winemaking is quite literally another art form that he endeavors to perfect.

Both in his paintings that line the walls of...

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Learn about the Oldest Pinot Noir Vines in Willamette Valley (VIDEO)

(0) Comments | Posted May 28, 2013 | 6:06 PM

Dundee, Oregon. David Lett may not have single-handedly put Oregon wine on the world map when he began planting the first Pinot Noir grapes at Eyrie Vineyards, but he was certainly one of its earliest, most prescient, winemaking crusaders that helped establish the wine industry in...

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Symphony of the Soil: An Interview with Deborah Koons Garcia

(0) Comments | Posted May 13, 2013 | 12:29 PM

Deborah Koons Garcia's exceptional new film, Symphony of the Soil, pays loving homage to the beauty and the wondrous mystery of soil, celebrating not just the incredible soil diversity filmed on four of the world's continents, it also rejoices in the knowledge of leading scientists, and farmers whose...

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