Food & Film at Fable Farm

By Teo Zagar

For my first column as a new Sustainable Woodstock board member I have the pleasure of inviting readers to a special S.W.-sponsored event in my hometown of Barnard on Saturday, May 19th. At 5:30PM Fable Farm will be serving a locally-sourced, all organic dinner for $25 a plate at their farm and winery at 1525 Royalton Turnpike Road, which will be followed by a 7PM screening of an award-winning new documentary film about food, family, and the future of agriculture. development.


Modified was filmed over a span of ten years and follows the grassroots struggle to label GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in the US and Canada, while exposing the cozy relationship between the biotech industry and governments. The film is anchored in the moving story of the filmmaker’s relationship to her mother, a prolific gardener, seed saver, and food activist who battled cancer during the film’s production. Interweaving the personal and the political, the film uses family home movies and colorful recipe and farming vignettes from the filmmaker’s award-winning PBS cooking show, in a mouth-watering celebration of homegrown food. The mother-daughter investigative journey debunks the myth that GMOs are needed to feed the world, making a strong case for a more transparent and sustainable food system. Featured commentators in the film include scientists, farmers, biotech boosters and critics, and Dr. Jane Goodall. Renowned French chef Jacques Pépin calls Modified, “a very personal, tender, touching tribute, and a well-researched, enlightening and powerful documentary!”

The film also recounts the story of Vermont’s groundbreaking first-in-the-nation GMO labeling bill, which for a brief time compelled multinational corporations to label their products, until President Obama signed an industry-sponsored bill that preempted a state’s right to require disclosure of genetically-engineered ingredients. A much weaker national standard of labeling is supposed to go into effect this summer as a part of the federal preemption law, but it will actually exclude most food products containing ‘B.E.’ (bioengineered) content. It also gives food manufacturers the option to place a QR code on packaging instead of a textual label, requiring people to scan products with their phones while they shop, assuming they have a smartphone and cellular or internet access.

Canadian film director Aube Giroux, a two-time James Beard Award nominee for her food writing, will be joining us and participating in a post-screening discussion with special guest Lt. Governor David Zuckerman and other leaders from Vermont’s ‘Right to Know’ coalition. As a lead sponsor and co-author of Vermont’s labeling bill during my time in the legislature, I feel that Aube’s film makes one of the most compelling arguments in support of a consumer’s fundamental right to know where their food comes from and how it’s made. A free market can only function to the benefit of society if it’s coupled with an equally free exchange of ideas and citizen participation in the regulatory process; this is especially true when it comes to agriculture, which has profound and lasting effects on the planet and our bodies in ways that may not be apparent in the moment of chewing of swallowing. To paraphrase Dr. Goodall, we need to ‘re-understand’ food and our relationship to it.

There are sure to be many stimulating conversations about food and culture around the tables in the Fable barn before the film, so we hope you can join us for a delicious meal paired with the award-winning apple and grape wines being produced at the Fable Farm Fermentory. Because space is limited, RSVP’s are required; please respond soon if you would like a seat at the table and in the theater. You can call 234-5667, email or visit, where more details and directions to Fable Farm can also be found.

Other event sponsors are Rural Vermont, BALE, Action Circles, Upper Valley Food Coop, NOFA-VT and Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility.

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