UNI hosts Iowa debut of soil documentary

2012-03-26T12:00:00Z 2012-12-03T15:42:34Z UNI hosts Iowa debut of soil documentaryBy MATTHEW WILDE, matt.wilde@wcfcourier.com Waterloo Cedar Falls Courier

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- A documentary about Iowa's most precious resource will be shown Tuesday at the University of Northern Iowa.

Film maker Deborah Koons Garcia of Mill Valley, Calf., said people are treating the soil like dirt. If things don't change, she said it will eventually be destroyed spelling trouble worldwide.

Garcia's film, "Symphony of the Soil," will make its Iowa debut at 7 p.m. in Lang Auditorium, just two days after its premier at the Environmental Film Festival in Washington, D.C. The public is welcome. On Wednesday, it will be shown on the Iowa State University campus in Ames. Even though Iowa is the nation's leader in corn and soybean production, Garcia said people tend to take the soil for granted. That's why Iowa was at the top of the list for showings, she said.

If producers and landowners don't take steps to safeguard the land, Garcia said topsoil --- an amazing resource in the state --- will be destroyed in 30 years. Primarily raising two crops or one over again, combined with intense fertilization, will wear the soil out, she said.

"It's hard on soil when you farm that way," Garcia said. "Part of what I learned is you have to give back to the soil. When it's dead, it can't cycle nutrients through it."

Garcia, the widow of Grateful Dead singer Jerry Garcia and also known for her documentary "The Future of Food," decided to investigate the science of soil and the relationship people have with it because she wanted to educate the public and herself. After all, it's what feeds the world.

"Most people are soil blind. They don't really think about it," Garcia added.

The 103-minute feature film explores the complexity and mystery of soil. It was filmed on four continents and features some of the world's most highly esteemed soil scientists, farmers and activists.

The three-part film portrays soil as a protagonist of the planetary story, focuses on the human relationship with soil and explores big picture ideas. Fred Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow at The Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at ISU, explains how small-scale organic farming is a viable solution to the problems of resource depletion in the film.

Garcia said increased use of cover crops and expanding crop rotations are just two solutions experts discuss.

Kamyar Enshayan, director of the UNI's Center for Energy and Environmental Education, urged Garcia to bring her film to campus. A group discussion with Garcia will take place after the viewing.

"Our motivation is soil is the most important economic asset we have," Enshayan said. "We want people to see its complexity and beauty, and be motivated to care for it a lot more."

Garcia will also be on Iowa Public Radio Tuesday at 10 a.m. on the show "River to River."

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