Matt Moore is hoping his “Lifecycles” art installation will change the way people think about the food they eat and ultimately help to preserve farming in the US.
The exhibit – which shows the life cycles of a variety of fruits and vegetables – is on display at the Sundance Film Festival through this Sunday.
Matt believes that when people are more connected to food that grows in the ground (as opposed to what is manufactured in factories) they might make different, healthier choices.
“If people know it takes 180 days to grow a carrot, how does it change your relationship with food,” he asked.
He also hopes this art installation, which premiered last weekend at Sundance, will make people more appreciative of how important it is to preserve farmland, and farming.
“We can battle about organic or not organic,” he said, “but the first issue is about farming period.”
Matt fears we’re heading towards “a post-agrarian nation” and he’s hoping that his art installation is a way to pass on information that could prevent that outcome.
The public does care
In fact, there has been a lot of positive feedback and “Lifecycles” has proven to be a popular, and significant, attraction at the New Frontiers exhibition hall. People are noticing, watching and thinking.
A lady from Australia felt the installation proves a point about agriculture and made her think about the way people eat.
“If they did this for meat there’d be more vegetarians,” she said.
Adeel, 21, visiting from New York City, found the installation made him think about just what food choices mean.
“I don’t think I paid attention to how long it takes,” he said. “I never really think [about that.]”
He does, however, believe that people are aware of the dangers of making poor food choices.
“I don’t think people are as ignorant as we’d like to think they are,” he said. “People know but it doesn’t stop them from going to McDonald’s.”
One of the more influential visitors to the exhibit was Robert Redford, creator of Sundance, who spent time looking around the New Frontiers exhibition hall last weekend. And he talked to Matt about the “Lifecycles” project.
“He’s a really nice guy,” Matt said. “Totally tuned in. Such a big advocate for all the projects in here.”
Taking it all in
This whole experience of being at Sundance has been “very overwhelming” for Matt, “in a good way.”
There is still a lot more work to be done. The enthusiasm generated at Sundance should help keep him going.
Matt said that the positive attention “validates the point that it’s timely and people are interested.”
One thing he knows is he is going to need more money to continue.
Matt got a small art grant a few years ago and that ultimately led to him being noticed by Sundance. But most of the funding for this project (and the equipment is expensive) comes from farming and there is an end in sight, for both the money and the farming of his land.
What they have to lose
See, the land that Matt and his wife, Carrie, farm in Phoenix is set to be taken over by development. It’s the land he grew up on, the land his family has farmed for four generations. And it’s not an uncommon story these days.
“I’ve been there my whole life,” he said. “But that meaning, you don’t understand until it’s in peril.”
They currently farm 1,200 acres (they own 300 and lease the rest), growing on 300-400 at a time for the purpose of crop rotation. They have an organic farm on 10 acres of the land where they grow 70 varieties of crops including kale, beans and potatoes. In addition, they grow dairy feed, including barley, parsnips, carrots and sorghum.
The couple originally thought the land would be gone in 2008 but the economic downturn bought them some time.
Matt’s been filming his crops growing for a couple of years but he’s taking the future of his project as it comes, using a lesson that he learned in art school and has since applied to farming.
“I don’t know what’s going to come from it,” he said. “Don’t know that I should. If you don’t force it, it’ll end up happening the way it should.”
To learn more about Matt and his project, or to discuss funding, go to www.urbanplough.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (650) 906-6767.
According to Matt:
Radishes take 40 days to grow.
Kale takes 100 days to grow.
Swiss chard takes 105 days to grow.
A grapefruit tree takes 240 days to grow.
I visited the Swaner EcoCenter in Park City yesterday and learned about the SFF (Sustainable Farming Food program) they’re hosting. More on that coming soon….