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Review: 'Symphony of the Soil' digs deeply into organic farming

The documentary 'Symphony of the Soil' explains in a convincing way the benefits of farming organically.

November 07, 2013|By Martin Hsai
  • A scene from "Symphony of the Soil."
A scene from "Symphony of the Soil." (Courtesy of Lily Films )

"Symphony of the Soil" is a documentary on the advantages and the necessity of farming organically: without synthetic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge and genetically modified seeds. It's far from one of those propaganda films that hammer their messages home, though. It does have a point of view, but the intended conclusion ripens for the picking in a roundabout way.

You certainly have no idea what it's getting at during its National Geographic-esque primer on the evolution of soil, the different types of soils, nutrients contained and organisms that thrive within. The film's agenda sprouts only as it zeros in on agriculture, expounding on the 1960s Green Revolution, when chemicals and irrigation became de rigueur in the industry.

If the 40 or so academics and farmers the film has lined up don't convince you that organic is the way to farm, an experiment performed by Rodale Institute's Paul Hepperly — on erosion caused by simulated rainfall on, respectively, conventional soil, organic soil, organic soil with compost, and organic soil with compost and cover crop — will leave little doubt.

Organic, sustainable and farm-to-table — mere buzzwords even to some who swear by them — are demystified here. Spending whole paychecks at Whole Foods Market apparently isn't just healthier for your body; it's healthier for the environment.

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"Symphony of the Soil"

MPAA rating: None

Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes

Playing: Laemmle Music Hall 3, Beverly Hills.

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