Course of Food

Sustainability isn’t just a trendy buzzword for people like Andy Bowen. A Waynoka, Oklahoma rancher, he focuses on being truly sustainable—meaning, he raises his animals with respect for the land and leaves it better than he found it. Bowen is featured in the upcoming documentary film “Course of Food” by Executive Producer Marc Dunham.

Food for Thought

Andy Bowen, rancher in Waynoka“Course of Food is an idea that started about two years ago,” said Dunham. “I’ve always been interested in film, and I’ve always been interested in writing.” As the Director of Culinary Arts at the Francis Tuttle Technology Center Rockwell Campus, Dunham is especially drawn to storytelling as it relates to food. How are our traditions and values passed down through the generations? What does our culture say about our food—and what does our food say about our culture?

After first hosting Francis Tuttle’s online cooking show “Oklahoma Cooks,” Dunham knew there were more stories he wanted to tell. He reached out to a few companies for support and moved forward to develop a film concept based on stories about food and culture. “I wanted to discover stories that were already out there, and tell those stories of those people that have a really close cultural connection with food.” Those people and their stories would serve as the main character in his film, a different focus in each episode.

“I wanted to be able to show the importance of why food and culture are connected and how that’s being passed down from generation to generation,” says Dunham. In the proposed series of films, viewers will be able to meet a new main character in each episode, learning the story of who they are and how they’re connected to food. In the first episode, this main character is sustainable rancher Andy Bowen. His story, and his connection with food and culture, is presented as it is uncovered and explored by Dunham and a student from the Francis Tuttle culinary program.

“Andy is the hog farmer, and this episode is about how he does it in a sustainable way with his father-in-law on a ranch, why viewers should care that he’s doing it that way and why it is important,” says Dunham. It’s an approach to storytelling that works, highlighting the importance of the personal choices made in the raising of and caring for the animals on Bowen’s ranch.

After that initial introduction of the episode’s focus, Dunham and his student will start a dialogue with Bowen and talk about the connection between food and culture. “We want it to be entertaining but also educational and interesting to watch,” says Dunham. “With good questions and dialogue” between the episode’s main character, the student and Dunham himself, Dunham hopes to draw the viewer into the conversation.

Sustainable Ranching

Bowen came to be passionate about sustainable ranching when he looked at the quality of the ingredients coming into the Chickasha restaurant where he was kitchen manager. “It was fresh—it was good—it was what you would expect to get in a restaurant like that,” he says in the film. “I felt like I could do better.” And in early 2010, a family medical emergency put him on his father-in-law’s ranch sooner than he anticipated.

“I spent our savings on chickens,” says Bowen in the film, explaining how he came to be the rancher he is now. When he speaks, the passion for what he does, the tangible product he’s creating, the understanding of this idea of sustainability, underscores his words. First came the chickens, next came the hogs “and then things just got out of hand,” he says, with a calm happiness in his voice that conveys to the viewer his connection to his work.

Not only is Bowen living the life of a sustainable rancher, he’s fighting for the rights of others like him as the Mayor of Waynoka. Bowen shows a passion for what he believes in, which is what led Dunham to choose to feature Bowen in this film. “Things that we don’t value just deteriorate. And if we don’t value this and behave like we value it, then that’s what’ll happen to it—it’ll deteriorate,” says Bowen.

“Course of Food” gives us all the opportunity to better understand how we can value food and the people behind it.

View the trailer for “Course of Food” at vimeo.com/87637201

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