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Suffolk Closeup: What are you eating?

It’s fitting that Suffolk County, with some of the richest soil in the world and still on the New York State’s list of its top agricultural counties (number 4 based on “farm sales”), was the setting in recent days of a “Docs Equinox” series of documentaries with the theme “Cultivating Connections: Soils, Farms, Food.”

Last year the “Docs Equinox” series focused on drinking water and the aquifer,with outstanding documentaries and speakers.

The documentaries and speakers on April 12, 13 and 14 this year, in honor of Earth Day, were outstanding, too. Indeed, after viewing a documentary titled “Common Ground,” about what is called “regenerative agriculture,” one member of the audience, Gary Minsky of Sagaponack, said to me: “This was a life-changing experience.”

The “Docs Equinox” series is produced by Hamptons Doc Fest and co-presented with, and at, the Southampton Arts Center.

The first documentary shown was “Food Inc. 2, Back for Seconds.”

“We never expected we’d be making a sequel to ‘Food Inc. 1,’” its co-director, Robert Kenner, told the packed “Docs Equinox” audience in Southampton via video from his home base in Los Angeles.

“Food Inc. 1” was a 2008 documentary which received the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. It offered an eye-opening examination into the production of meat in the United States and focuses on the dominance of the U.S. food market by a handful of giant corporations. These companies, it charged, avoid strong food safety laws as well as food-labeling regulations and promote unhealthy food consumption.

Recently released “Food Inc. 2” expands on all these issues — and more — and most certainly will be in line for an Oscar, too. It documents, said Kenner, “how dangerous the consolidated food system is.”

Michael Pollan, author of “The Omnivore’s Dilemma,” and Eric Schlosser, who wrote “Fast Food Nation,” are its producers and appear in “Food Inc. 2.” Pollan notes in the documentary that the “food industry spends more on lobbying than the defense industry” in this country.

The second documentary shown was “Common Ground.”

The organization Regenerative International states online: “The key to regenerative agriculture is that it not only ‘does no harm’ to the land but actually improves it, using technologies that regenerate and revitalize the soil and the environment. Regenerative agriculture leads to healthy soil, capable of producing high quality, nutrient dense food while simultaneously improving, rather than degrading land, and ultimately leads to productive farms and healthy communities and economies. It is dynamic and holistic, incorporating permaculture and organic farming practices, including conservation tillage, cover crops, crop rotation, composting, mobile animal shelters and pasture cropping, to increase food production, farmers’ income and especially, topsoil.”

But I never understood (and I sure have done a lot of journalism on environmental issues) what regenerative agriculture was until seeing “Common Ground” and viewing how many farms have now turned to it, and hearing many farmers extol this system. It was directed by Josh Tickell and Rebecca Tickell and also features appearances by environmentally-committed actors, including Woody Harrelson, Rosario Dawson and Laura Dern.

Seeing “Common Ground” was indeed a “life-changing experience” — learning how agriculture can work with nature instead of against it and how this is being done, widely and successfully. The documentary has received awards including Best Human/Human Nature Film at last year’s TriBeca Film Festival, where it premiered.

Preceding the showing of “Common Ground,” Jacqui Lofaro, founder and executive director of Hamptons Doc Fest, interviewed Kate Plumb of Sag Harbor, long a food activist, who runs the Sag Harbor and East Hampton Farmers Markets and co-founded the East End Community Organic Farm.

Close to home, too, the next day Scott Chaskey, also of Sag Harbor, spoke eloquently, as always. A farmer, poet and educator, he is the author of “Soil and Spirit: Cultivation and Kinship in the Web of Life,” and “Seedtime: On the History, Husbandry, Politics and Promise of Seeds,” as well as “This Common Ground: Seasons on an Organic Farm.” Chaskey is a pioneer in the Community Supported Agriculture movement and for 30 years cultivated more than 60 crops organically at Quail Hill Farm in Amagansett.

On that last day, too, “The Soul of a Farmer” was screened. Directed, produced and edited by Roger Sherman, it’s about Patty Gentry, a former chef who now operates the Early Girl Farm, growing food on 28 acres in Brookhaven owned by actress Isabella Rossellini.

“Patty is the Picasso of vegetables,” says Rossellini in the documentary. It shows the commitment of Gentry and Rossellini to healthy food. The earnest and colorful Gentry was interviewed by Jackie Leopold, associate director of Hamptons Doc Fest.

Also on the last day, the documentary “Kelp,” directed by Anna Roberts and Caylon Mantia, was shown. It vividly depicts the increasing harvesting of kelp from the seas.