This week I sat down with another recent addition to the Branchfood space: Eliza Wentworth, a multimedia producer whose work and interests lie in and around the world of food and craftsmanship—or, as she would describe it, the world of makers.
In an age where digital media pervades—or, perhaps, invades—our daily lives, I was interested in hearing not only what Wentworth thinks digital media is capable of in the present day, but what it will be used for in the future. She works primarily on projects in the food and biotech space, and as a multimedia producer at Unagency, she helps new brands develop their image. Her previous work included production for PR and digital media & events companies, and work in naturopathy and law. She now works on video production for Branchfood events, biotech presentation materials, and something she refers to as “the project”—an interactive online magazine that would focus on nonprofits and bring together the makers and artists of Boston, featuring farms, farmer’s markets, and local historical sites.
Wentworth is a big proponent of the local food movement. She believes in challenging traditional food production and distribution methods, and sees our food system as disrupted by crop-growing practices infringing upon organic production. She is concerned with diminishing food variety, a decline in the focus on heirloom varietals, and a devolution of seeds as a result of genetic engineering. I asked her how multimedia lets her explore these complex and controversial issues. “Tech can be disruptive and confusing. It can lead us astray." Headlines are designed to shock us, so we have to think about who is making money or gaining influence from the news we read.
Wentworth wants to see us finding ways to become more sustainable food citizens who take control over our digital communications in a fruitful way. One example of this is a farmer who has a certain crop available at a certain time of year (or on the flip side has an insufficient amount of something; Wentworth cites the lack of stone fruit in 2016). This farmer could use digital media resources to get the word out about product quantity and distribution. But nutrition media is more difficult. It’s hard to test our own food, and we’re often at the mercy of other people’s words. Bad information proliferates to sell trendy food items. I asked Wentworth what, then, we can trust. She said, turn to resources with carefully cited literature, like The China Study (by T. Colin Campbell). Dig through the science yourself before you repost something. At the end of the day, there is much about nutrition that even scientists do not understand, so we have to be remain questioning of what we see and read.
Given Wentworth’s work with Branchfood, I wanted to know what tips she might have for food brands that want to produce high-quality digital media (in the absence of a full time media staff). She advised: “Don’t be afraid to try things on your own. Grab your iPhone and try filming something yourself.” This, she says, gives brands an immediate sense of what they want and how difficult it might be to achieve. Doing so will also generate ideas and preliminary steps to give a potential media team later on. There is a need to encourage multimedia training and empowering people to take control of their messaging, to ensure their budget and time are being put toward good goals and specific outcomes.
Finally, I asked Wentworth what she thinks the intersection of food and media will be like in the future. She gave me some thoughtful what ifs: What if 3D printers and mail order delivered and made your meals? What if all of your food was purchased and paid for via trades or blockchain? (Blockchain is a database that logs online bitcoin transactions.) We’re seeing a shift in the tools people interact with daily, and what they find essential. And we’re moving toward a world where fewer middlemen stand between us and our food.