July 2022, Cornwall: The Lost Gardens of Heligan were delighted to host the UK pre-premiere of director Peter Byck’s new documentary on Sunday. “Roots So Deep (you can see the devil down there)” is a four-part series in which Byck explores the themes of soil, farming, climate, food and our relationship with the land.
Alasdair Moore, Head of Estates at Heligan, said during the event, “All of us are here today because we share something. We share an understanding of the critical importance of these themes. They are our future. At the heart of all of this, at the core of this shared bond, is soil. “
The documentary enquires whether a novel way of grazing cattle, that mimics the way bison once roamed the land, can help get farmers out of debt, restore depleted soils, rebuild wildlife habitat and draw down huge amounts of carbon.
Byck said, “I became aware of climate change in 2006 and immediately wanted to know whether there were solutions. Many modern agricultural practices damage soil and release stored carbon, but evidence suggests that alternative regenerative agriculture practices, can sequester carbon.
“Cattle have been seen as eco-villains for a long time. What if they can help save us from catastrophic climate change?”
The documentary shows Peter Byck meeting farmers on both sides of the fence – the farmers practicing a new way to graze, and their neighbours set in their family’s old style of doing things. The director’s team of scientists measure what is happening, and explore if this new, adaptive grazing could help slow down climate change.
The afternoon’s series of screenings took place in Heligan’s Barn and Conservatory spaces, respectively, with each episode interspersed with a dish from a five-course seasonal tasting menu created by chef Nat Tallents. Heligan co-founder Tim Smit and director Peter Byck rounded off the evening with an extended, and animated Q&A.
The dishes showcased the finest homegrown produce and rare breed meats from the Heligan Estate.
With a distance of just 157 yards from soil to plate, ingredients on the menu, included hay which featured in both the gin cocktail served on arrival, and the dessert, which also cleverly incorporated ‘soil’ as a nod to the documentary’s key theme. A celebration of Heligan beef, using an array of cuts including fillet, skirt, tongue and tail, accompanied with chard and broad beans, was presented as a main course. The first Heligan pineapple of the season played a starring role, alongside pig cheek and crackling as an amuse, as well as a key ingredient in a rum cocktail served during the latter part of the event.
Moore continued, “For the past thirty years, Heligan’s mantra has been the restoration of the lost: a lost garden; a lost variety of pea; a lost breed of sheep; a lost sense of connection with nature…understanding the past and looking to the future. It is Heligan’s restorative and regenerative pulse that makes it such a fitting venue for this pre-premiere screening of “Roots So Deep”. Heligan is common ground, somewhere for folk to come together, a place for shared purpose. Sunday was about Peter’s wonderful film but it was also about the future, our common ground. Let it be a celebration of this and the first of many gatherings to come.”
“Roots So Deep (you can see the devil down there)” is to be released in late 2022. For further information, please visit: www.carboncowboys.org
Notes for Editors:
The pre-premiere of “Roots So Deep (you can see the devil down there)” took place at The Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall on Sunday 10 July.
The event included a screening of the four-part series, a five course tasting menu by Chef Nat Tallents and a Q&A between director Peter Byck and Heligan co-founder Tim Smit.
Roots so Deep
Peter Byck is a Professor of Practice in the School of Sustainabikluty at Arizona State University. He has over three decades’ experience as a director, producer and editor. His first documentary, “Garbage,” won the South by Southwest Film Festival, and screened and played widely across the US. He is the director, producer and writer of award-winning documentary “carbon nation.”
In 2020, Byck completed Carbon Cowboys, a 10-part documentary short film series, focused on regenerative grazing. The entire process was filmed along the way, and “Roots So Deep” is the end product; a 4-part documentary series, telling the stories of the adaptive multi-paddock (AMP) grazing research project’s scientists and farmers. The project examined whether cattle grazing can be a benefit to the environment, if done differently from the modern-day, harmful, conventional agriculture practices. The science team compares conventional grazing and AMP grazing to see if the latter turns farming into a benefit for the land, the animals, and the farmers, and a carbon mitigation tool for climate change. The core of the series are the endearing, engaging and stereotype-breaking profiles of American farmers from Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi.
Byck said, “I became aware of climate change in 2006 and immediately wanted to know whether there were solutions. Many modern agricultural practices damage soil and release stored carbon, but evidence suggests that alternative regenerative agriculture practices, can sequester carbon. I came to learn of ranchers practicing a method called adaptive multi-paddock” (AMP) grazing, that involves using small- sized paddocks to provide short duration, heavy impact grazing for cows, and long recovery and rest periods for fields after the animals grazed it. The method mimics the migrations of wild herd animals, such as elk, bison and deer. Anecdotal evidence suggested these ranchers were improving their soils exponentially and limited studies showed they were also capturing significant amounts of carbon.
“I was captivated by these stories and started filming the “Carbon Cowboys” web series – 10 short films on ranchers practicing AMP grazing. Along the way I met scientists working on regenerative ag. We put together a team to study AMP grazing in across-the-fence-line comparisons with conventional farmers. We were fortunate to meet and work with 10 amazing farmers and their families during the research project. We filmed the entire process along the way. “Roots So Deep” is the end product; a 4-part documentary series, telling the stories of the adaptive multi-paddock (AMP) grazing research project’s scientists and farmers. “
The Lost Gardens of Heligan were rediscovered from the brambles of time by Tim Smit and John Willis, who were the catalysts for a 30 year project that continues to this day. Heligan remains one of the most loved and romantic gardens in the UK, appreciated as much for its beauty and mystery as for the ground breaking restoration project.
Over 200 acres are now a paradise for the explorer, wildlife, plant lover and garden romantic. Victorian Productive Gardens and Pleasure Grounds beckon, along winding paths laid out over two centuries ago. The Jungle takes you on a sub-tropical journey through bamboo tunnels and under majestic tree ferns, giant rhubarb, and bananas whilst the estate reveals a lost world of traditional and rare breeds, wildlife and ancient woodlands.
Heligan is a garden for all seasons, so whether you plan to visit in the hazy buzz of mid-summer, or the tranquillity of winter, you are guaranteed a unique experience.
The Lost Gardens of Heligan is a member of The Great Gardens of Cornwall, a group of the finest Cornwall gardens. Open 364 days a year, pre-booking is essential at this time.
Diana Massey & Charlotte Allen
The Massey Partnership
Tel +44 7939584215