TOPPLING GOLIATH is the Lexicon of Sustainability’s first in a series of projects that explore the unlikely heroes who battle against seemingly unsurmountable odds to create a more equitable, sustainable, and regenerative food system. Our work in Mals is made possible with support from Turn 21, the Brunnenburg Agricultural Museum and Green Mountain College.

our TEAM in MALS

Beginning in 2014, Douglas Gayeton, Philip Ackerman-Leist, Michael de Rachewiltz and Pier Giorgio Provenzano began capturing the dramatic story of how Mals, a small community in the Italian Alps, became the first town in the world to ban all pesticides. From a grassroots campaign of accidental activists to a ground-breaking public referendum and subsequent ordinances, the citizens of Mals used the precautionary principle, direct democracy, and collective action to become an international model for pesticide-free communities.

In color, from left: Douglas Gayeton, Pier Giorgio Provenzano, Philip Ackerman-Leist, and Michael de Rachewiltz. 

Douglas Gayeton is an information architect, filmmaker, photographer and writer. He has created award-winning work at the boundaries of traditional and converging media since the early 90’s. He directed the KNOW YOUR FOOD series for PBS and GROWING ORGANIC for USDA, and has authored two books: SLOW: Life in a Tuscan Town, and LOCAL: The New Face of Food & Farming in America.

Philip Ackerman-Leist is Professor of Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems at Green Mountain College. He is the author of A Precautionary Tale: How One Small Town Banned Pesticides, Preserved its Food Heritage, and Inspired a MovementRebuilding the Foodshed: How to Create Local, Sustainable, and Secure Food Systems and Up Tunket Road: The Education of a Modern Homesteader.

Michael de Rachewiltz directs the Brunnenburg Agricultural Museum & International Study Center, a museum dedicated to South Tirolean agriculture and foodways. A native South Tirolean, Michael teaches for several US universities at the castle’s study center. He is also an avid mountaineer who explores the trails and traditions of the entire Upper Vinschgau valley.

Pier Giorgio Provenzano is the Lexicon’s animator and video editor. Based near Bristol, England, his projects include a short film series for PBS, music videos for Napster, a feature-length documentary for HBO, several animated shorts for Warner Brothers and Toyota, and GrowEatGather, which showcases British farmers and their role in producing good sustainable food.


our partners

Turn21 is a group of committed and concerned citizens of the planet dedicated to preserving the only world we have, here in the 21st Century.  Our goal is to educate, inform, and exponentially grow in number those individuals who share this vision in order that we may take action to save the planet faster. We must stop acting like children, and start preserving and restoring a sustainable quality of life for future generations.  As our name implies, it is time for us to grow up into adulthood.

For more than 20 years, Green Mountain College has focused on environmental, social and economic sustainability. Its curriculum is rated #1 in the nation, and they’ve been recognized for their leadership in sustainability more than any other college in the country. Their faculty are leaders in their fields, with proven success teaching and mentoring GMC students to take on the great challenges of these times.

Brunnenburg (Castel Fountain), built in the 13th century, was destroyed and rebuilt several times throughout its history. In 1958 it became the residence of American poet Ezra Pound. In 1974, Brunnenburg was chosen as seat of the region’s agricultural museum, which deals with issues such as the ethnology, ethnography and folk art. With the aid of photographic documentations and movies, the museum demonstrates various working processes used in the region’s agriculture and crafts.

other toppling goliath stories

Des Moines Waterworks is entrusted to deliver clean drinking water to nearly half a million people in Iowa’s largest city. Agricultural runoff (pesticide and fertilizer wastes) from upstream counties have seriously degraded the state’s drinking water and forced DMWW to install the world’s largest nitrate removal facility. Can they get Big Ag to change its farming practices? Read more >

Certified organic growers forgo the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and are NON-GMO. Can this movement get a foothold in the US, and shift agricultural practices? Read more >

What happens when a small Arkansas town nestled in the Ozark Mountains discovers that a hog CAFO (concentrated animal feed operation) has suddenly appeared in their midst. What actions can they take to protect their community, included their treasured Buffalo River, from contamination, and halt the spread of industrial animal agriculture in their state? Read more >