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Farmland: Finally a Positive Movie about the Food Industry

Well, it’s about time the entertainment industry made a movie that presents the honest facts about where our food comes from! I am sick and tired of hearing about biased, negative productions like Food Inc. and Fed Up. Those movies do not provide us with an accurate representation of our food system, and it is not fair to leave consumers thinking that our food is being produced in inhumane manners, by people who do not care about us. Farmers DO care about us. They care about us more than anyone I know. It takes a ridiculously special person to be a farmer! And Farmland shows this. Farmland shows us REAL farming. It’s not a bunch of biased misconceptions that you see on television or read about in the news.

A documentary film created by Academy Award-winning filmmaker James Moll, Farmland presents the TRUTHS about farming. The good, the bad and even the ugly. Moll follows the lives of six young farmers and ranchers involved in diverse areas of agriculture, all under the age of 30.

Here are the featured farmers’ biographies, as from the Farmland website (www.farmlandfilm.com):

  • Leighton Cooley- A fourth generation poultry farmer, operates four farms in Georgia with his father. In addition to chickens, he also has a cow-calf operation and grows hay. Leighton and his wife have two sons.
  • Brad Bellah- A sixth generation cattle rancher, runs beef and cattle operations in Texas and Colorado, including a natural beef herd. The 26-year old husband and father of a twin son and daughter earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications from Texas Tech University. 
  • David Loberg- A fifth generation corn and soybean farmer in Nebraska, runs the family farm with his mother. The farm also custom feeds 500 head of cows for a local dairy operation and runs and irrigation business. The 25-year old and his wife have an infant son.
  • Sutton Morgan- A fourth generation farmer from California, grows, packs and sells onions and potatoes, and also grows melons, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower,  lettuces, chard, kale and alfalfa. Sutton holds a degree in business economics from the University of California, Santa Barbara.
  • Margaret Schlass- A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) vegetable farmers based in Pennsylvania, farms on 18 acres with her two farms. During her senior year at the University of Delaware, Margaret studied abroad in peru, worked the fields harvesting corn and yucca, which introduced her to farming.
  • Ryan Veldhuizen- A fourth generation farmer, is taking over the operation of his family’s hog farm in Minnesota with his brother and sister. The farm grows hogs, corn and soybeans, which they use for feed.

The story of the film is told entirely by the individual farmers and their families. There isn’t a narrator for even a single line of the film. I am grateful that I had the opportunity to attend the debut private screening of Farmland last March at the Ronald Reagan Ampitheater in Washington, D.C. I had been looking forward to seeing this movie for a good year, so naturally I was bouncing off the walls the entire time when I was invited to tag along with my coworkers. Some pretty awesome leaders in the agricultural community were present including U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kysta Harden, U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance CEO Randy Krotz and American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman.

Vilsack kicked off the premier by sharing some celebratory words about the state of the United States food industry. He mentioned that food is less expensive in the United States than it is anywhere else in the world. That is really special! Americans everywhere are able to accomplish their dreams because farmers are out in the fields, working hard, each and every day to produce our food for us.

I can tell you firsthand that this movie is different than other farming movies you may have seen in the past. It is a factual, honest and heartwarming depiction of what farming is all about. It will make you laugh. And it will make you cry… In fact, I balled like a baby at least four times.

It shows their struggles- whether that be poor weather conditions, broken equipment, people that don’t believe in them, negative attention from consumers and the media, or deaths in the family. It also shows how much farming means to each and every one of them. Farmers are farmers because they love what they do. They love their land, they love their animals and they love supporting their country. Farmers are people just like us. They have families, and sometimes they even “shop at J. Crew” and “drink too many Coors lights,” according to Bellah. In fact, 97% of farmers are family farmers. However, when many people visualize farming, they think that there’s traditional farming with a few cows running around outside in the grass or they think of “factory farming,” but they don’t think of anything in between. Yes, farming does look very different than it did in the 1950’s. The number of farms is decreasing and the size of farms is increasing. But there are many legitimate reasons for this, as you will see in the film. Farms are more sustainable and efficient, and food is being sold at a more affordable rate than it was years ago. Farmers have tools- technologies developed by science- to help them provide for our country. Watch this film and you will begin to understand.

As a girl who grew up surrounded by farmers in Wisconsin, I learned firsthand where my food comes from. But I realize that not everyone has easy access to farms like I did. I was blessed. And I am now blessed enough to be pursuing a career within agriculture, a field that I believe is the most loving, supportive and rewarding, and also instills the strongest work ethic among those involved. Did you know that today’s society is an average of three generations removed from the farm? That means that one in three people probably hasn’t even stepped foot on a farm. They haven’t petted a cow. They haven’t smelled the fresh cut hay. They haven’t used a pitch fork. A few days ago, a woman told me that she grew up in New York City and didn’t realize that “miles of just corn fields” existed until she ventured on out to the Midwest for a summer school program. For those growing up on farms, the average number of young people going back to their farms is decreasing. And the recent U.S. Census results indicate that the average age of a farmer is 58 years, and this number is rising. What is going to happen to the future of our food industry? Who is going to feed us? We need more young people to get involved in agriculture.

Most people acquire the knowledge that they have about agriculture from the media, and unfortunately the media often inaccurately presents the industry in an extremely negative light. As a result, there is a tremendous disconnect between the farming community and consumers. Yet, consumers have a strong desire to know where their food comes from and how it is produced. And the best way to help people understand where their food actually comes from is by showing them! It has never been more important than it is now for farmers to share their story by letting the public into their lives and showing them what they do every single day to produce safe, abundant and affordable food for our families. Farmland is a great way for farmers to spark this conversation with consumers. As Veldhuizen says in the film, “We aren’t hiding anything. But want do you want to know?” Farmers want you to be engaged!

A few of the featured young farmers attended the D.C. film premier, and afterwards they participated in a panel to discuss the movie with the audience. It was really wonderful seeing the farmers in person and hearing them talk about their experience with the creation of the film, and more importantly their everyday lives on the farm. When asked why he agreed to be filmed for the movie, Cooley declared that he grew up on a farm and established a love for agriculture. Farming captivated him and he has always been very passionate about it. He mentioned that farms are under attack, and participating in the film was an opportunity for him to get rid of misconceptions about farming. He wanted to ensure Americans that their food is safe. Bellah had a great answer as well. He stated that he did an internship in Washington, D.C. during college, and while he was there he realized that many people are clueless about agriculture and have no idea where their food comes from. Everyone had questions for him and he was anxious to answer them. This film is Bellah’s opportunity to link consumers to producers. (Also, I would just like to point out that Bellah wore fabulous cowboy boots to the movie premier. Yes, I noticed them).

Moll learned a thing or two about farming as well. “For everything I learned, there are ten more things I could learn. I hope that it prompts dialogue, discussions and questions” about the food industry. When asked about how filming this movie affected his food-buying decisions, Moll replied that he grew up in Los Angeles and purchased or avoided foods based on what he saw on Facebook. He has much stronger confidence in where his food comes from now.

Farmland will be released in public theaters across the country on May 1st. That’s just a few days from now, folks. Check out http://www.farmlandfilm.com for more details and to watch the trailer! I highly recommend that each and every person who cares about where their food comes from watches this movie.

Or as Cooley said at the D.C. screening: “If you eat, then this movie is for you.”

Farmland is about farmers coming together, no matter what type of farm they operate, and helping consumers to gain confidence about where their food comes from.

A plus film, James Moll. A plus.

-MollsyMoo

Meeting U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack at the Washington, D.C. screening of Farmland. Photo by John Harrington Photography.

Meeting U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack at the Washington, D.C. screening of Farmland. Photo by John Harrington Photography.

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