Lights, Camera, Agriculture in Farmland Documentary
A growing number of people want to know more about where their food comes from. At the same time, most people are several generations removed from farming – and many haven’t even visited a farm, which makes it difficult to connect the food we eat with the people who grow it.
Oscar-winning filmmaker James Moll hopes to shed some light on those farmers and ranchers through his new documentary, Farmland.
“This film isn’t just about what it’s like to be a farmer – it’s about a way of life,” he says. “It’s also about a subject that affects our lives daily.”
Moll met with farmers and ranchers across the nation over a five-month period before narrowing it down to six. Though the average age of the U.S. farmer has risen to 58.3 years old, Moll wanted to feature those in their 20s to tell the story of the next generation of farmers. He carefully chose farmers and ranchers who represent different types of crops and livestock, diverse production methods and various locations around the country.
“With every new documentary, it’s always a thrill to explore topics and meet people that I might not otherwise cross paths with,” says Moll, who won a Grammy for his documentary on the rock band Foo Fighters and an Academy Award for his Holocaust documentary The Last Days. “While making Farmland, I found myself immersed in a community of some of the most hardworking, passionate people I’ve ever met.”
One of the subjects is Ryan Veldhuizen, a fourth-generation farmer in Minnesota. Veldhuizen and his siblings are taking over their family’s hog farm, where they also grow corn and soybeans to feed their pigs.
Through Veldhuizen and the other farmers, moviegoers will learn more about the time and effort spent raising the nation’s food while experiencing the ups and downs that go along with farming. “It’s a very real concern that you lose everything,” Veldhuizen says.
“It’s high-risk, high-reward,” agrees Sutton Morgan, a California vegetable grower, packer and seller also profiled in the film.
Other featured farmers and ranchers include Leighton Cooley, who raises poultry, cattle and hay in Georgia; Margaret Schlass, who grows 18 acres of vegetables for a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program in Pennsylvania; Brad Bellah, who runs cattle ranches in Texas and Colorado; and David Loberg, who farms corn and soybeans, feeds dairy cows and runs an irrigation business in Nebraska.
Despite the hard work required and challenges faced, those featured in the documentary wouldn’t have it any other way. “It’s what I do,” Veldhuizen says. “It’s what I love.”
The film also covers how agricultural technology has evolved over the years. These young farmers and ranchers use more advanced equipment than the generations before them not only to increase efficiency, but also to benefit their animals and the environment.
The film opened in May 2014 and completed its theatrical run in July. The U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance says they’ll soon announce nontheatrical events, such as college and high school screenings.
“The phenomenal success of Farmland on the big screen shows that consumers want to know more about the people growing and raising their food,” says Randy Krotz, chief executive officer at USFRA. “Further distribution plans are underway to bring Farmland to millions of Americans, introducing them to the next generation of modern agriculture.”
Today the film is available through digital platforms, and the DVD can be purchased at select Walmart retail stores and Amazon.com and rented via Netflix. Learn more about the movie at farmlandfilm.com.
– Jessy Yancey