Last night, my farmer husband and I had a date! It had been over three years since we last went to the movies – so this was a treat! Even more special, we were going to see the new film, Farmland, at the Spectrum theatre in Albany. I’ve been excited to see the film since it was first mentioned and heard great reviews, but was anxious to see it for myself.
Would the movie accurately portray farmers and our feelings? There are so many misconstrued images out there of farmers these days that I was nervous the movie wouldn’t do us justice. There are so many questions about modern day production agriculture. Would the film be able to address them all in a way that is truthful and forthright, while not getting too technical or political and bore the viewers? Even with these questions, I had high expectations for the film, as it was directed by the Emmy and Academy award winning, James Moll, so I was really hoping for something that tugged at my heartstrings a little and made consumers think twice about farmers.
In preparation for our “big night out”, my husband left the farm a little early (one plus to a family business is there are brothers to hold down the fort) and he took a nap to be sure to stay awake for the entire film, which was a concise hour and 15 minutes long. We kissed the kids good-bye when the babysitter arrived and we were off!
When we got there, we met other young farmers from around the area. We got some popcorn and a Coke (I wasn’t going to take any chances of my farmer falling asleep) and headed in. The theatre was fairly full, so we picked our seats up towards the front.
The movie wasted no time getting started, jumping right in with a young farmer and his mom checking for seed germination in a field, something my husband does every spring after we plant corn (which we should be doing right about now if only the weather would cooperate). The farm images and sounds were so impressive on the big screen. You could sense the worry in their voice as they bantered back and fourth about their limited success, and I was immediately hooked.
The six farmers chosen for the film could have been any one of us from Washington County, New York. Their character, integrity, dedication, optimism, family values, heritage, work ethic, determination, frustrations, passion were, dare I say, stereotypical of my husband and any of our farmer friends.
My husband and I both related to Leighton Cooley, the poultry farmer from Georgia, the most. While all the farmers had a positive attitude, which is an absolute must if you’re going be a farmer, Leighton was just a little bit more laid back and was in a similar situation as my husband, where his family farm has grown and evolved over the years. Leighton said something to the effect that everything used to be hand labor and therefore the previous generation could only handle one poultry house; today with mechanization, we can handle multiple barns and still provide the best care for our livestock.
My husband and Leighton are both 4th generation farmers. They both learned from their dad, who learned from their granddad. Lessons in not only running the business, but caring for animals is not something that is taught, but is something you learn by watching and working alongside animals your entire life. A comparison was made to raising your own kids. As parents, we can quickly learn the difference between an “I’m hurt cry,” an “I’m tired cry, ” and “I’m hungry cry.”
On that same topic of animal care, the cattle rancher from Texas, Brad Bellah, said,
“Even though my cows don’t lie at the foot of my bed, I still know them as well as my house dog.”
I loved that quote and could totally relate – even with our 650 cows.
Overall, I thought the movie was very well done. I laughed, I cried, I nodded in agreement, I reminisced and I felt like standing up and cheering at the end. Farmland was a great representation of the spirit of young farmers – eternally optimistic, yet exhausted and overwhelmed at times.
I appreciated the producers sharing the farmers’ insight on several issues that taunt our industry today – GMOs, the use of technology, public perception, animal welfare, food labels and organic production. They didn’t spend a ton of time on these issues and didn’t push a definitive answer onto its viewers either – I liked that. I do wish they had included labor on that list. It was an issue that I thought was blatantly missing and is probably the number one issue facing farms of any commodity today.
And if I were to get super picky (and selfish), I really wish they had picked a dairy farmer to feature. Dairy farms are so vitally important to rural America, as well as the daily nutrition of the general population. No other commodity plays such a vital role in a healthy diet as milk. So there is some room for improvement – or maybe a sequel?
I just love that there was such an honest depiction of young farmers captured and produced into a beautiful film that can be shared with consumers around the world. It also confirms what I have known, but what so many people don’t know – and that is that “We’re normal!” Farmers are just like everyone else – we care, we worry, we work, we live, we raise families – we just want to do the right thing.
So at the end of the night and as one of the farmers said, “It’s a blessing to have a family farm to come home to.” Amen to that. We are blessed as farmers for sure. And we were blessed to have a fun date night, off the farm, without the kids.
If you haven’t seen the movie yet, check out the trailer here and be sure to visit their website that includes a listing of cities and theaters near you. Whether you are a farmer or not, I encourage you to take the time to watch it.