Documentary Seeks to Inspire Next Generation of Farmers to GROW!
August 23, 2011 | Marissa Lee
Christine Anthony and Owen Masterson want to inspire young men and women to consider sustainable farming as a career. To do so, the couple produced and directed a 50-minute documentary entitled GROW! that follows 20 young sustainable farmers on 12 farms in Georgia as they doggedly pursue careers in agriculture despite challenges related to land ownership and lack of farming experience.
“We need more farmers,” Anthony said. “We felt that by showcasing and highlighting some people that were doing it successfully, other people would be able to explore the idea of farming.”
Getting to GROW!
When Christine Anthony and Owen Masterson moved from California to Atlanta, Georgia in 2005, they found a dearth of farmers markets.
“The bottom line is we’re foodies and we like to eat well,” Anthony said.
To invigorate the local food scene and promote local farmers, Anthony and Masterson decided to offer their photographic talents pro bono to Georgia Organics, a nonprofit that supports sustainable agriculture and local foods. Rather than taking the traditional route and featuring vegetables as the stars of Georgia Organics brochures and pamphlets, the two decided instead to take a new tack and photograph the actual farmers responsible for producing the vegetables.
“Our idea was to photograph the farmers to help put a face on farming and make farmers into rock stars,” Anthony explained.
Through their photographic efforts and involvement with the local food movement, Anthony and Masterson developed relationships with a number of young farmers who are working in Georgia to find solutions to fix a broken food system, preserve farmland and farm more sustainably. The two photographers also became acutely aware of the aging of the existing farmer population.
To give these young farmers a greater voice and inspire other young men and women to pursue careers in farming, Anthony and Masterson filmed the documentary GROW!
“What really got the ball rolling for us was the desire to make a solutions-based film,” said the filmmakers via email. “In the last few years there have been a number of documentaries that do a lot of finger wagging largely done by scientific experts, food activists and opinion makers. While those types of films are necessary to alert people of the problems, after watching so many of those we just started getting depressed.”
A solution to the land issue
In the film, Ross Williams of Manyfold Farm points out “the biggest hurdle for anyone I know in farming is land.” As many young people interested in becoming farmers typically do not have enough money to purchase land outright, GROW! seeks to show that you don’t have to own land to farm. For example, Cory Mosser of Burge Organic Farm tackles this problem by becoming a farm manager while Arianne McGinnis and Elliott McGann of Hope Grows Farm rent land.
“Of the 12 farms in the film, four are managed, two are on traditional family land, two are renting or leasing, three are borrowing land and only one farm is owned, and that is in partnership with their parents,” explained Anthony and Masterson. “Our hope is that people with land and financial resources will offer opportunities to new growers.”
GROW! also seeks to demonstrate how aspiring young farmers, who do not come from traditional farming backgrounds, can learn how to farm. Darby McCrea Weaver and Elliot Smith of Sun Dog Farm learned through apprenticeships. Arrangements where younger farmers work for and learn from experienced veterans are a “win win for everybody,” Anthony noted. Other farmers jump right in with no previous experience and learn by trial and error.
“There was no clear path to how we were going to make a living, how is this all going to work. We’re young, so we just said: ‘we’re going to make one thing work, then we’re going to make another thing work,’” Elliott McGann of Hope Grows Farm said in the documentary.
Getting consumers on board
According to Anthony and Masterson, “another goal of the film is to persuade people to think about the food that they eat, where it comes from, and who is growing it.”
“There is a popular adage in the Slow Food Movement to ‘Vote with your Fork.’ Yes you can, and that’s important,” said the filmmakers. “But people also need to be aware that there are many laws on the books that are discriminatory to the small sustainable producer.”
To that end, the filmmakers have been sending the film out to various politicians in Georgia and other states to raise awareness and hopefully influence policy.
A belief in sustainable agriculture
Anthony explained that filming GROW! did not change her and Masterson’s values, but confirmed their belief in the importance of sustainable agriculture.
She also noted that she has seen a rise in the number of young farmers in Georgia in the last two years.
“These kids are the future,” she said.
GROW! Movie Trailer
Host a screening of GROW!
Colleges, universities, Slow Food Chapters, government organizations and others across the country have screened GROW! For more information on how to host a screening click on the following link: http://growscreening.blogspot.com/
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