let's talk farm animals

Start-up farms featured in To Make A Farm

 

By Lisa McLean, Agricultural communicator

What happens when you take a handful of city dwellers, drop them on rural land and leave them to make money farming? A new feature documentary about food and farming has done just that.

To Make a Farm chronicles a year in the life of five new young Canadian organic farmers, all who chose farming as a career, but have no personal ties or previous experience in the occupation. The movie was filmed during 2010, and features three new farms; four of the farmers are based in rural Ontario, and the fifth is in the prairies.

What’s heart-warming about this movie is the enthusiasm each farmer has for developing a stronger personal relationship with the land, and their ability to grow food on it. The stress of needing to get crops in the ground when rain shows no sign of letting up, the pleasure of seeing a plant begin to sprout, and the pride of harvesting food for others to eat are all essential components of the emotional journey made even more impactful through the eyes of people who are doing it for the first time.

The farmers who keep livestock in the film have a unique relationship with their animals. Chickens, sheep, and hogs are small in numbers, and at one point in the film a farmer takes a moment to roll on the ground and pet several hogs, with affection many people reserve for family pets.

This film represents a new wave of food appreciation that is sweeping farmers’ markets and grassroots movements across the country. There’s a contingent of individuals that have the desire and motivation to change the way they interact with the conventional food system. They’re turning to Community Supported Agriculture programs, urban gardening, and investing in the propagation of heirloom plant and animal varieties that are rarely used by conventional agricultural systems for one reason or another. It’s a back-to-basics attitude around food and farming, and – for those who can afford the time and money to invest – it’s an admirable approach.

 

While the film ends on an optimistic note, the challenges of managing the elements, rural isolation, and working within the parameters of organic agriculture provide a good reality check for outsiders looking in. If there’s anything unfortunate about this movie, it’s that the representations – positive and negative – are too closely characterized as challenges that are unique to young organic farmers.

We are fortunate in Canada to have access to a variety of safe, quality foods produced in a variety of ways. Each production method has its unique challenges and opportunities, and personally, I give a little cheer when a farmer – any farmer – can make a sustainable income doing what they do. I wish this film did more to recognize the obstacles and celebrations common to most farmers. Certainly weather, environmental commitment, and market opportunities are the subject of coffee shop talk in any Canadian farming community. I also wish this film did more to encourage consumers to dig deeper about why all farmers make the production choices they do.

While less than 2% of Canadian farms are certified organic, about 98% of Canadian farms are family owned and operated. There’s a lot to celebrate in agriculture. And while I suggest the filmmaker would be hard-pressed to locate a larger-scale hog farmer who plays in the dirt with pigs, I would never doubt that farmer’s commitment to the well-being of his or her animals. Farmers of all stripes demonstrate their family’s commitment to their land and animals every day. Those stories deserve to be told as well.

To learn more about To Make A Farm, visit www.tomakeafarm.ca

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Posted by FFC on March 26th, 2012 :: Filed under Farm life,Organics,Uncategorized
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