This week I had the privilege of participating in a private screening of the documentary "Farmland," highly anticipated among farm families across the U.S. and set for release at the beginning of May. Most farmers are aware consumers have questions about how their food is produced. The goal of the film, produced and directed by Academy Award winner James Moll, is to address these questions.
So, it made perfect sense the screening, hosted by Kansas Farm Food Connection, took place in Overland Park, the largest suburb of the Kansas City metropolitan area and the second largest city in the state of Kansas. "The movie you're about to see in a few minutes is an attempt to tell consumers about our production," Steve Baccus told the audience of over 250 consumers and producers on Tuesday night.
According to Baccus, Ottawa County farmer and president of Kansas Farm Bureau, one of the organizations that make up Kansas Farm Food Connection, consumers are becoming more interested in getting their information straight from the farmer. "At the same time, producers have gotten away from the idea that what we say should be taken as gospel. The consumer wants transparency, they want to know how you're producing food," Baccus says. "And I think our folks have come a long way in talking to the consumer about how they're doing it in a way that creates a safe, affordable product."
A strong message
I'll try not to give away any spoilers. The film follows six farmers in different parts of the U.S. with different operations, from beef, pork, and poultry, to corn and soybeans, to organic produce. It takes a personal approach, addressing consumer concerns about how food is produced, including the ongoing conventional versus organic discussion from the standpoints of all six producers.
It also describes challenges facing farmers, especially young farmers, like accessing land, succession planning, and high input costs. "When you stop and realize land in Kansas runs between $4,000 and $5,000 an acre, and when you get into Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana, you can buy land for $15,000 an acre, and couple that with the cost of seed, you can invest a lot of money in one acre," Baccus says. "Whether or not you harvest anything from that acre is dependent on Mother Nature."
A big part of the message is debunking the myth of the "corporate farmer" as well as the image of the simple, 1940s farmer in bib overalls. The reality, the film's subjects demonstrate, is a generation of educated, tech-savvy farmers, who see farming as not only a lifestyle, but a business. "We're trying to do things like this to show the American public that agriculture does have a face, and that face is the American farmer," Baccus says. "I think [Tuesday] night we got a lot closer to getting people to realize that 98% of this country is still family farmed."
Join the Farm Futures marketing team of Bryce Knorr and Bob Burgdorfer April 7th for a free Farm Progress webinar, "How USDA Report Will Impact Crop Prices—And Your Bottom Line." Anyone interested is encouraged to tune-in. More information is available here.