Inside six farms: Carolina Theatre to screen ‘Farmland’

Jun. 10, 2014 @ 11:45 AM

“Farmland,” a film by documentary director James Moll, follows six farmers and ranchers, all in their 20s, in their daily work growing food. Most of the farmers in this film represent the fourth or fifth generation of a family that has run a farm.

One of those farmers is Ryan Veldhuizen, who along with his brothers and sisters runs a hog farm in Edgerton, Minnesota. His great grandfather, who immigrated from the Netherlands, started the farm about 1906, Veldhuizen said in a phone interview. Successive generations have continued to raise hogs, as well as grow corn and soybeans to feed the hogs, on the land.
Veldhuizen will be at a Q&A session after Thursday’s screening of “Farmland” at the Carolina Theatre. Also at the session will be director Moll and David Loberg, who grows corn and soybeans on a farm in Nebraska.
The U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance supported the making of the film. The alliance, along with BASF and the North Carolina Animal Agricultural Coalition, is sponsoring Thursday’s screening.
Some news reports have stated that “Farmland” is a response to “Food Inc.” and other documentaries critical of large-scale farming. Lisa Cassady, internal communications manager for U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, said “Farmers” was not a response to any particular documentary but is an extension of the organization’s effort to have a dialogue with consumers about how food is raised. The organization first became public in early 2011, she said.     
While the website of the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance does not mention any specific documentary titles, it does state, “This is the beginning of a long-term movement about doing the right things to fix the growing distrust of today’s agriculture. We want to answer Americans’ many questions about how their food is grown or raised – and listen to their concerns. … This movement is about giving farmers and ranchers a voice in the huge amount of discussion and chatter about our food.” The organization seeks to “create a more balanced discussion about agriculture issues – giving farmers and ranchers a chance to raise our voices,” the website states.
Moll’s previous film credits include “Foo Fighters: Back and Forth” and “Running the Sahara.” Moll insisted on artistic independence, which USF&R gave him. The organization wanted “to make sure it was done in a way that was third party, that was unbiased. That’s why [the alliance] chose to work with and partner with James Moll, who had complete creative control of the film,” Cassady said.
The filmmakers were looking for young, multi-generational farmers, and Veldhuizen “fit the bill,” he said. The filmmakers approached him in early 2013 and filmed the farm operation about two days once a month through August. “James [Moll] made it clear to us that they wanted to be a fly on the wall,” Veldhuizen said.
He wants viewers of “Farmland” to understand that “farming is still done by people. Somewhere in their heads they’ve gotten this notion of factory farming. … I find that insulting,” Veldhuizen said. He wants viewers to see that farmers still have a relationship with their land and livestock.
Veldhuizen also wants viewers to understand the complex nature of farming. Financing, marketing and procurement have become more crucial to farming, and management of risk “is getting more and more important all the time,” he said.

WANT TO GO?

WHAT: North Carolina premiere of “Farmland”

WHEN: Thursday. Reception at 5:30 p.m., screening at 6:30 with Q&A session
WHERE: The Carolina Theatre, 309 W. Morgan St., Durham
ADMISSION: Tickets are $5. All proceeds benefit the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. To purchase tickets, visit www.carolinatheatre.org.