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Docudrama shows potential for carbon-neutral farming

Courtesy of USFRA North Carolina pig farmer Marlow Ivey and her daughter Kivett
TIME FOR ACTION: A powerful new docudrama produced by U.S. Farmers and Ranchers features North Carolina pig farmer Marlow Ivey, who has a goal to have her family farm become carbon-neutral. Her daughter, Kivett (left), also appeared in the video.
USFRA video shows how farmers need to be at the climate change table and provide solutions.

A new docudrama produced by U.S. Farmers and Ranchers in Action (USFRA) highlights the importance of agriculture at the table of climate change discussions.

The Carbon Neutral Pig features the true-to-life story of second-generation pig farmer Marlowe Ivey, 36, who has taken over her dad’s North Carolina farm. The video shows her juggling the day-to-day challenges of being a single mom, as well as running the family business. She also feels called to blog and inform folks about farming. One topic that she wrote about — climate change — set off a negative social media storm.

In “The Carbon-Neutral Pig,” she explained how, with science and technology, pig farmers will achieve carbon neutrality. She cited three ways to get there, steps she is working toward on her farm — using renewable energy to power the farm, sustainably producing soy and corn, and capturing methane from manure lagoons.

Her dad wasn’t in favor of her posting this particular blog. Negative responses about pork production and manure runoff flooded her social media feeds. However, as the plot evolves in the video, Ivey stands firm in her resolve that “change has got to start somewhere, and it’s going to start here on the farm.”

“At the end of the day, it’s not just about science and technology,” Ivey says in the video. “It’s about the people. Our generation will become carbon neutral. … It’s our decade of action.”

Behind the scenes

Ivey was one of several farmers contacted by USFRA in April to see if they would be interested in appearing in the video. Ivey didn’t think she would be chosen since at the time, she was a single mom going through a divorce and getting more involved in the family farm business. Once she was notified that she was chosen, things snowballed. A director flew in from Amsterdam, and filming took place the second week of August in blazing heat and humidity.

“I have a whole new appreciation for the film industry,” Ivey says, noting that a local crew was hired to do the production work. “They put in 12-hour days. They had to get the timing and the lighting just right. Those were grueling days.” Her daughter, Kivett, appeared in the film while an actor portrayed her dad, Bob.

Ivey says she was honored to be chosen for the film, and that it was a worthwhile experience.

“It is a very real picture of my life and how I grew up,” she says. “It was hard at times, though, when it was showing my personal side.”

The bottom line for Ivey, however, is the importance of advocating for agriculture and putting a face behind food production. To help address the disconnect between consumers and farmers, she became executive director of the Feed the Dialogue North Carolina Foundation in 2017.

“It’s important to be real,” Ivey says. “I want people to have an emotional connection with me. I want them to have a relationship and an appreciation, and to ask tough questions.”

“The Carbon Neutral Pig,” just over seven minutes in length, is the second video in a series produced by USFRA, an alliance of farm organizations founded in 2011 to promote a positive image of agriculture. The first docudrama in the series, 30 Harvests, featured the story of Texas row-crop farmer Jay Hill. Hill was on the brink of giving up and selling his family farm when he decided to invest in making it carbon-negative instead. The underlying premise in this first docudrama, as well as future productions, is that agriculture has roughly 30 harvests, or three decades, to become carbon-neutral and make an impact on climate change.

Future docudrama focuses have yet to be decided. USFRA staff are discussing ideas with potential funders and farmers.

For more information on USFRA, visit usfarmersandranchers.org.

 

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