In the wake of documentaries such as Food, Inc. and King Corn, the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance has begun roll-out of a new film highlighting U.S. agriculture. "Farmland" is directed by Academy-Award-winning director James Moll.
According to Randy Krotz, USFRA executive director, USFRA provided "significant funding" to make the movie, but says Moll was given complete creative license in making the film, including selection of the participants. The film will be shown at a private screening March 26, but a trailer is available on the Farmland film website. It will be publicly launched in April.
Moll sought out 20-something farmers across the country, involved in a variety of agricultural crops and production methods, including hogs, cattle, corn, soybeans, poultry, vegetables and organic produce.
"You never know what the next phone call might bring. And as farmers we're sometimes skeptical of the next call," said Leighton Cooley, a Georgia poultry farmer. Cooley checked sources with farm groups, learned Moll was a legitimate director and signed on.
"We love bringing people to our farm. Any chance we have to let someone on our farm, we enjoy it," Cooley said. "If they can see what we do on a daily basis, they leave feeling so much better about the food we eat. This was an incredible chance."
As it turns out, Moll didn't share a lot of details with the farmers about what the film would cover. "I actually thought it was a how-to documentary," said Nebraska corn and soybean farmer David Loberg. "I didn't know it was going to be about me!"
Loberg farms with his mother and sisters. His sister, Megan has been active in social media, writing a blog about their farm, "Eat.Pray.Farm."
The farmers are hopeful about what the film will accomplish. "I hope this film tackles what I think is the biggest problem for agriculture, which is misconceptions among consumers and policy makers," said Brad Bellah, Texas and Colorado cattle rancher. "People in ag make up 2% of the U.S. population. It's really important that everyone understands because everyone eats. We want to show others the pride we take in what we do. Let others see what we do. And not let others with their own agendas tell our story."
The six farmers include:
• Brad Bellah, a sixth generation cattle rancher from Brockmorton, Texas, runs beef cattle operations in Texas and Colorado, including a natural beef herd. The 26-year-old husband and father of a twin son and daughter earned a bachelor's degree in agricultural communications from Texas Tech University.
• Leighton Cooley, a fourth generation poultry farmer, operates four farms in Roberta, Ga., with his father. In addition to chickens, he also has a cow-calf operation and grows hay. Leighton and his wife have two sons.
• David Loberg, a fifth generation corn and soybean farmer in Carroll, Neb., runs the family farm with his mother. The farm also custom feeds 500 head of cows for a local dairy operation and runs an irrigation business. The 25-year-old and his wife have an infant son.
• Sutton Morgan, a fourth generation farmer from California, grows, packs and sells onions and potatoes, and also grows melons, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, lettuces, chard, kale and alfalfa. Sutton holds a degree in business economics from the University of California Santa Barbara.
• Margaret Schlass, a community supported agriculture vegetable farmer based in Pennsylvania, farms on 18 acres with her two farms. During her senior year at the University of Delaware, Margaret studied abroad in Peru, worked the fields harvesting corn and yucca, which introduced her to farming.
• Ryan Veldhuizen, a fourth generation farmer, is taking over the operation of his family's hog farm in Minnesota with his brother and sister. The farm grows hogs, corn and soybeans, which they use for feed.
Clarification: A previous version of this article said the film would be released March 26. However, that date refers to a private screening. The film will be publicly launched in April.