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May 5, 2013
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Film as an agricultural recruitment tool

The stats are disturbing.

The average farmer in America is 57 years old.

America loses 2 acres of farmland per minute.

One third of today’s kindergarteners will develop Type 2 diabetes.

“The last 30 years have seen a protracted crisis in American agriculture,” according to thegreenhorns.net. “We have fewer farmers, less land, a degraded soil base and intensifying corporate control over production, processing and technology. But the tide is starting to turn.”

“The Greenhorns” is an organization run by and for young farmers. The group released a documentary called “The Greenhorns” in 2010. Farmer-filmmaker-activist Severine von Tscharner Fleming took her camcorder and spent two years crisscrossing America, meeting determined young farmers full of the grit and the entrepreneurial spirit necessary to make a living off the land. The film is part of the grassroots nonprofit’s larger campaign for agricultural reform.

“The Greenhorns” will screen in Avon on Tuesday evening. It is the final film in the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability community film series, which has brought films focused on environmental issues to Loaded Joe’s as the alliance strives to “raise awareness about environmental issues afflicting our world.” Another film series will begin in the fall.

“(This film) is about the changing face of farmers,” said Cassie Pence, the founder of the Eagle-Vail Community Garden. “It’s an interesting documentary on the challenges these young, inexperienced farmers are facing.”

‘A privilege and a service’

The 90-minute film explores sustainable agriculture and includes rare agricultural archival footage from the Prelinger Archives. Fleming interviews men who have returned to their family farms to continue the family legacy; city dwellers brave enough to ask neighbors if they can turn unused green space into vegetable gardens; greenhouse owners who work from sun up to sundown and wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Ultimately, ‘The Greenhorns’ shows us how farmers can move out of the margins recent history has consigned them to and back to the heart of the American food landscape,” the site reads.

Fleming decided to make the film in the hope that by broadcasting the stories and voices of young farmers, she’d entice others to consider a career in agriculture. But she, more than many people, knows just what kind of sacrifice that decision entails.

“Farming in America is simultaneously a privilege and a service,” Fleming wrote in her director’s statement. “And no, it is not easy. Young farmers in America face tremendous structural obstacles. They seek access to land, capital, education and business training. They seek cultural support and open-minded consumers. They need reasonable paths to acquiring mechanical equipment and other infrastructures of medium-scale agriculture.”

And while the work is certainly hard and the stats disturbing, the film itself is encouraging. One look at the suntanned, content faces of the farmers interviewed serves as the ultimate recruitment tool.

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at cschnell@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2984.


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The VailDaily Updated May 5, 2013 05:02PM Published May 6, 2013 03:27PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.