01 Apr Film fest focuses on farming
CHATHAM — The eighth annual Farm Film Fest attracted hundreds to view a variety of films revolving around horticulture, environmental farming and local farms.
The festival took place from 1 p.m. to just after 4 p.m. at the historic Crandell Theatre on Main Street in Chatham. The festival was followed by a meet and greet with local farmers, with snacks from local farms at Peint O Gwrw.
“Food For Thought, Food For Life,” directed by Susan Rockefeller, discusses how to make farms healthier for consumers and the environment by contrasting large monoculture farms — farms which only produce one kind of crop, usually corn, wheat, soy or cotton — with smaller, more diversified farms.
Agriculture takes up more land worldwide than all suburban and urban development, and produces more greenhouse gases than all transportation combined, the film points out.
Much of the appeal of the monoculture crops is based on the $60 billion worth of subsidies farmers of these crops receive from the federal government, according to the film.
The film argues more diversified farms can actually be more efficient, since variations of crops can be used in a greater system, where one crop nourishes the growth of the next.
“The Perennial Plate: Farming State of Mind” follows urban farmers who have placed their plot in “food deserts” — areas without ready access to fresh produce — nourishing the local communities.
“Forward Farming: The Next Generation of American Agriculture,” directed by Cassidy Davis, focuses on the aging farming population in the U.S.
The average age of a farmer in the country is 58.3 years, according to the film.
The short film follows Wade Bernards, a 22-year-old cattle farmer who has been farming since high school.
Many of the films focused on the attributes of eating food grown locally.
“The Cream Rises,” created by eatTV, follows Ronnybrook Farm and the Hudson Valley Fresh Cooperative, two Hudson Valley dairy outfits.
The Hudson Valley Fresh Cooperative is beating back the economic allure of industrialized farms by offering high-quality milk from farms with between 45 and 300 cows each that is more expensive than milk from industrial farms, but less than organic milk, according to the film.
The milk is better tasting, according to the film, because the cows are treated better, receiving better food and less stress, the latter of which actually improves the taste of the milk, the film contends.
The cows at Hudson Valley Fresh Cooperative farms also live more than twice as long, according to the film.
Other films included “Howard’s Farm,” which profiled an 86-year-old farmer from Marlboro; “Massachusetts Farm,” which collects vivid still images of farming life and blends them into a short visual slice-of-life; and “The Greenhorns,” which follows Severine von Tscharner Fleming as he traveled the U.S., organizing young farmers.
Members of the audience asked about the future of local farming and other topics during the panel, moderated by Columbia Land Conservancy Executive Director Peter Paden.
Panelist Hilary Corsun, of Dog Wood Farm, spoke about the Good Food Farmers Network, a group of farmers based mostly in Columbia County, and how to promote small farms.
“If you’re going to take on the marketing side yourself, you’re going to have to have some good ideas,” she said.
The films at the festival were sourced and selected by Mary Gail Biebel, Annie Brody, Jessica Brooks, Tom Crowell, Landra Haber, Heath Iverson, Jeff Lick and Steve McCarthy.