By Jessica Domel
As the movie ended and the lights came up, the people in our Houston movie theater began to clap. They left the theater smiling saying, “What a great film!” and “When will this be available on DVD?” One gentleman even stopped to ask me if he could show the film to high school groups in his area.
What a terrific thought–a movie that makes people want to share it with their friends and loved ones. To me, that’s part of what the 90-minute documentary Farmland does. It makes us think of our friends, family and neighbors who have dedicated their lives to growing and raising the foods we eat. It introduces us, through director James Moll’s lens, to six American farmers and ranchers in their 20s who are just like us.
There’s sixth generation cattle rancher Brad Bellah of Throckmorton, Texas. He and his wife have twins. She loves to shop at stores like the Gap and he likes to drink American beer. Bellah, who has a diverse beef cattle operation, discusses food labels and how they can often confuse consumers.
There’s also Leighton Cooley of Georgia who is a poultry farmer. He explains, in perhaps one of the best ways I’ve ever heard, antibiotics in livestock. He’s open and honest, and Moll conveys that well.
The film also features other great farmers and ranchers from across our nation, including David Loberg of Nebraska, Sutton Morgan of California, Margaret Schlass of Pennsylvania and Ryan Veldhuizen of Minnesota. They each bring something to the table, and they each have valuable and fascinating stories to tell.
I found myself feeling like I knew each and every one of them well, although I’ve never actually met any of them in person. I think by the time you leave the theater, you’ll be cheering on each and every one of them just as I was.
If you’re hoping Farmland will paint a hard line in the pavement and tell you organic is good and conventional farming is bad or vice versa, you’ll be disappointed. Moll’s vision was to tell the stories of these farmers and ranchers, and he does so very well. They each explain their reasons for farming the way they do. They tell their stories, and they don’t bash other farmers and ranchers. They’re respectful and honest because they want to allow the American consumers to make the decision they feel is best for their family.
In addition to talking about organics and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), these young men and women also share their points of view on animal welfare, antibiotic use in livestock and how they cope with Mother Nature.
I’ve read a lot of movie reviews that hit Farmland pretty hard because it doesn’t draw a firm conclusion on all of the hot button issues, but I’d respect the movie a lot less if it was one-sided. I like to hear both sides of an issue and draw my own conclusions.
I’ve seen Farmland once, and I cannot wait to see it again. The film subjects are open. They’re honest. And the best part is, they’re real.
Farmland will play in Dallas and Graham at 7 p.m. on Thursday. Get your tickets and watch the film’s trailer at FarmlandFilm.com.