Friday, November 7, 2014

Planet in Focus Film Festival Review - The Family Farm

The family farm is disappearing and being replaced by large corporate Multi farm entities that handle their livestock and animals in an assembly line manner and are not shy to use a health dose of pesticides to get the job done. The Family Farm looks as these smaller ventures from different parts of the country. How they go about their business, the problems they face from regulators and how the cheer size of the corporate farms may price them out altogether.

Ari Cohen's direction is mainly based on first person interviews with the farmers as they perform their daily tasks. The films features breathtaking shots of the farms open spaces and landscapes from sunrise to sunset.

The film mentions some harrowing facts. Farming is very tough work for very little pay. The work day is from dawn to dusk. A bad storm, cold snap, flood, parasite or disease could wipe out your crop or livestock for that year. The average take hope pay is under 10,000 per year plus the next generation  is not looking to take up the profession. The average age of a farmer in Canada is 54 years old and around 60% of farms are expected to switch owners in the next year but to whom?

One farmer followed is Aaron Hiltz who is a newer and younger farmer. He is a small operator that believes in farming the natural way: letting chickens graze free moving them from area to area on the farm. When his eggs are gathered he takes them to maker to sell himself.  However his activities have caught the eye of the Marketing board whose purpose appears to be the same as an oil cartel to keep production down and prices up. Hiltz is first forced to get rid of a large number of his chickens then  he is slapped with a a fine unless he buys a licence that costs $180,000 dollars.

Another method featured in the production that seems to work is the Morgan Farm in Weir, Quebec. The farm works as a co op.  The workers live there, and share in the work in exchange for board and food. This model leads to ownership, lower costs to get the product to market and lower turnover of staff. Each owner brings a different skill set to the farm and as one farm hand Jocelyn remarked she hasn't had the need for money years.

The film also features day workers. They are mainly young people that have an interest in farming but with no family background want to test out the lifestyle before committing in full. These workers give an interesting perspective on toiling at a small vs a larger corporate farm. They all appear surprised in how they feel when they work at the smaller farms.  They don't have coughs, their eyes aren't burning,noses running and in some extreme cases they have suffered difficulty breathing and bleeding during long days at the corporate locations. Many remark that they will only work at organic or smaller farms in the future. But they are enthusiastic and may be the future of the small family farm.

The recurring theme is that most people have no idea where their food comes from, have never pulled anything out of the ground or been present as an animal is killed.  The farmers have a not completely sarcastic impression that the consumer thinks that their food appears magically wrapped and laid out in isles in a grocery store.  There is a disconnect between the public and the producer that needs to be bridged.

The Family Farm is an important piece that plainly displays a dying way of life. Its notable how the regulations and rules are stacked against the small farmer and how the next generation does not see the point in continuing with this way of life.  The small farmer plays a very important role and our future supply of healthy food is reliant on their survival

*** 1/2 Out of 4.

The Family Farm | Ari Cohen | Canada | 2014 | 72 Minutes.

Tags:  Documentary, Egg Marketing Board , Co-Op farms, Organic, Mad Cow Disease, Pesticides, Big Farma

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