BELFAST — A new film series, Growing Local, points to both the vibrancy and the growing pains of the local food movement in Maine, and the uncertain fate of the farmers and farmland that keep it alive. The films are a collaboration between Maine Farmland Trust and Seedlight Pictures, and recently debuted at the 2104 Camden International Film Festival and to the gasps, sighs, and cheers of a packed theater.
Growing Local contains three short vignettes, each of which focus on a different challenge hindering the growth of the local food movement, and point toward possible solutions.
"While many are aware of the challenges faced by small farmers today, these three short films weave together the interconnectedness of farms, community and health in a unique and innovative way. They make us think about our values, about things we may take for granted, and, most importantly, what we can do to effect positive change," said John Piotti, President and CEO of Maine Farmland Trust.
"Changing Hands" visits one of Maine's oldest organic dairy farms at an uncertain time of transition. As Richard Beal of Rocky Ridge Organic Dairy attempts to pass the farm on to his son, Adam, they both face the perverse economic reality of the dairy industry, and struggle to find a way to transition the farm without putting either of them into crushing debt. Richard's daughter, and sustainable food systems consultant, Amanda steps in to help her family with business planning and a promising grant application as they seek a stable way forward.
Ben Slayton is an artisanal butcher, and new breed of middleman at the center of "Pig Not Pork." His butcher shops Farmers Gate Market and The Farm Stand create a new distribution model to connect small farmers and consumers. That kind of infrastructure is necessary for a local food economy to thrive, and the film points to the need for consumers to step up and commit to buying local food.
The local food movement also needs continued energy, the sort embodied by young farmers like Ben and Taryn Marcus, as is demonstrated in "Seeding A Dream." Together, the couple revived Sheepscot General Store and Uncas Farms, and have been at the center of building strong community in the rural town of Whitefield. But while they have the energy and entrepreneurial spirit needed, they lacked access to capital and land. With the help of a landowner and financial help from others in their community they've been incredibly successful; yet they live with little security to show for all their work.
Each story shows both hope and successes in the midst of ever present barriers of access to capital, land, and public awareness and support. The future for each venture remains dependent upon consumers, organizations, and the continued growth of the local food movement.
Maine Farmland Trust will be screening the films across the state beginning in October. The schedule will be updated on the Maine Farmland Trust website. Maine Farmland Trust is a statewide, member-powered nonprofit organization working to protect farmland, support farmers, and advance the future of farming. For more information on specific programs, visit Maine Farmland Trust located at 97 Main St. in Belfast or on the web at www.mainefarmlandtrust.org.