From Film Maker, Mara LeGrand – Heart & Soil
I chose to make a film with memorable people talking about their work and their lives in the simple yet wise terms that not only describe that life, but more importantly, that define it. My intention was not to photograph packing plants but rather to draw sketches of people relating to the land that audiences might be more likely to remember than statistics or political talking points. Heart & Soil takes the audience into the lives of farmers doing the work and living connected to nature. But without a concerted effort on all our parts this way of life could someday only be found in history books .
I came at it from a different perspective than that of a more political or activist film, but, I submit it as a slice of life in a time and place no less important than a film that shows all that’s drastically gone awry. It’s a microcosmic look at life on a farm today, could be anywhere in the world, but it’s all within a 200 mile radius of my home in Southwestern Colorado. The farmers in the film are a testament that a rural, farming life still exists or is being resurrected on a small but significant scale, where people are not only supporting their own families but helping feed others.
In a field where many documentaries are fact heavy, or driven by political banners, I hope this film provides a respite and contrast that people will remember or integrate in a non-intellectual, more sensual way. It speaks to all of our most basic needs, clean air, clean water and clean soil and remains faithful to my intentions, not to be academic, or horrific, thus accessible and inspiring for family viewing across the globe, who still need to be educated and may need to be gently led toward change.
Be sure to visit what people say about the film.
It’s been rewarding for me to make a film about an ever growing, captivating, collective energy. I’ve come to realize that “Heart & Soil” has a significant place in the sustainability, environmental, and food – ecology culture in every home and school and for concerned groups across the country. This film is part of a pro-active movement that is bound to have some positive effect on our future.
I began making a film about the Durango Farmer’s Market, thinking I would just put a little piece together for local T.V. Being a story teller I soon realized the real scoop was literally out in the fields. Among many questions I had was what time people had to get up in the morning to arrive at the farmer’s market, with a truck load of produce to be set up by 8a.m. The answer I most commonly heard was around 4 a.m after days end at midnight the night before. I heard many sad stories about wheat not selling now for any more than it did in the 50’s yet every other cost in life and for farming had more than quadrupled. I heard how mother nature’s unpredictable weather patterns had predictably changed the yield of most crops, once reliable in this region. Ranchers spoke of innovative yet ancient methods to irrigate and preserve water resources and rotation grazing patterns, using paddocks based upon ancient Native American practices and methods still used in Europe and Australia.
I used to own a health retreat and a health food store so for many years I stocked up from the local farmer’s markets, insuring my clientele organic, freshly picked produce. During those early years of Farmer’s markets, pickings were slimmer as there were fewer markets, less than half as many as we have today. I’d be the first in line, filling my baskets with hundreds of dollars worth of nourishing and colorful freshness.
When I asked about making the film, the Farmer’s Market director and board welcomed me and nearly all the requests I made to visit farmers in their fields were gratifying.
My library has for years been stocked with books about food, herbs, holistic living and nutrition since it’s been my career path and I’ve dedicated my life to this important cause. I’m excited about what seems to be a resurgence in the collective conscious to not only protect our environment, but to realize our health is best nourished from healthy food, grown with thriving soil, and clean water and air.
I’ve added titles, both books and films, about local foods and eco-agriculture and regularly come across articles from every corner of the world about a new passion and common sense movement to return to regional food sources to help sustain our lives and planet on so many levels.
Since I like to garden, I’ve had my hands in the difficult conditions, southwest soil, water limitations and weather patterns that challenge an otherwise green thumb. I respect the farmers immensely for their work ethic, dedication to quality, pride in their connection to nature as a sustainable way to live, raise a family of children and happy livestock, as well as protect land as rural, open space.
I was impressed at how educated, concerned and current our farmers are about their influence on ethical, social, and political arenas while taking personal responsibility on a global scale. They gave me lots of material, more than enough to write a large book or make a series of films, but most importantly they offered their authentic selves.
I call “Heart & Soil” a character driven documentary, a toppling forward film of poems, along the same topic. I made a decision to focus on the charm of the characters, livestock and land, while still covering the harsher realities of what small scale farmers face. I made no pretense to cover all the issues pertinent historically or today. The film is informative but not academic, entertaining but without actors or narration or a reality gloss over. It does not single out or point fingers or dwell on what’s wrong, instead it captures what’s wholesome and possible for everyone to get involved with.
In spite of an increasingly corporate food economy with Government spending and politics supportive of large scale, imported agriculture, I’m thrilled to have had the chance to highlight the energy of these farmers, seeding significant efforts to grow healthy food, educate, inform and inspire people to develop a grass roots relationship with as much of their food as they can.
Keeping your money and your food close to home seems ever more important in today’s economy.