At one smile-inspiring moment in Growing Farmers, which debuted at the Hamptons International Film Festival in October, Amagansett farmer Katie Baldwin says, “It’s probably a bit shocking that two young ladies—not from here, never farmed before—are farming.” The short documentary—about, by and for residents of the East End who value preserving land and ensuring there will be farmers to till it—tells the story of farmers who have participated in Peconic Land Trust’s Farms for the Future program. An incubator for eager first-time farmers, the initiative provides knowledge and guidance, as well as the land and necessary materials (deer fencing, irrigation, equipment, and so forth), to begin and maintain a new career path.
The film is directed by surf documentarian, acclaimed photographer and lifelong Water Mill resident, Michael Halsband, and centers on 20 farmers currently in the program, including 20-something back-to-the-landers and Roderick Brown (at bottom right), a Jamaican-American growing Caribbean vegetables in Cutchogue for local markets. “By providing new farmers with affordable access to protected farmland, we are not only conserving an important resource, but also the business of farming.” says John v.H. Halsey, president of Peconic Land Trust.
Producer Hilary Leff, childhood farmer turned lawyer turned pastry chef turned member of Quail Hill Farm and now vice chair of Peconic Land Trust, was inspired to make this film after talking with farmers who have been successful due to Farms for the Future. “I think more and more people have learned that when they can interact with the person who is growing their food it is not only enjoyable, but informative,” she says. “These new farmers are working so hard and creating such a bounty for the community, we should celebrate them.”
One of the farmers featured in the film, Baldwin (at right on tractor), a former Quail Hill Farm apprentice and a product of the trust’s program, now operates Amber Waves Farm in Amagansett with partner Amanda Merrow. Amber Waves, a nonprofit, provides education as well as food. Farms for the Future, says Baldwin, helped her get there. “It’s remarkable that you can gain the skill set that you feel empowered enough to grow your own food on your own farm just after a short 10 months.”
In the weeks prior to HIFF, now in its 20th year, the team behind Growing Farmers showed their film in local schools. “Many of these children will come from farming families. Others may have the interest themselves,” says Leff. “It’s local and relevant and important to share this with our younger generation. They could be our future farmers.”
Thrilled to be recognized by HIFF, filmmaker Halsband, whose résumé ranges from tour photographer for the Rolling Stones and AC/DC to fashion photographer for the likes of Vogue and Vanity Fair, took away a much greater appreciation for how fragile farming is. “I was interested because it was like going to the factory to see how your most essential source of life was built,” he says. “I hope the film excites anyone who sees it to want to learn more about what good quality food is and to support the farmers who put that before profit.”
For more information on Farms for the Future visit peconiclandtrust.org.