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‘Farmland’ screening attracts diverse audience

By Staff | Apr 5, 2015

-Farm News photo by Jolene Stevens DICK WEIKERT, of Sioux City, left, and Will Fett, executive director of the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation, based in Des Moines, discuss the documentary “Farmland” when it was presented in?Sioux City. Fett said the film is a means of giving non-farming viewers a view of what modern agriculture looks like in comparison to that of the last 50 to 100 years.

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SIOUX CITY – A documentary designed to help non-farming Americans better understand modern farm operations got at least one viewer reflective on his own impact on northwest Iowa agriculture.

Sioux City’s Ag Day screening of “Farmland,” was a partnering effort between the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation and U.S. Farmer and Rancher Alliance on the Morningside College campus.

Dick Weikert recalled how he, too, had once helped students attending Morningside to learn about agriculture. Weikert, who was a Morningside instructor during the 1960s, initiated agri-business and livestock courses for students.

“I think (“Farmland” producers) did a good job in attempting to give the average person unfamiliar with agriculture a better understanding of the over-all story,” Weikert said.

This can be essential, he said, because fewer people live on or have contact with agriculture.

“It’s like when you send someone to the store to get milk,” he said. “They get the milk, but do they know how it got to the store?

“The more we can enlighten others about agriculture as it is today, the better it’s going to be for everyone.

“It’s not something to be secretive about.”

Will Fett, IALF executive director, facilitated the Sioux City viewing. He said he felt the 25-plus attendees – students, area education representatives and others – appeared to have enjoyed the showing with good post-viewing questions on succession planning, land prices and the public perception of agriculture.

Matt Schuiteman, of Sioux Center, one of two post-screening panelists, said he felt the film featuring six farmers and ranchers from across the United States did “a good job overall of portraying all the different elements that make farming what it is.

“I think results of viewers will be positive,” he said, “primarily because it was a personal film, with the families easy to relate to.

“I would hope it would spawn many conversations into the different back stories that are all contributing to the pushes and pulls in agriculture.”

Schuiteman, a family farmer with a 2,400-acre grain, cow-calf and farrow-to-finish operations, said he felt given the length and scope of the film, producers did as well as they could in capturing many of the salient points within northwest Iowa.

These included the financial risks for farmers as well as the many tools to deal with these risks.

Other aspects to help agriculture’s image, he said, would have been showing farmers’ efforts on nutrient management, especially with regard to nitrogen, and use of cover crops.

“It’s the Foundation’s hope that what we’re doing with events such as this we can help spark conversation among others,” he said. “People eat three times a day, and everyone needs food and clothing.

“At the same time, not everyone understands where this food and fiber comes from.

“The ‘Farmland’ story incorporating both family and corporation farming, the advent of GMOs and organic agriculture, and complexity of farming today, gives us a real painting of what modern agriculture looks like in comparison to the pastoral view of the last 50 to 100 years.”

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