There are no shortage of storytellers outside of agriculture. Some of them are ag-adjacent and some are far removed from the farm. If we, as producers, do not tell our own story then someone else will. However, that narrative might not be an accurate reflection of our reality, or even of farm reality anywhere.
In May, my parents were approached to participate as a host farm for a documentary, primarily to do with borders. Since their farm is located on the US/Canada border, they were perfect candidates. The documentary company originated in Japan and was working through a New York City based agency to make the arrangements for this particular production.
At first, we were excited about the opportunity to showcase modern Canadian agriculture, specifically wheat farming, to a larger audience. I, perhaps rather naïvely, thought that a documentary started with a question or hypothesis and then sought evidence to support or contradict that original idea. Through our experience with this production team, we found this not to be the case. Over the course of a week of communications, it became clear that the narrative of the documentary had already been written and that the production team was actually looking for actors to fit their narrative. Rather than come to Canada with an inquiring mind and a desire to learn, the team approached us with a know-it-all-already attitude.
I do not come from a family of actors – we wear our emotions on our faces. So, needless to say, this production was not for us. We did not want to participate in the pre-determined story of agriculture. However, before the communications with the director and production team were done we had gained some new perspectives about the public images of farmers and farming. Read tomorrow to see what assumptions and attitudes we encountered – and our response.