Filming the farm

The final products: Looking Glass Creamery produces fresh chevre; two semi-soft, aged cheeses (Ellington and Early Bird); and a hard aged cow’s milk cheese (Chocolate Lab). Photos courtesy of Looking Glass Creamery

Look around: It’s easy to see that WNC’s harvest season is picking up serious steam. Our tailgate markets are overflowing with fruits, veggies and herbs. Restaurants are featuring local ingredients, from beets to squash, on their menus. Grocery store shelves are dotted with more local-product signs every day. But what’s not so easy to see is just what it takes to get that produce to the markets, chefs and produce managers — and ultimately to you. Two local filmmakers and four area farmers hope to change that.

Beginning in July, John and Cinnamon Kennedy — founders of the Black Mountain-based Purple States who have worked with major media outlets from the New York Times to CNN.com — will provide camera equipment and guidance to WNC farmers to film the height of their growing season. The end result will be The Farmers’ Film, a production of Purple States and the Organic Growers School.

“One of our great joys is facilitating ‘self-filming’ projects; the material is always fascinating,” says Cinnamon. She imagines that what we see as we watch area farmers try to stay small and authentic, pay their bills and interact with our local economy will be outside of the scope of what most of us know.

The potential for a broader perspective excites Jennifer Perkins of Looking Glass Creamery, one of the farmers who’s signed on to farm and film from July through November. Jennifer and her husband, Andy, began creating small batch, handmade goat’s and cow’s milk cheeses in 2009 and have already garnered national acclaim by kitchenware retailer Williams-Sonoma. Perkins acknowledges the road to success has quite a few bumps.

“Being one of the profiled farms will give us an opportunity to bring the viewer into our daily operations and see the hard work, difficulties, and hurdles we face on a daily basis.”

Perkins also notes that filming the creamery’s operation will provide a broader look at what it takes for small dairy farmers and processors to survive. That’s because Looking Glass Creamery isn’t your typical farm. They’re even smaller than most in WNC, with just two milking goats, and that means they’ve got to get more milk from other dairies. “We want to film the small dairy farmers we buy milk from and show the milking process to show the difficulties they face and why they do what they do,” says Perkins.

Joining the Perkins’ for the filming process will be Meghan Cole of Harvest Table Farms in Old Fort; a California farmer who recently relocated to the area, she will film her first year farming here. Susan and Nick Nichols of Highlander Farm in Fairview and Jeanette Wilson and her family from Hominy Valley Farms-Land and Cattle in Candler will also get involved.

“These four represent farmers … starting their career to those thinking about retirement,” says Cinnamon, who adds that they’re all allies in the trenches of our area’s local food scene.

The film is currently in the preproduction phase, and the Kennedys are in talks with television and film production companies. “Just our few months of working with these amazing farmers has completely revolutionized the way John and I shop for food, think about food and eat,” Cinnamon says, noting they hope the film will do the same for viewers. They plan to make the stories into 10 segments for a late-summer broadcast through the fall. To find out more details of the film project, as well as how you can volunteer and be a part, visit www.farmersfilm.com. 

To learn more about the participating farms, visit www.ashevillecheese.com, www.foothillsfamilyfarms.org, www.highlanderfarm.net,
and www.hominyvalleyfarms.com. Find Organic Growers School online at www.organicgrowersschool.com. Additional supporters of the project include Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (ASAP), Slow Food Asheville, Highland Brewing Company and the Black Mountain Ale House.

— Maggie Cramer is the communications coordinator at Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project (asapconnections.org). Contact her at maggie@asapconnections.org.

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