The average age of American farmers is 57, but if you tease through the statistics, you’ll find that in recent years more and more people in their 20s and 30s have begun taking up pitchforks and plows.
On Saturday, Space Gallery in Portland hosts the screening of a documentary profiling young farmers as part of its annual Food+Farm series. Called “The Greenhorns,” the film and the organization by the same name that it spawned are projects of 29-year-old New York farmer Severine von Tscharner Fleming.
“The Greenhorns officially started as a film project,” Fleming said. “Being a young farmer myself, I wanted to meet other young farmers.”
So she traveled around the country, and with the help of 14 cinematographers and countless others, produced a film that explores the motivations, challenges and triumphs of young farmers.
“These are different farmers all in different situations,” Fleming said. “Some went to liberal arts colleges. Some went to technical colleges. Others never went to school. Some are urban punks who are farming in the city.”
When it comes to what is causing 20- and 30-somethings to become farmers, Fleming said, “it’s a very direct way to be part of the solution.”
“For me, a big part of it is the sensuality of nature and eating. Other people are coming from an environmental science background some people are crazy for seeds and want to save ancient varieties that are going extinct.”
The point is that each farmer has a different set of motivations which propelled him or her into the profession.
“Every farmer story has a little bit of magic in it,” Fleming said.
After the film, Fleming will be joined by farmers from New Beet Farm, Green Spark Farm and Fishbowl Farm to take questions and talk about their career paths.
Prior to the film screening, the Greenhorns will host a Young Farmers’ Mixer at the gallery. Not only can farmers network and mingle at this event, they’ll also be treated to massages and some basic yoga stretches.
Food+Farm began as a sustainable food film festival, but this year has morphed into an event that mixes hands-on activities with theater, author talks and “The Greenhorns” film screening.
“It started four years ago because there was a glut of food films coming down the pike,” said event organizer Jon Courtney. “And it was well-received, so we decided to go with it.”
The event begins Thursday night with a reading from the working script for the “Of Farms and Fables” theater project. The dramatic production has been in the works for more than a year and is the brainchild of Jennie Hahn, who heads Open Waters Theatre Arts.
After cross-training actors in farm work and farmers in stagecraft, the play will premiere this fall and explore the future of small family farms in Maine. Those who attend the work-in-progress reading will get the first glimpse of the performance to come.
The Food+Farm series continues Friday night with a talk by author and sustainable food advocate Anna Lappe. She is the co-author with her mother, Frances Moore Lappe, of “Hope’s Edge” and co-author with Bryant Terry of “Grub: Ideas for an Urban Organic Kitchen.” Lappe most recently authored “Diet for a Hot Planet: The Climate Crisis at the End of Your Fork and What You Can Do About It,” which just came out in paperback.
During her talk, Lappe will discuss how anyone who’s serious about tackling climate change needs to take a look at what’s on their plate.
On Saturday morning, Food+Farm serves up an opportunity to get your hands dirty at Cultivating Community’s Turkey Hill Farm in Cape Elizabeth. Participants will help the nonprofit, which trains new farmers and provides food to the hungry, prepare the farm for the growing season. Children will find special activities perfect for small hands.
Those who show up will be rewarded with a simple but satisfying lunch of soup and bread.
The series wraps up Sunday with two workshops at the Urban Farm Fermentory in Portland taught by edible landscape designer David Homa. The morning session provides strategies and techniques for city dwellers and others without garden space who want to grow their own food. In the afternoon, Homa will offer instruction in season extension techniques and sheetmulching.
“The real core (of Food+Farm) is, we’re hoping to encourage people to try their hands at growing food,” Courtney said. “It not only puts you in connection with where your food comes from but also gets people thinking about food safety, food transportation and encouraging people to think about the people who are growing their food.”
Staff Writer Avery Yale Kamila can be contacted at 791-6297 or at: [email protected]
Follow her on Twitter at: Twitter.com/AveryYaleKamila