Reel NW - Field Work: A Family Farm

Reel NW

Reel NW - Field Work: A Family Farm

Saturday, April 19, 2014
A poignant portrait of a Midwest community as it explores where the American family farm is headed in the twenty-first century.

Trailer - Field Work: A Family Farm

Directed by John Helde Re-broadcast on April 20,11p

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Iowa farmers Judy and Charlie Swanson just want to stay family-size; but all around them farms grow to five, seven, even ten thousand acres. This personal and revealing documentary follows the Swansons and their three grown children through the recession roller coaster as they struggle to live their dream of farming together as one extended family. Along the way, we meet a cast of determined and individualistic characters – from hog farmers to local vegetable growers – all bent on making a living from the land. FIELD WORK: A FAMILY FARM draws a poignant portrait of a Midwest community as it explores where the American family farm is headed in the twenty-first century.

This documentary was made possible by support from Humanities Iowa and the National Endowment for the Humanities, Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, 4 Culture, and Artist Trust.

Reel NW Extra - Interview with filmmaker John Helde

Warren Etheredge talks to director John Helde about his experience of making the documentary and the state of small family farms in the US.

Filmmaker's Statement

I first met the Swansons because they farm a small piece of land that has been in my family since my great-grandfather bought it in 1909. I became fascinated with Judy and Charlie’s dream, and their commitment to a way of life. I wondered what their steadfastly small model tells us about the American farm today. Can a family farm be successful in the era of mega-agriculture? How do they make it work, at one-tenth or less the size of other farms? Can we go “back” to the way it was, to smaller farms and a more healthy crop variety? Is there a future for young people who want to farm in their parents’ footsteps?

Making FIELD WORK: A FAMILY FARM, I followed the Swansons through several crop seasons, beginning with the economic roller coaster of 2008. Although several excellent films have been made about the food system in recent years, I had not seen one that told this story from the farmer’s point of view. I’ve tried to draw a cross section of an American farming community through one family’s eyes. My hope is that farmers will identify with the struggles and questions played out in the film; and that non-farmers, those urban-dwellers like me, may better understand the challenges, motivations and dilemmas of those who practice this age-old occupation in the twenty-first century.

Learn more about the film and the filmmakers at: .

Film not available for online viewing. Catch it on KCTS 9 television on April 18 9p.

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