Farm Food Facts

Erin Fitzgerald, Jasper Claus, "30 Harvests"

August 20, 2019 Episode 38
Farm Food Facts
Erin Fitzgerald, Jasper Claus, "30 Harvests"
Chapters
Farm Food Facts
Erin Fitzgerald, Jasper Claus, "30 Harvests"
Aug 20, 2019 Episode 38
USFRA
Show Notes Transcript

Today's thought leader is Erin Fitzgerald, USFRA CEO who discusses the new short film, 30 Harvests.

The stories you need to know:
•  University Scientists call for unconventional Collaboration in Agriculture. 
• The Meat Industry is working Together on Sustainability.

Jasper Claus from 1Camera, the filmmaker responsible for the short film 30 Harvests.



Phil Lempert:
0:01
Farm, Food, Facts: where every farmer, every acre and every voice matter. Welcome to Farm, Food, Facts for Wednesday, August 21st, 2019. I'm your host, Phil Lempert.
Phil Lempert:
0:17
Last week, 30 Harvests, the short film by U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, was released. It's a phenomenal video that takes a look at today's farmers, who face the largest challenge of this generation: creating sustainable food systems and solving climate change. Today, we're going to talk to the filmmaker, Jasper Klaus. But first, Erin Fitzgerald, CEO of USFRA, is here to discuss. So Erin, tell me, why is this film important and what do you and USFRA expect it to do?
Erin Fitzgerald:
0:49
Well, I think first of all, quite often agriculture is not seen as a solution; in particular, farmers and soil aren't seen as the solution, and we wanted to get the word out that plants and our soils have incredible carbon storage possibilities and it's often a subject that you don't hear a lot about. So, we're really trying to get the word out that our agricultural lands, our working lands act as a carbon sink and can even be more impactful in the future if we work together. The second thing we wanted to do is really make certain that the hero of the story, the X-MEN - that our farmers are really untapped change agents in the conversation and are working every single day to really make our lands better but often are left out of the conversation. And we want to invite the farmer into the conversation. So, those are the two main things that we're hoping that the film does through the power of storytelling.
Phil Lempert:
1:52
So, the film is just out a short time, but what's been the reaction so far and what do you hope the reaction will be?
Erin Fitzgerald:
2:01
It's been really wonderful. We've seen a lot of farmers really identify with this. You can see Jay and his family really contemplating, "Well, why am I a farmer and why am I in this business?" And there's the struggle. And yet there's this hope. And in particular right now, in the agriculture community, that's a very real thing. And we're seeing that this is touching a cord amongst many of our farmers. As well as this idea of, "you know what, we are the solution, what if we really thought about ourselves as the solution?" And so far we've got over 300,000 views just in the farming community and then this week we're really going to be promoting it broadly more to the business and the consumer community. So, we're hoping that we see people put this on their employee websites. Many companies have an internal page where they can ask employees to go and learn; we'd love to see this as part of those efforts.
Phil Lempert:
3:02
So what does co-creation look like and how quickly can it actually happen?
Erin Fitzgerald:
3:09
No, it's already happening. In June, we brought together a hundred liters from across the value chain to an Honor the Harvest event. 'Cause if we only have 30 harvests left, we have to make certain that we're honoring that harvest and working together. We believe that, right now, there's no place where a lot of the food makers, the brands and the retailers and the farmers really get together to imagine the sustainable food systems of the future in the next decade. And what we can do right now is work together. So, when we say co-create, we really believe that if we work together across the food value chain that we can make positive impacts. And we have launched eight projects coming out of the Honor the Harvest forum. We were calling on all really willing organizations to get together and help us get these projects off the ground. Because we know that there's a need to work together. Our job as an institution is really - we call it to be the hive, because we're a food organization, but the hive of collaboration where we all come together and really work together.
Phil Lempert:
4:19
And what would you like to see the role for U.S Farmers & Ranchers Alliance in this co-creation? Obviously, pulling together the harvest, obviously pulling together these hundred leaders, and managing the hive, but give me the 30,000 foot picture of what USFRA should be doing.
Erin Fitzgerald:
4:44
We really think that there's a lot of great work going on. And we want to make certain we're not duplicating work, but we're also doing, we say co-creating. There's a lot that we can do that's more impactful, where we're lifting all boats rather than doing things as an individual organization on our own. When you work with partners in a pre-competitive format, with farmers and retailers and brands, we know that we can create that forum to do projects, to bring science to bear, to be better communicators. I've heard a lot of the brands and retailers want, like they get a lot of questions on the stuff. Can you just train me? Can I talk to a farmer? Can we have those farmers call into my employees' team meeting? So, it's little things. And then it's big things, like I would say a big thing is like, if we need to transform the ag sector, how much money really needs to be flowing into the sector, if it's the least invested in sector? So, what we're seeing is that we have these different working groups. Our job is really to bring and facilitate and keep those groups working together, where everyone is allowed to bring in the best of the information they have on their projects, lift them up, and see if there's shared synergies that we can all work on together.
Phil Lempert:
6:02
So, back to the film: why did you decide that a docu-drama was the way to get this story out there?
Erin Fitzgerald:
6:11
We hired an amazing filmmaker, Jasper Klaus from 1Camera, and we actually found him from a film that he had done called The Unsung Heroes of Science. And when I saw that film, I kept thinking the unsung hero of agriculture in general, of climate change, is the farmer. When I think about the power of storytelling, in five minutes you really see a lot of different messages. And they're compelling. And I think that's also the format that we absorb information today. Climate change is a very cumbersome topic. It's often presented as doom and gloom, and not a sense of possibilities. And we often don't talk about the people-based movement behind these stories. We tend to show ice caps, so we tend to show polar bears. In reality, if we're gonna solve it, it's going to take people, and I can't think of a better sector that has amazing people; 3 million farmers who are dedicated to stewardship and sustainability who are walking the ground every single day, who care about this topic. And to think about them as motivators or change agents, or I say X-MEN, that have these untapped superhero talents that could be called to action. And that the point of the film was actually to say, these are the guys that can do this. And, just like X-MEN, in the movie X-MEN, people don't really realize the other people's hidden talent. And what we're saying is that these farmers do have a hidden talent; they are able to steward and be able to do draw down, that the consumer and many of us might not have heard about. We always hear about Richard Branson and Elon Musk and all these new things that we might've forgotten this untapped potential that exists.
Phil Lempert:
8:19
Well, Erin, congratulations. 30 Harvests is brilliant. And later on the podcast we're actually going to be talking to Jasper Klaus, the filmmaker as well. So, congratulations and thank you.
Erin Fitzgerald:
8:33
I'm glad you're going to talk with Jasper. He's fantastic and I hope people tune in. Thank you, Phil
Phil Lempert:
8:43
And now, for the stories you need to know. University scientists call for unconventional collaboration in agriculture. Scientists from Iowa State University have called for researchers from various disciplines to turn their attention towards the urgent challenges facing agriculture. In a paper titled Idea Factory: The Maize Genomes to Fields Initiative, Iowa State researchers stated that demand for food, feed, fiber, and fuel will increase in the near future and the agriculture industry will need to collaborate with other disciplines to find innovative solutions. Carolyn Lawrence-Dill, a professor of genetics, development, and cell biology says, we need to bring in people in sociology and business and philosophy and governance and all these places you don't normally think of when you're having a conversation about increasing yields. Lawrence-Dill also said that researchers tend to stay within silos, with very few opportunities available to collaborate with others who work outside of their disciplines and the paper calls for a heavier emphasis on connecting various silos that can help to address major challenges in agriculture.
Phil Lempert:
9:54
And on that theme of collaboration and sticking together; the meat industry is working together on sustainability. According to a recent release, the Board of the North American Meat Institute unanimously agreed to make the environmental impact of meat and poultry production a non-competitive issue among members. NAMI is encouraging all companies to share sustainability best practices. The group said it will develop a list of advisors who can help producers with problems, and it has an awards program in place which acknowledges production plants with a strong environmental program. In the past, the trade group has encouraged members to work together on other issues. For example, the group took a non-competitive stance on worker safety in 1990, food safety in 2001, and animal welfare in 2002. Those previous agreements have led to reduced worker injuries, facilities producing more than 95% of beef, pork and lamb following animal welfare guidelines, and drastic reductions of pathogens such as E. coli and listeria on meat products. With more meat and poultry companies working together on sustainability efforts, this could have the same successful impact as the previous issues that NAMI determined should be non-competitive.
Phil Lempert:
11:11
Jasper Klaus is the filmmaker behind 30 Harvests and the founding partner of 1Camera in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. 1Camera is an award-winning creative content agency founded in 2008. The agency focus is taking corporate films of all kinds to a higher level by looking for the emotion behind the information and creating cinematic visuals. 1Camera producers have backgrounds in academia and journalism, with a focus on creating intelligent, well-researched films. Stories with substance. Klaus studied film and television at New York University and worked as an Editor-In-Chief for MTV Network in the Netherlands before founding 1Camera. 1Camera produces films globally and specializes in three sectors, F&A, science and technology, and finance. Jasper, thanks for taking the time to connect with us today. How much experience have you had in creating films for agriculture before 30 Harvests?
Jasper Klaus:
12:14
We actually had quite some experience filming in the agriculture sector here in the Netherlands. We've done a lot of work for the biggest Dutch dairy cooperative of FrieslandCampina, also the biggest Dutch agricultural bank and a host of other F&A organizations. So, we've been on our share of farms with the camera.
Phil Lempert:
12:35
So, what was the most challenging aspect of 30 Harvests? Being on a farm?
Jasper Klaus:
12:41
Filming on the farm itself wasn't actually that challenging at all, especially since Jay has an amazing crew, were so helpful, and also happened to have a lot of sort of stuff and materials around, the sort of compliments anything that we were missing or that didn't work out. We didn't have a crane with us, obviously, so then they just hooked us up with a big sort of tractor that put us all the way up in the sky. So, filming on the farm itself was actually not a problem at all. I mean, it was warm in southern Texas obviously, but mostly the preparation up front where we felt like we really got lucky, getting to know Jay, because we had to do our research up front from the Netherlands and try and find the perfect farmer in the U.S. I don't know the exact figure, but I think there's about 2 million. So, we were literally looking for the perfect person amongst 2 million people on the other side of the ocean. So, that felt like a daunting challenge. And then Jay came across and we're like, oh, we got this. He's perfect.
Phil Lempert:
13:47
Yeah. No, not only is Jay perfect, but the film, the whole docu-drama is perfect. I mean, the first time that I watched it, it's just so heartfelt and just so meaningful that I think it touches everybody who's seen it.
Jasper Klaus:
14:08
Thanks so much.
Phil Lempert:
14:09
Why did you decide that a docu-drama was the most impactful storytelling mechanism for this very important topic?
Jasper Klaus:
14:19
Actually, a number of reasons. First of all, Erin Fitzgerald from USFRA contacted us initially because she had seen another film that we made a couple of years ago for DSM called The Unsung Heroes of Science, which is also a docu-drama. So, that was from the get go kind of the go-to format that we're going to choose. Really because of that, because she really got inspired by that particular film. And then on the other hand, we really love this format because we think it's probably the best way to use the power of storytelling to elicit an emotional experience in the viewership through film. You can make documentaries, which are also potentially beautiful formats, but in this age of short content on the Internet, I think a fiction form is more effective in telling your story. More quicker, quicker to the point. And if you combine the two in the form of a docu-drama or like a drama/documentary hybrid, then you also get such as authenticity, which you tend to miss in more commercial, more scripted commercial film.
Phil Lempert:
15:39
So, you mentioned the prior film about the science community. What would you say is a consistent thread from that docu-drama in science and how can farmers be of help in getting this message of 30 Harvests across?
Jasper Klaus:
15:59
Well, one consistent thread is, of course they showed us is finding real stories. And then writing a script based on those real stories and having the real people and the real places in the film instead of actors. And, you know, has good locations. I think that helps to create a level of authenticity that really connects to the viewers. And then I think on a more content level, I think a common denominator between the two films is the fact that there's this sort of inherent optimism in those films, that science - and also perseverance - can really lead to something that can help us change the world. If we're going to change the world, then being smart about it and persevering and overcoming struggles; that will, in the end, help you.
Phil Lempert:
17:03
So, you talk about the casting of Jay and Meagan; I also think that you were brilliant in casting the desk clerk for the motel. I loved her.
Jasper Klaus:
17:15
Yeah, so did we. That was an instant hit. That was the only casting that we did. So, the only actor that we hired, because Meagan and Jay are obviously the actual farmers. But then she showed up on sets, she told me she is from Texas just like Jay, and then she said, "I grew up on a farm and I've worked on a farm for a long time and that's been my life for a long time." And I was like, wow, okay. So, that's pretty perfect. And, I guess she was also a very talented actress, but I like to believe that her coming from a family of farmers might've just given that extra little spark to her performance.
Phil Lempert:
17:58
So, Jasper, what did you personally learn from the message of 30 Harvests?
Jasper Klaus:
18:03
Well, that's a good question. As to the message of the film, what I learned from that, I guess already started before we actually went filming. And that started in our conversations with Erin and with the people at USFRA. I had never really thought or given much thought to the extent of the possibilities of how powerful agriculture can be in the fight against climate change and how smarter farming and those new technologies - in terms of irrigation and managing land and crop cycles and all of that stuff - that seemed very interesting to me. At the same time, I was struck by the fact that almost half of the land mass in the U.S. is farmland, which, for a small country like the Netherlands, that's not that impressive. Right? I mean a lot of our lands is farmland as well, but you know, the U.S. is massive. So, that also includes like the Rocky Mountains. And at the same time, I'm not sure about the numbers, Erin will tell you that, but a large number of farmland is being lost every hour due to urban encroachment, due to farmers giving up and all that stuff. And the fact that farmers apparently give up, whereas there has never been a time where we need farmers more than now. That seems like the kind of juxtaposition that just begs to tell a lot of stories about, because I mean even farmers like Jay who is a successful farmer, right? He has a huge farm, a lot of people working for him, and he's got beautiful equipments, you know, drives a new pickup truck. In that sense, there's nothing wrong with his business, but the fact that even he told us that every year or every harvest cycle, there's a moment where he's like, nope, this is not a future. What am I doing here? This is not going to go down well for the next generation. So, why don't I just quit? And I mean, farmers are not quitters, this is not like the farming type. And I met Jay, and maybe that's actually the answer to your question. Like what I took away most from the production is farmers like Jay are so passionate about what they do and they have such a good idea about what they're doing. He knows exactly what he's doing and he constantly keeps pushing himself and improving himself and he's successful at it. But still, a guy like him seriously considers quitting every once so often. And that's unbelievable to me because he's running a successful business. He's good at what he's doing, and also, it's very important he's doing. Yet still the pressures are so high that you would consider quitting. That's a heartbreak. And to me, that's why we wanted to make this film and that's why we want to really get across the pressures that come at you, so to speak, as a farmer
Phil Lempert:
21:06
Well, Jasper, congratulations and thank you for, for creating this fabulous film, 30 Harvests, that really is going to change the way people look at farming and farmers. So, congratulations.
Jasper Klaus:
21:21
Thank you so much. And it's been a pleasure to be on the podcast. Thanks.
Phil Lempert:
21:26
For more information on all things food and agriculture, and to listen to our archives, please visit fooddialogues.com under the Programs and Media tab and visit us on Facebook at U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance or on Twitter at USFRA. Until next time.
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