About the Film
I came to the veteran story through agriculture. I had been making documentaries about sustainable agriculture for a decade. I wanted to know how we were going to keep family farming alive and viable in this country in the face of suburban development, environmental constraints, corporate globalization, aging farmers and labor shortages. (You can find those short films in the Store under Walk Your Talk Films.)
So when I met Michael O’Gorman in 2009, who was just starting up the Farmer Veteran Coalition, I immediately understood the profound potential that veterans could have by entering our food system as sustainable farmers. The first night I met Michael at the Eco-Farm Conference, he had two veterans with him. I asked if they’d met in the military? No, he replied, they both served in the Army, but they’d met afterwards when they had each joined the Peace Corps and were doing agriculture together in Niger, Africa. What?? I knew there was a story that I needed to follow.
My partner, Ray Singer, and I began shooting California farmer-vets who were within driving distance (until we got more funding) and then we went national, adding stories from Florida, Virginia, and Georgia. Filmmaking protocol is to usually follow no more and 3-4 stories in one film … we’ve got 8! We couldn’t help ourselves, every farmer-veteran we’d meet would have another remarkable story and we’d fall in love with them.
So the story arc couldn’t be any one person’s. Instead we looked at the larger arc – why had they joined the military? How did that war experience impact their life? What was their return home like? What were their struggles? How did they find farming and how has that proven an antidote for PTSD, prescription drug addiction and suicide? How are they prospering now?
The response to the film has been ecstatic — for the audience and for us. People get it, right away. And they love it. The film, the farmer-veteran movement, the hope for our future and a way to get involved on a local level, through our social action campaign Producing a film is not sufficient if you want to effect social change. Audience engagement is essential.
Ground Operations: Battlefields to Farmfields has screened (with panel discussions) on Capitol Hills to Congressional members, to staff at the USDA (U.S. Dept. Of Agriculture), multiple film festivals, national conferences, universities, libraries, community halls and old wooden barns. We are now developing our campaign outreach to colleges and universities, veteran service organizations, environmental, health and faith-based congregations. Please contact us with suggestions.
Ground Operations is a story, and a campaign, about solutions.