GAINING GROUND, a feature-length documentary film, tells the stories of farmers making extraordinary changes in their farming practices so they can feed their local communities sustainably grown produce and grains. From farms in Oregon’s fertile Willamette Valley to underserved communities of color in Richmond, California, GAINING GROUND reveals the ingenuity and courage of these diverse urban and rural farmers, committed to serving and empowering their communities. The documentary interweaves experiences of urban farmer-activists in inner city Richmond, California; a small family farm in rural Oregon converting from a commodity dairy to a sustainably grown produce farm; and a large farm in the Willamette Valley transitioning from grass seed to organic grains.
The stories in GAINING GROUND document the courage and effort it takes to question your assumptions,values and practices and be willing to do something different. The protagonists demonstrate the commitment and tenacity it takes to make meaningful change.
Vicki Hertel and her family own Sun Gold Farm in Verboort, Oregon. A fourth generation farmer, Vickiand her husband Charlie struggled to make ends meet on their small commodity dairy farm. When stricter water quality regulations forced them to sell their cows, they needed to find a way to make a living. Determined to remain on their land, they expanded their small family vegetable garden and discovered their niche growing and direct marketing pesticide-free fruits and vegetables to the Portland area.
Doria Robinson, a third generation Richmond, California resident, directs Urban Tilth, a grassroots urban agriculture program in the heart of Richmond’s Iron Triangle neighborhood. In this impoverished, violence-ridden community access to healthy food is a serious issue. “Creating opportunities for growth, using food as the excuse,” Urban Tilth operates 13 community and school gardens to feed their neighbors organic food. “Growing food from a seed to a fruit is the best project management training you can possibly get.” They provide jobs and training opportunities in a neighborhood with few resources, reconnecting community members with their own innate wisdom and self-worth.
Harry Stalford and Willow Coberly own Stalford Seed Farms, in the Willamette Valley, where sixty percent of the world’s grass seed is grown. Willow was concerned that their farm didn’t grow food. When she realized that their local food co-op sold no locally grown grains, she decided they should grow organic grains on their farm. With unrelenting persistence, she convinced her husband Harry, a life-long grass seed farmer, to experiment growing organic gains on 11 acres of their 10,000-acre farm. As they continue to convert more acreage to organic farming, they face the challenge of rebuilding local food storage and processing infrastructure that was dismantled decades ago. At the same time they are working to stave off the threat of GMO crops being introduced to the Willamette Valley.
Gaining Ground instills in its viewers the potential to create change on a personal, local and global scale. Our goal is to inspire people to make choices in their own lives that support local and sustainable food and the farmers who are working to take back our food system.
The documentary will be broadcast on public television, screened in theaters and film festivals around the country, streamed on the internet and released on DVD and Blu-ray disc for the home market.
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