Out on the East End, where suburbia gives way to open spaces, a new breed of farmer is taking root. Some walked away from established jobs to till the earth. There is an investment banker, a custom window designer and a psych major among them. For these new farmers, local sustainable agriculture is not just a career, it’s a lifestyle.
After many months of hard work, The New Farmers of Long Island is finally complete. The first farmer I met was Dan Machin, who at that time was a solo farmer and the farm he owned was known as The Lone Acre. Dan then introduced me to Chris Browder, a chicken farmer who left his job as a banker to start up his farm. Slowly, one farmer led me to another, which led me to a family who is part of a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm. I then found a chef at First and South in Greenport, who supports the local farming industry and then a musician whose song, “Seeds,” is incorporated in the piece. Finally, we sought experts from Cornell Cooperative Extension and the Peconic Land Trust. What I quickly discovered is that on the East End of Long Island, the new farmers are a very close community. I also learned that farming is back-breaking seven-days-a-week work. An occupation one chooses for love, not money.
The original idea was to set out and document a farm-to-plate concept. After hours of research, I discovered that there was a small group of people who had ventured into farming as a new career. Most people, including myself, envision farming as a career handed down from generation to generation. This does exist in Long Island, but the “new farmer” was a concept I had never heard of. The story of farm-to-plate has been told many times, and we certainly could have made a Long Island documentary version. However, as a journalist I am always looking for a new story, and I was very excited to tell the story of The New Farmer.
The project began in early spring of 2012, and the shooting spanned approximately seven months. Shooting this project was extremely challenging. The journey to the East End of Long Island was not by any means a light drive from White Plains. fixed lenses, ND filtration paired with the Canon 5d Mark II and by the end a 5dMK3, helped produce really cool footage. I also wanted to work with jibs and rails throughout this project, which would raise the production value. Although the Kessler Cineslider and Pocket Jib are a pleasure to work with, dragging them by myself from farm to farm has its challenges. Working with the gear is time-consuming, but I learned that set-up and professional shots can be made without a crew. My favorite rail shot was the closer, a night star time-lapse at the HOG, which I filmed over four-hours during the dead of night. I lit the barn with a gas lantern, set the Oracle controller, and crossed my fingers. It worked, and I’m ecstatic with the results!
I initially edited hours of footage, then the rough cuts were handed off to Newsday’s video editor Mario Gonzalez, who with the help of Bobby Cassidy and Arnold Miller, began the time consuming editing process. Several drafts into the edit, we decided as a team to incorporate experts Dale Moyer an Agriculture Program Director from Cornell, and John Halsey the President of the Peconic Land Trust. Having experts in the industry speak about the challenges of farming helped to validate each of the initial interviews. We also had Newsday’s talented Meredith Daniels add narration to the video. These sound bites, also know as voice-overs, helped pace the video while telling the story.
After months of editing, we decided to capture a few aerial shots for our piece. On the last shooting day, our producer Arnold Miller took a drive with me to meet Sean Pilger and Hal Goodale. At each of their farms, Arnold flew a remote controlled quad helicopter known as a UAV. The DJI Phantom Quadcopter paired with a GoPro Hero 3, helped capture low-altitude aerial footage. A really nice touch for the beginning of the piece to set the tone and give a birds-eye view of the farm. Finally, our summer intern Rachyel Brightman helped edit the sound and Ryan McDonald of News 12 added slick motion graphics.
It doesn’t matter how good your footage is, without a solid team and support of management, a documentary such as this could never come to fruition. It’s a pleasure to work with many talented folks at Newsday and News 12. Each gave their insight to produce this year-long project.
I’m also extremely thankful to each person who was willing to give their time to take part in this project. Farming is extremely hard work, and time consuming, yet these folks gave us what little extra-time they had to participate in The New Farmers. You guys are awesome, many thanks!
Tom Hart – Deep Roots Farm, Orient
Chris and Holly Browder – Browder’s Birds, Southold
Emily Landeck and Cassie Woolhiser – Sylvester Manor, Shelter Island
Faith Rotolo – CSA member, Lake Ronkonkoma
Taylor Knapp – Chef, First and South, Greenport
Sean Pilger and Dan Machin – Hamlet Organic Garden, Brookhaven
Hal Goodale – Goodale Farms, Riverhead
Dale Moyer – Agriculture Program Director, Cornell Cooperative Extension
John Halsey – President Peconic Land Trust
Amanda Merrow and Katie Baldwin– Amber Waves Farm, Amagansett Justin Flagg – Lead singer, The New Students Newsday and News 12 crew Chris Ware – photographer and partial-editor Mario Gonzalez – editor Bobby Cassidy – producer Arnold Miller – producer and aerials Raychel Brightman – sound editor Meredith Daniels – narrator Ryan McDonald – motion graphics Equipment: