December 11, 2010

'Farmer' films help consumers connect with food sources

BY COLIN HICKEY, Correspondent

WATERVILLE — Marilyn Meyerhans still marvels at the beauty of golden apples hanging from her trees on a clear, crisp autumn day.

click image to enlarge

Marilyn Meyerhans in a scene from the Maine Farmland Trust's movie project, "Meet Your Farmer." Meyerhans and her husband own orchards in Fairfield and Manchester. The film featuring them and others will be shown Sunday, Dec. 12 at Railroad Square Cinema.

Contributed photo

Meyerhans and husband, Steve Meyerhans, own and operate The Apple Farm in Fairfield and Lakeside Orchard in Manchester, so they have had endless opportunities to see the sight during their 36 years in the apple business.

But most people, Marilyn said, have lost that connection to the places where the food they eat is grown. They have no idea of the beauty of such places, or of the process farmers go through — typically a long and laborious one — to produce their annual harvest.

The Maine Farmland Trust hopes to re-establish some of those connections through its "Meet Your Farmer" project, a series of eight short documentary films that give an intimate view of life on a diverse variety of Maine farms.

The Maine Farmland Trust hopes to re-establish some of those connections through its "Meet Your Farmer" project, a series of eight short documentary films that give an intimate view of life on a diverse variety of Maine farms.

The Commission is presenting a screening of those films at 10 a.m. Sunday at Railroad Square Cinema. The $10 admission includes a buffet of local foods donated by Barrels Community Market.

Independent filmmakers Cecily Pingree and Jason Mann directed the films, one of which is a visit with the Meyerhans and their two orchards.

Marilyn Meyerhans said the film crew shot footage over a couple days at their orchards, staying overnight at the farm so they could get a true feel for the daily life of people in the business.

The movie, a little more than seven minutes in length, is built around a conversation with Meyerhans interspersed with shots of the orchards and segments dealing with the picking and processing system.

If Mainers did that, Marilyn said, apple growers would not have to ship any of their harvest out of state.

The Meyerhans' two orchards produce between 25,000 to 30,000 bushels of apples annually. They sell them at two farm stands, a pick-your-own operation and wholesale sales, which includes cider.

Marilyn said one of the joys of an apple orchard is the pick-your-own part. Many people with little contact to agriculture get the chance to see what an apple farm is really like.

"During the fall, to be sure," she said, "it is a place to be. It is so beautiful to see the apples. People don't see enough of that agricultural beauty and when they do, they love it."

Such direct contact with the public, however, is more difficult with other types of farms, Meyerhans said. Dairies, for example, tend to be ill suited for such traffic, she said.

And that, she said, is a prime reason for the film project: The documentaries give people the chance to see the challenges and rewards of people who work the land and raise the livestock that generate the bounty of food Mainers and Americans in general have available to them.

Marilyn Meyerhans says that farming can be demanding, especially the never-ending task of marketing. Despite that, the farm, the apple orchard, offers Meyerhans a life that she has never ceased to love and embrace, particularly on those fall afternoons when apples red, green and golden hang bright in the autumn sky.

 

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