Somewhere between the boom of suburbia in the 1960s and the technological onslaught of the 21st century, an understanding and respect for farming in North America took a back seat to picking up sustenance found freshly frozen in the grocery aisle. The average age of farmers in the US has risen to 58.3 years, according to an alarming Department of Agriculture census released in 2014. Spencer MacDonald’s short documentary, Age of the Farmer, offers a voice for the newest generation of farmers in North America who, in small numbers, believe in the importance and revitalization of working the land.
“We’re not really used to hard work,” said Claire Jutras, a farmer from British Columbia, speaking on her generation’s detachment from the soil. “We didn’t grow up on farms, we didn’t grow up with farming families.” Yet, she notes, if we go back just a few generations we begin to realize that working the land is in all of our roots.
MacDonald’s documentary shows how these farms act as a tangible teaching ground for young farmers, places where their understanding of both history and current philosophies is strengthened and structured by physical work. “If the family farms are healthy, it can create the fabric for society to be healthy,” says one the farmers. “One of the first things that you can do is get back in touch with the food, because that’s ultimately what you are.”