Autumn is harvest time. That means Iowa corn and soybeans; fruit dried in the California sun; greens, beans, and potatoes; slaughtered hogs and beef trucked to market. It also means Thanksgiving turkeys. "Harvest" follows the families to the grain elevator, the farmers markets and, in a welcome break from work, the State Fair. It's the time of summing up after the long growing season, — the time to decide whether the gamble of early spring planting season has paid off.
It's a good time to be a farmer in Iowa. Corn prices are soaring, and with help from chemicals and biotechnology, Midwestern farmers produce more corn on an acre of land than ever before. Craig and LaVon Griffieon and their four children are the fifth and sixth generation on the family's farm near Des Moines. They raise corn, soybeans, and livestock on 1,100 acres. They say times are good financially, but they’re ambivalent about the direction of American agriculture. Craig and LaVon disagree over how they should manage their farm and their land.
Most Americans know little about where their food comes from and even less about the lives of farming families who plant, water, feed, herd, harvest and deliver that food to market. PRI's "Five Farms: Stories From American Farm Families" confronts that information gap head on.
This remarkable series of five one-hour documentaries uses compelling first-person storytelling to personalize the lives and work of five farm families in New England, the South, the Midwest, the Southwest and West Coast. By tracking these families for a full year-long cycle of the seasons, "Five Farms" reveals the resiliency of the American farmer and documents what they do to help feed the nation, while being caretakers and conservationists of the lands and resources they use. "Five Farms" profiles people who work hard and make considerable sacrifices, but who can also flourish, and for whom the benefits — including a deep understanding of the land they work — are rich.
Each episode of this powerful series helps listeners make the critical connection between the food on their tables and families who work to produce it.
The Hager Brothers Farm is set on more than 700 acres of rugged, hilly terrain in Colrain, Massachusetts. Chip and Sherry Hager run the farm, along with daughter Kim and son-in-law Aaron, and another son, Todd. Both Kim and Aaron --- college graduates with degrees in agriculture --- bring to their passion for farming a new understanding of the science of dairy herd management. The family continually merges traditional and innovative approaches to dairy farming.
The Hager farm has approximately 110 milkers. Like most farms in the Northeast, the Hager farm has had to diversify its production into other areas in order to succeed. In addition to their dairy operation, the Hagers tap nearly 12,000 maple trees, relying on maple sugar production for a portion of their income. Recently, they have added beef from their small herd of twenty-five Herefords to their home front store.
Meeting rising production costs in the face of unstable milk prices is just one of the challenges the Hager family faces. With limited pastureland, keeping cows well fed, healthy, and producing the optimum amount of milk without causing stress on the animals are all major concerns. Affordable labor is usually limited to neighborhood youngsters who eventually move on to higher paying work in tech or service industry jobs. With a day that begins at 4 in the morning and ends around 7 p.m., the Hagers are an excellent example of the kind of dedication it takes to produce one of our most important staple food products.
"Five Farms" explores the lives of farm families who plant, feed, herd, harvest and deliver food to our markets.