We got up and drove to Madison, where we were greeted by Julia, the young FFA instructor there. We had two class periods to show select scenes, and then have conversations with the students.
One scene we often choose to screen in these limited screenings is What Happened to Curlew? which outlines a problem that is epidemic in rural America, the loss of people, and with it the loss of schools.
Shortly after talking about the way consolidation works, the loss of population, followed by the loss of tax revenue, followed by the merging of two schools, usually former rivals... Julia explained in a muted tone that Madison recently had an evaluation to determine whether or not they would merge with nearby rival high school, Stockbridge.
It's hard to imagine the pain of living in a town, and gradually watching the people who make it thrive, slowly leave, one brother, one sister, one friend at a time. To see the hardware store shut down, the grocery store, and most gut-wrenching of all, the school.
There's a different path, one that involves more money for farmers, more people in rural America, and more businesses on Main Street. it is a movement that is without a name, one that involves agriculture, craftsmanship, and above all a collective commitment from a community of people.
We drove to Geneva, a funky college town right on the lake. Some students from the Environmental Club had put together snacks, and the late arriving crowd of about 140, enjoyed the food. There was a Syracuse basketball game that night, and we lost about 90 people right after the screening- or at least that's what we told ourselves- with about 50 remaining for the post-screening conversation.
There was a fellow named Matt who visits a lot of farms, and talked about how he is helping local farmers direct market food to people in the region. He, along with Jim, who moderated the discussion, are part of Cornell extension, and dedicated to helping out farmers in the region.
Robin, a professor there, is clearly inspired by the food movement, and really wants to get more local, organic, grass-based foods into the food on campus, so that students can eat healthy, and also because it is vital to the culture, and agriculture of Geneva, a place she loves to live.
Greg, a local farmer, talked about the difficulty of marketing the product, in addition to having to raise it. There's a breaking point that sometimes comes, after the initial idealistic years of any small farm. At that point, additional support is needed to keep the farm going, support from family, friends, community. Perhaps it means hiring someone, or some people to delegate tasks, so that one person does not become overburdened.
Pat, of BAMCo, manages the food service at nearby Hamilton spoke passionately about incorporating local foods not just into the food provided for students, but also for his family.
We said goodbyes and thankyous and drove hours south in the dark towards Modena for a morning shoot with the Karl family farm there.