We left Le Mars and headed North to Sioux Center, once again in the nation's most prolific meat producing county. Gary De Vries- a legendary AgEd instructor in Iowa- is now a professor at Dordt College- which is in Sioux Center. By the way- there are a LOT of cities in Iowa and South Dakota that start with Sioux- Sioux Falls, Sioux City, Sioux River, etc. It is pretty confusing to keep track of them all at first.

Gary introduced us to other faculty in the Ag Dept.- Chris (not Ely) and Duane, and following we made our way to the class where we met the 30 or so students, almost all of whom currently work on farms, and will one day operate their own. There was a diversity of production, from an Wisconsin organic dairy woman to a number of proud west Iowan commodity hog producers. We broke up into four groups and began discussions with the students. There was a really good back and forth, as we discussed the problems of the cost of land, the likelihood of integrators to pull out of contracts, and the barriers- both real and perceived- in rural areas to direct marketing. I learned a number of new things- as I have each day out here- there are grants for young farmers from the USDA- First time farmer loans- that are very competitive but allow an interest rate below 2%. As the grass-based systems entered the conversation, many said the likelihood of converting land from corn/soy to pasture seemed minor- at least as long as corn was selling at over $10 a bushel.

We hopped East and North to Emmetsburg, where a group of 12 students in Kristin's swine production class were kind enough to host us. Again breaking into groups, Chris and Andy both agreed that these two schools yielded some of the most engaged conversations of the screening series. Most of the students are entering into commodity production, but had the open-mindedness to listen to other ideas, and some even came up with really exciting ways to leverage rural communities to grow food and distribute food locally. The school- Iowa Lakes Community College- is lucky to have a teaching farm that they actually own. They get the chance to raise hogs, cattle and chickens- I think. And after today's conversations- they are considering raising broilers on pasture. Of course, it's always hard to imagine a complete shift in the way things are done- and yet- complete shifts happen every generation. The pendulum swings.

As the cost of energy seems headed for continual increase- everyone agreed that local distribution will make far more economic sense- and will often lead to fresher more flavorful meat and vegetables. And everyone agrees that an increase in niche production- from 1% of the market to 20% of the market- would be good for everyone. Given that more labor is needed for niche, it allows for more jobs- which means more people in rural communities in America....

The conversations with these young farmers were really what this is all about. You could see the wheels turning, weighing the points made, agreeing with some, challenging others, reaching new ground.

The next leg of the day took us East and South to Cedar Falls, where we were hosted by the incredibly kind Kamyar Enshayan of the University of Northern Iowa. We had about 20 people, which meant the auditorium was a bit empty. But the audience was engaged, and we had a good conversation following.

We're currently heading further East, back to Dyersville, of Field of Dreams fame, where tomorrow morning at dawn we'll be filming with Chris Ely and Jude Becker.  

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On the Road

We woke up at 8 and started our four hour drive west to Sloan, IA, across 80 and up 29, both major highways. We made it in 3 hours, and stopped at the only restaurant in town- a pizza place- where we got cheese pizza. Dan Witten, greeted us at Westwood- which is a school that has 6 former school districts consolidated into one. 

Right before the screening- there had just been a pep rally for the State wrestling tourney- which is happening this weekend- so the kids were pretty riled up. This meant they were a bit talkative throughout the screening- and reacted quite loudly during the slaughter scenes. It was afternoon, and many were not going to be in school the next day, so I think it's fair to say a few had "checked out" a little early. The 80 or so kids were kind enough to sing happy birthday to me- as today was my birthday. I had planned on keeping this a secret, but my dad had alerted Dan- who then told the auditorium filled with kids. I haven't been that red in the face since highschool. Despite the afternoons many distractions,  we did get a few good conversations in the groups, and were extremely excited to hear that Dan had been able to have some of his FFA members raise hogs at a nearby farm, where a very generous individual- had allowed the group to use the land. This got us thinking- shouldn't every FFA chapter or district- have a farm? What about a database that matches farmers willing to open up their land to FFA members that want hands-on on-farm experience? This will definitely come up next time I talk to good friend and FFA state advisor- Dale Gruis!

We stopped in Le Mars for the night, for the second time, and Chris-being the good generous man that he is- treated me and Andy to a wonderful meal at Archie's a legendary eatery in the area. Many stories were told, and lots of food consumed- I think I put down more than a pound of Alaskan crab- quite the birthday feast.

Full of stomach, and with three screenings tomorrow, we were ready for a night's sleep when Chris' GPS' computer-generated british female voice told us we had arrived at the hotel. 

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The Good Life

It was our first day of three screenings.

We  drove east on 30 for 15 miles to Nevada, IA, which is pronounced Ne VAY da, different from the state. Kevin Cooper is the Ag Ed instructor there, and has a big personality, and everyone calls him "Coop". He's got a lot of positive energy and a unique creative mind. He told us about a cool concept- Morp- which he'll probably share with you if you ask him.

Gathered about 75 students from two schools in the cafeteria, and were joined by Craig Cox from the Environmental Working Group. The small groups discussed, debated, agreed, disagreed. Good for the mind. 

We drove back to Ames for brunch at a hidden coffee place Craig- a resident of Ames suggested- Stomping Grounds. We talked about the work EWG does and about a number of issues facing agriculture, including the politics.

Marshalltown was closer than expected and we screened for the omnipotent Sally Wilson- who with only a few days notice managed to get 50 students in front of a screen in the general gathering area of the Student Union. There was a group playing the card game Magic throughout the screening- which was a first- but they were kind and didn't distract from the film any more than the film distracted from their game. 

The students at MCC were super engaged, showing a lot of knowledge of agriculture, and many showing an interest in getting into it. The students at Chris' table in the first break really showed passion for the topic. At Craig's table, we had a lively discussion about the emergence of corporate entities like Walmart and Chipotle into local agriculture, and the ramifications of that. One tall earnest Native American student- Dawson Davenport said he wanted to intern at Polyface Farms. His tribe has land he can farm for free, and he wants to make it happen. Moments like the one with Dawson, make everything glow with optimism. 

Further South and East we entered the town of Grinnell where we were welcomed by the very tall John Andelson, a professor at Grinnell College, who made every effort to make our stay wondrous- which it was. On a bit of a tight schedule we went to Relish- a new restaurant- with local meats and veggies. It was Craig, Andy, Chris, John and I at first, and we were then joined by young farmer Kayla- who grew up on a farm in Northeast Iowa and knew much about raising animals, including sheep, cattle and bison. Given that it was Valentine's we were a bit concerned that we'd have a light turnout for a 7pm screening as we headed out of the crowded restaurant filled with lovebirds.

At first, it appeared the fear may materialize, but a late-arriving crowd soon filled the high-ceilinged room, and we filled up the 50 available seats. There was local bison jerky on hand that John had arranged for, and we had a good discussion following, with many local farmers in attendance, and a strong passion for local food. 

Chris, Andy and I said goodnight to Craig- who we'd spent all day with- eating quite well I might add- and then goodnight to Kayla- who made some suggestions for young farmers we could document for our new video series. We had rooms at the old and elegant Grinnell House, where one sleeps in fine antiques, and has constant reminders of tradition and history. It was our first three screening day, and sleep came early, easily and in great abundance. 

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Monday morning it snowed, bringing a quiet calm to the already calm Thornton farm.

We left earlier than planned, knowing the slick roads would make travel times longer.

After a stop at the Ames post office, and a wholly satisfying brunch at the Wheatsfield Co-op, we headed East to Collins-Maxwell High School in Maxwell.

Jamie- the AgEd instructor there- had informed on the phone- that Dave Struthers- featured in the chapter Exit Strategy would be in attendance. We’ve screened American Meat for many of the farmers featured within the film. Every time someone featured sees themselves for the first time on the big screen, there are butterflies.  So far- every farmer has felt that they were fairly represented- a streak we very much wanted to keep going.

The screening was in the school gymnasium, and a lot of FFA students and local families were seated at fold-up tables sharing a meal of home-made pork-burgers & potato-salad that had been cooked up by the 50 or so students.

We solved the challenge of under-amplified sound by taping a handheld microphone to a fleece jacket and angling it right toward the speakers which worked well enough.

After each section local farmers teamed up with groups of students to discuss issues brought forth by the video. We documented as Dave Struthers- a commodity hog farmer- talked to his group, sharing wisdom of years operating the family farm. We got a pleasant surprise- when good friend Chris Ely, the co-founder of Applegate Farms- who is a lead sponsor of this screening series- arrived earlier than expected. We had Chris join Dave’s group, to get a sense of the new discussion model we’ve developed.

Chris and the young FFA members in Dave’s group spent a lot of time listening to Dave as he spoke. There’s a time for speaking, and there’s a time for listening. When a farmer who has spent his whole life farming and contributing to the community in which he lives- when he takes the time from hog chores in the midst of a snowy day- to speak, it’s time to listen. Ultimately, Chris and the students had the good instincts to realize this.

Ultimately, it’s going to be listening that helps us overcome the challenges our agriculture faces today. Every farmer has important knowledge, especially about the region where they live and farm. When you’re talking to a farmer, it’s best to listen.

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Day Off

Unlike dairy farmers, videojournalists get to take days off. 

Paul Willis, who's farm we've stayed at 5 nights thus far, took us to the Chit Chat in Thornton for dinner. For those of you not familiar with Iowa- "dinner" is lunch. Let me say that again, the meal that is eaten at about noon, that most people call lunch... out here it's called "dinner".

The Chit Chat is one of the last businesses open in Thornton, and most of the people eating there were over 70. The menu, which was a special one for valentine's day, had a cursive note from the owners stapled on top of it.  It started out talking about the warm weather, and then talked about how the Thornton school was being torn down and salvaged for parts. This unexpected turn, made it an awkward and sad letter for valentine's, but an honest one. You could see a discomfort in Paul's eyes when he talked about the school being torn down- a school where he graduated from in the early 60s.

From there we walked out to a prairie on the Dream Farm, acres and acres of grassland that Paul had helped create. It's a refreshing contrast from the monotonous corn and soy that fills up 93% of the land in Iowa. Seeing the grasslands, and the ponds, with the different yellows of the winter grasses, was a reminder of how quickly nature recovers. Paul said that a couple species of fish had developed in the ponds, and that a few willows had taken root nearby. No humans had introduced fish, or planted willows, they just developed on their own. The wind was strong, and it was still a bit cold, so we made our next stop- to the home of Jon & Mary Larsen.

John makes beautiful stained glass windows of all different designs, and Mary has boundless energy, enthusiasm and generosity. We were the lucky recipients of a loaf of her wondrous banana bread. Both John and Mary always have many projects- Mary has started using an electric grinder to make cornmeal, using Paul's corn, and a sifter from a Des Moines antique store. They are both doers, and builders, and makers, and upon our arrival they had just removed the chimney from their home, brick by brick. It had been causing drafts. John showed us an ornamental fireplace he'd built in the last few months, and we all looked a book written by Mary's grandfather, who had gained great fame in the region for growing potatoes and carrots in the first half of the 20th century. 

After thank yous and goodbyes, we drove into Mason City where Paul ran some errands, purchasing a drill and picking up essentials like coffee and shaving cream. He dropped us back at the Dream Farm and we shared some Cara Cara Oranges before saying goodbyes as the sun went down. 

We're getting prepared for the week ahead, and editing the short video from Saturday's shoot with James- which should be done tomorrow night. 

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One- Out of a Hundred

We got up with the sun. It was well below zero, and with the whipping wind, all you could do while outside was think about the cold, and about when you were going to get inside. After letting the engine run, we drove North and East, turning left and right again and again on the grid of dirt roads. 

James Frantzen met us at the door of his new home, which sits atop a hill. He's got a thick what seems to be Wisconsin accent. The first chores of the day were checking on the pregnant sows. Sows are female pigs. James told us one of the sows was due to give birth today, and if we were lucky there would be piglets.

In the toasty warm farrowing unit- farrowing is the word used for birthing pigs- we found twelve newborns hovered together, each trying to get a turn on mom's teat. James yanked some youngsters that were sitting on mom's snout and tossed them back onto the teat. This is essential because those that don't get well fed in the first couple of days- die. Of the twelve, it's almost assured that a couple won't make it.

From there we went to a larger, much colder barn where James fed the slightly older, much larger piglets that were grouped with lactating moms. We met his energetic black dog, a friendly beast who seemed to always go for the crotch.

Andy, the immensely talented and equally patient videojournalist I've been traveling with, had been shooting for close to a half-hour with exposed fingers in the unspeakable cold. I took a turn with the camera and lasted only a few minutes before my hands started to go numb. Not fun-numb, but the kind of numb that makes you sprint back to the car and press your hands against the air vents. Finished with chores at his house, James jumped in the truck and we followed him down to his parents farm.

There we followed along as he fed hay to steers, gave feed to finishing hogs- these are hogs that are about to be slaughtered- and fed gestating- pregnant- sows.

James' parents were out of town for the weekend, and instead of throwing a party like some 23 year-olds might, he was doing the chores that had to be done. The chores that have to get done, every day, regardless of whether it is -5 degrees, or 87, christmas break, or saturday night. Raising animals means work.

After chores, we shot an interview in the Frantzen family kitchen. James is the fourth generation to live in the town, and the third generation to farm the land where he lives. There's a deep pride in his name, and his land. Of his graduating high-school class- '07 or '08- he is the only one who is currently a farmer. That might seem normal at most high-schools, but New Hampton High School- where he graduated from- is in our nation's heartland of farming. Why only one? There's a lot of reasons for this, of course the cost of land being a big one. But also the lack of interest. He estimated only about 10 or so from his class want to become farmers. There's an undeniable pull from urban areas that promise easier jobs, more pay and in the social realm- more people and more forms of entertainment. James himself tried working in an office for a couple years in Wisconsin- and enjoyed the time there- but something kept pulling him back to the farm. It's in his blood. He's hoping that a similar pull will drive more of his classmates- and other young people- back to farming. And of course, he hopes that land prices drop so that his friends that are already interested can get in. These friends interested in farming have had to take part-time jobs in town- they weren't able to work on the family farm like James is.

Grateful for the indoor interview, we said goodbyes and headed back West. We had a good lunch at Ralph's in Mason City. We then replaced a burned headlight and got an oil change. Back to Thornton just with the last red haze of the sun. Andy said the moon's low and the sky is full of stars. Not sure if I'll go out into the cold and see, or take his word for it and go to sleep.

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Who Owns This Land?

Le Mars was the first town this trip without a Super 8, so we stayed at a Baymont Inn, I think. 

The weather was below zero with the wind chill, and we drove West to Akron, Iowa. In the warmth of the car, it was a beautiful morning, the simple colors of sunrise against the occasional silhouette of a leafless tree. 

Akron is as far west as you can go in Iowa, sharing a border with South Dakota. The state is so close, at some points you can literally throw a rock from the road across into SD. It's a small town, the reason we stayed in Le Mars is because there's no motel in Akron.

We had about 30 students and about 10 community members in all, which for our purposes often leads to really engaged conversations.  The auditorium seemed brand new, which has been the case at a number of the schools. There's a lot of pride in schools out here, and a lot of money and effort goes into keeping schools vibrant and alive. 

We broke into 5 groups, and I handed each community member a sheet of paper that I'd written the review questions on. Questions like: What are the advantages of commodity production? What are the steps in slaughtering a chicken? and How does a CSA work? One of the best things about this screening model is that it forces the old-time farmers to interact with the high school students, and brings up conversations that will hopefully lead to opportunities for these kids to get into farming. Each and every time, I am inspired by the willingness of farmers who raise animals in conventional production, to be open to new ways of doing things, especially if it creates jobs for young people. 

Of course, there's disagreement over specific things, but that's part of being American. Have a conversation, disagree, and move on. Or perhaps change your position just a little bit. Or not.

There are many things that everyone agrees on:

1) We need young farmers

2) Land is way too expensive

3) Farmers should be paid more of the food dollar

After the screening, and the panel discussion, everyone joined for some Subway sandwiches that Randy- the AgEd Instructor (AgEd stands for Agriculture Educator) had arranged for. I talked to three kids who were interested in farming, and one of the first things that came out was the cost of land. 

How can we get the cost of land down? Who's land is this? There's got to be a way- either through homesteading--- where the government says that if you farm land for ten years you own it, or through massively reduced loan rates for young farmers- that we can get land into the hands of these aspiring youth. The time for action is right now. Would there be some organization, company or foundation who would buy acres and acres of land and give it to young farmers? There's got to be some way. 

After lunch we said goodbyes, and got some very heartfelt thank yous from farmers and students alike, which are more effective than gasoline at fueling us across the state. We were also given some Akron-Westfield FFA T-shirts, to add to our growing collection. 

On the way East we stopped  and bought ice cream cones filled with Blue Bunny ice cream, a national company headquartered in Le Mars. We chuckled at the absurdity of eating something that cold in the dead of winter. 

About four hours later- across a windy truck-filled highway 3,  we arrived in Thornton, and began preparing for a dawn shoot tomorrow with young farmer James Frantzen.

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Show of Hands

Here in the heart of agriculture, the issues of farming are vital. Each day, there's a growing sense of urgency. 

We started out at Rock Valley High School- which is in Sioux County, the county in America that produces more meat than any other. When we asked by show of hands how many were farmers or grew up on a farm- every hand out of a hundred went up- except two or three.

During the film, I leaned over and asked AgEd instructor Micah Weber what the main types of farms in the area are- usually an area will have just hogs, or just egg-laying hens. It's rare that a region has more than one or two of these areas of concentration. Micah responded with---broilers, cattle feedlots, hogs, and dairy-- and they've also got slaughter houses. The only segments they are light on is egg-laying hens (where eggs are laid) and cow-calf operations (where calves are born before going to the feedlot). The operations in Sioux County are conventional. 

It was a really cold morning, and I got the sense that the kids and the adults- myself included- were still a bit dazed from getting out of bed and into the biting wind of a 9 degree morning. The conversations were a bit monosyllabic, and generally folks tried to reach an answer with as few words as possible. When we opened up for questions- one young woman asked the question that is burning in every young person who wants to farm in Iowa- and elsewhere- how are we going to get land? One of the young farmers mentioned that his father recently bought acreage at $10,000 per acre, and not far from there acreage had just sold for $20,000 per acre. For those not up on Iowa land prices, this is high. Very very high. And you can imagine, that a 17 year old who wants to farm in the heart of farm country would be very frustrated. I gave as uplifting a response as possible- that there are new websites underway, one that is thinking about being named eFarmony, that would match aspiring farmers with land in Pennsylvania. And that there's also a guy in Boulder, CO who got his neighbors to let him use their land...  as cool as these ideas are, they aren't tangible solutions. The ugly answer right now is that we don't know how to get land in the hands of young farmers. 

But there's reason to be optimistic, too. The two conventional hog farmers on the panel in Rock Valley said that we all have to sit down at the table together, and figure these challenges out. There's positive things from each type of production we can use that will help us build something better. After a couple questions, we called it a morning. The sun was peeking out, the ice on the windshield thawing and we jumped on 18 East for Spencer.


Spencer is a big town with broad streets, big houses and a healthy vibrant downtown.

We got in half an hour before one, and were greeted by lots of kids in sleek black FFA shirts with blue letters. Keaton Hildreth- the Ag Ed instructor- greeted us, and we talked about the best way to structure the screening. Because we had a little extra time- from 1-3:25pm- we decided that we would stop the film at the end of each section and discuss the issues. We decided to break the 80 students into 8 groups of 10, with community members joining each of the groups. It's a challenge in a large auditorium to have a conversation because all the seats are facing forward, so kids often awkwardly pivot or sit on the armrests of chairs. Farmers stand to face the group as they talked to the students.

A bright energetic young farmer named Cassie- more on her later- introduced the film, and people munched on the complimentary popcorn and sipped gatorade as we pressed play.

With the weather warming, and the juices flowing from lunch, the conversations in the afternoon were much more engaged. Students and community members both were quick to share opinions- agreements and disagreements. We bounced around, recording conversations, and listening as people talked about the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of production highlighted in the film. One conventional hog farmer mentioned that he had recently borrowed $750,000 for a state-of-the-art hog barn. 

After the third question and answer session in small groups, three of us, myself and Greg- a conventional hog farmer- and another fellow who's name escapes me- a towering man with huge farm-strong hands, stood up in front of the auditorium. Greg's son asked the first question, one about whether setting up a CSA- a distribution model highlighted in the film- could ever be sustainable in Spencer. To get an idea of the feasibility, Greg asked the audience of 80 kids- by show of hands- how many of them would be willing to work on a grass-based farm if there was land available and a job this summer. What happened next was a defining moment so far on this trip. Nearly every hand in the audience went up. My heart soared. Here we are in a room full of FFA members, and they are all eager to get out onto land and start farming, like the generations before them have. They want to farm any way they can, and perhaps, because of the lower upfront costs, they want to try raising broilers on some pasture this summer. It's an inspiring thing to witness. To feel. 

We've got the people, we've got the will. Soon we'll find the way.  

After the discussion, the discussion kept going. About ten of us- old and young and in between- talked about issues that were brought up in the documentary, and about the challenges farmers face. Cassie- the one who intro'd the film- talked about how she raises hogs and has them slaughtered at a local locker, selling the pork directly to customers so that she can keep the entire dollar spent. As she talked, you could see the pride in the community members standing around. Bright young farmers like Cassie are going to lead the way into the next agriculture, bridging the generational gap. Young farmers Ethan and Patrick also stayed until the end, so excited to farm, and to share their knowledge. 

We took a couple extra bags of popcorn as we said goodbyes and thank yous and headed out to Pizza Ranch for dinner.

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No Easy Answers

Tonight's screening at Estherville High School was a reminder of just how hard transitioning into our next agriculture will be.

The screening was booked about a week ago, so there wasn't much time to get the word out. As a result we had a small turnout, about seven or eight young FFA members and about the same number of farmers, including Chuck Wirtz, one of the main characters in the documentary. 

We stopped and talked after each part of the film finished. First we talked about the disappearance of farmers from rural America, and from the surrounding community of Estherville, there was a lot of agreement as to why this has happened.

More and more land and money is getting into the hands of less and less people. Denny Whittemore, a charismatic farmer with much experience, said that the best thing we could do to help get more local businesses- like meat lockers- back in business- is to begin enforcing the anti-trust laws. Basically, we've seen a monopoly or an oligopoly develop, where a tiny few hold all of the cards. It's choking the life out of rural America, and as the young farmers said there tonight- they can't even come close to getting the land they need to start farming. Seeing the frustration, and the helplessness in the expression of the young farmers when they talk about the cost of land is heartwrenching. What are we going to do? HOW ARE WE GOING TO GET LAND INTO THE HANDS OF YOUNG FARMERS? We don't really have an option here, the future of our nation's food supply depends upon it. Perhaps some of the AgLaw students we talked to last night at Drake will be the ones to come up with a modern day homesteading provision that will transfer land from those who don't live in rural America, to those who want to live in and thrive in rural America. Is there a way to end absentee ownership of farmland!? 

After the second and third parts of the film, which highlight the advantages of grass-based meat production, and talk about some of the innovative distribution models on the rise- like buying clubs and CSAs- we once again talked among the group. The young people said they were excited by Joel's methods of raising broilers, because they would be able to get started raising chickens for only a couple hundred dollars, whereas, it would take a loan of about a couple hundred thousand dollars to get a chicken barn. I was particularly moved when a farmer named Wilbur Gregg- who raises animals conventionally- said that he wants to keep an open mind, and that he wants to help out young farmers, even though he doesn't necessarily agree with the methods. But it's more important to Wilbur to help a young farmer get started- then anything else. We're going to need a lot of this kind of selfless attitude to help get knowledge and land in the hands of young farmers. Shortly thereafter, we all had a good laugh when talking about cutting the bottom off of parking cones and flipping them upside down to slaughter chickens on the farm- something the group might be able to do for an SAE (Supervised Agricultural Experience) for FFA. 

There was a good conversation, and a lot of wisdom and positive intention were shared. Denny talked powerfully about the importance of trying something new, and of not being afraid to fail. I saw a glimmer in the eye of the young people- although I must say they did get out of that auditorium the very moment they were able to, while we older folks stayed around and talked about what needs to happen to shift things in favor of our young farmers. 

The tough news is that there is no easy answer. Land is too expensive for most young people to start farming. We need to find a solution to this problem if we want to continue to grow our own food in America. 

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Blush- Compliments

We caught up on sleep, e-mails and phone calls before getting into the car and driving south to Des Moines. 

Awaiting us across from the sun dial in front of the Drake Law School was family farmer and legendary Ag lawyer Neil Hamilton who was kind enough to host a screening of American Meat. The Ag Law students had arranged for pizzas and vegetables- which helped lure a perfect-sized crowd of graduate students into the lecture hall for the screening. 

In the conversation following we talked about the promise of the next generation of farmers, about how because the average age of the U.S. farmer is 57, that there is a golden opportunity for young people to get into a profession that will only be more in demand in each of the passing years- not unlike the current demand for nurses as the baby boomers enter their 60s. State Advisor Dale Gruis- who's helped coordinate the screenings- was on hand- as always tirelessly supporting a dynamic conversation about the exciting possibilities of farming in America.

We also talked about feeding the world, about the global market and the potential sea-change on the horizon in the wake of Chipotle's farm-to-restaurant pilot program.

And- blush- we got a couple of the most well articulated and heartfelt compliments we've ever received. Michelle, whose family raises commodity hogs in Illinois, said the documentary was incredibly balanced, and that she would recommend it to her friends and family back home. This is exactly what we have aimed for, starting conversations with all farmers, conversations that respect the work that all farmers do to feed our country. Rachael- who helped start an organic farm at the University of Minnesota, talked about the balanced tone that will help bring all farmers to the table  and promised to help us set up screenings at the very large and influential Ag school at her alma mater. 

As a whole we were very humbled by the kind words, and feel a growing excitement at the possibility of reaching future farmers across Iowa, and eventually across the country. We said goodbyes and grabbed a half-box of uneaten pizza for the drive back north, as the first snow of the trip started to fall. 

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