Rural and Urban

Drove out through the dark to Mark Penner's farm. 

We miked up Mark, which means we handed him the transmitter, told him to put it in his pants pocket, run the wire up underneath his shirt, and then we clipped it on to the collar, so that the mic is mostly covered by the shirt. 
He had a small wagon with some 5-gallon buckets filled with feed and walked out to the hoop barns along the icy dirt path. Andy followed, at times not filming so as to secure footing on the ice. The winter chores are short, and were all done after about 15 minutes, at which point we set up an interview along a treeline, the overturned buckets, seats. 
Mark talked about how we as a country would benefit by shifting subsidies to young farmers and to alternative agricultural systems. His father actually owns a conventional hog barn, and his brother and him are both Niman farmers, which means that they raise their animals outside, without antibiotics or growth promotants like Palene. His father has been supportive of the switch, and it has even allowed him to relive some of the experiences of his youth, when all hogs were raised in such a manner. 
We drove East to Chatfield HS, and arrived at Potter Auditorium, an old school converted into a community center. Stacy Fritz, the AgEd instructor did a great job setting up the event, getting a number of different panelists with a wide range of experiences. The conversation was very constructive, very genial in nature, and we talked about issues like the future of farming, and about how young farmers can get started. Programs like Farm Beginnings were mentioned, about how some FFA chapters like the one at Spencer HS in Spencer, IA, have chosen to raise broilers on pasture for their SAE project. SAE projects are Supervised Agricultural Experiences that are culminating projects for students in FFA chapters. 
After the conversation, we shared a meal together, some chicken noodle soup and deli wraps with turkey, bacon and vegetables. 
We said goodbyes and thankyous and headed out to St. Paul, where we showed up barely in time for the screening at St. Thomas. Lots of Saints in Minnesota. We had a great crowd for a Friday afternoon on a city campus, 100 people in the very vertical auditorium. Most of the questions were directed to Todd Lein and Jon Peterson, who are both local farmers. Todd of the aggregate grass-fed beef provider Thousand Hills Cattle Co. and Jon of Ferndale. People wanted to know if these companies had been offered to be bought out, (they had not) and how these farms are able to supply meat year round (they slaughter much in fall, and sell a lot of frozen product).
Randy, of BAMCo at St. Olaf talked about how education is very important, that many people see a healthy dark yellow yolk, and think that the pale industrial egg is the healthy one, because they've never seen eggs from a chicken raised outside. 
Mitch from Chipotle handed out free burrito coupons, and t-shirts, and lots of folks asked questions. 
One student asked about the connection between rural and urban agriculture, and we talked about how there has been a growing disconnect between the two in the past decades. Bridging the cultural differences between rural and urban, building friendships and business enterprises between these two distinct communities are going to be vital to the health of rural America, urban America, and of course, America as a whole. 
We drove South to Austin and went to sleep, exhausted from a very long day, and prepping for another shoot on the morrow.
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