Follows Nick and Celeste Nolan and their young family on a journey to resurrect Nick's grandfather's dairy farm as agriculture moves toward large-scale farming.
Directed by Shaena Mallett
Produced by Chad A. Stevens
Cinematography/Sound: Shaena Mallett
Editor: Kelly Creedon
Original Music: Tyler Strickland
Executive Producers for American Documentary | POV: Justine Nagan, Chris White
Produced by Shaena Mallett in collaboration with milesfrommaybe Productions in association with American Documentary | POV
[Note: Community screenings of FARMSTEADERS can be booked at Bullfrog Communities.]
"An intimate and exalting look at the small family farm, the everyday hero of our food system." Mother Nature Network
FARMSTEADERS is a love story, a farm story, and a story of contemporary rural America. Nick Nolan, his wife Celeste, and their young family are on a journey to resurrect his grandfather's dairy farm - fighting to keep this homeland from "drying up and blowing away," something that has happened to about 4.7 million farms in the U.S. as the pressures of corporate-driven food have left deep scars in the region.
Director Shaena Mallett points an honest and tender lens at the beauty and hardship of everyday life on a family farm, as the Nolans work to balance their fears and hopes with so much at stake.
Nick and Celeste's meditations on life, legacy, and resistance bring complexity and depth to the national conversation and characterization of the rural white American. For the Nolans, only three things remain certain: family is everything, nothing ever stays the same, and the land holds it all together.
Grade Level: 7 - 12, College Adults
US Release Date: 2020
Copyright Date: 2018
DVD ISBN: 1-948745-34-8
"I am struck by the humanity, love, and pain in Farmsteaders. Dairy farming is most unforgiving since it has to be done every day of every year and this film demonstrates why they are heroes. This should be viewed in every urban and suburban community to build more support and understanding. In a period of stark urban vs. rural divides on so many issues we should all agree: farmers like the Nolans are true American heroes."
Michael Hamm, C.S. Mott Professor of Sustainable Agriculture, Senior Fellow, Center for Regional Food Systems, Michigan State University
"Farmsteaders isn't a film focused on the evils of factory farming or the greed of big corporations; instead, it's an intimate and exalting look at the small family farm, the everyday hero of our food system."
Mother Nature Network
"We face a structural crisis in this country when it comes to Land transfer. In our work with Agrarian Trust, we hear every day about land-drama, both from those seeking to enter agriculture, and those seeking to retire in dignity. This film portrays a truly heart-warming story of family farming, the dynamics of inter-generational transfer, and the beauty, struggle, and hardship of making it work. All farmers must face these themes, and more eaters and policy makers must understand that this inflection of ownership and stewardship has tremendous impact on the viability of our rural places and economies."
Severine von Tscharner Fleming, Director of Greenhorns, Founding Board President of Agrarian Trust
"Farmsteaders captures many of the lines of tension that run through local-scale farming: strength and vulnerability; honoring generations past and the rising generation; love of place, family and work coupled with the grind of relentless, hard work without a safety net. This is an excellent documentary for honoring small farmers, showing aspiring farmers some of what they might expect, and reminding all of us who eat every day the real value of what we are consuming. Farmsteaders demonstrates in the particular and poignant story of one farm the consequential and devastating effects of our 'get big or get out' agricultural policies."
Keith Morton, Professor and Chair, Public and Community Service Studies, Providence College
"It's not just a story about farming, but of standing up to live one's life in accordance with one's beliefs, no matter the sacrifice."
Julie R. Thomson, Huffington Post
"Farmsteaders is a personal and intimate story that will create empathy between viewers and those brave souls who are farming against all odds in a globalized market system that cares little for the individual family, their historical ties to the land, and collective agrarian commitments, and instead prioritizes output above all else. May this story, without drama or glamour, connect us, and ultimately motivate us to more actively engage those who grow and raise the food that sustains us all, either by buying more local produce from farmers and ranchers or by engaging in local to global policy efforts designed to help support a diversity of farmers in maintaining their land, stewarding it and paving the way for future generations who can carry this work forward."
Gabrielle Roesch-McNally, Director for Women for the Land, American Farmland Trust
"At a time when most small dairy farmers are thinking about getting out, the Nolans bring cows back to their farm, with a plan to make dairying work in a way closer to the way their ancestors worked the land. Will they and their children manage to build a life out of a small herd of mixed breeds, selling cheese to the local town? While the answer to that question is unclear, what is clear is the determination, strength and sweat it takes to try."
E. Melanie DuPuis, Professor and Chair, Environmental Studies and Science, Pace University, Author, Nature's Perfect Food: How Milk Became America's Drink
"Every day twice a day the cows must be milked. The film captures the struggle to create and maintain the conditions so farmers can work hard to make a living. And some of the joys when it works. It gives a sense of the relentlessness of cycles from spring to winter; from grandparents to grandchildren; from cows to calves; from parents to children. From one day to the next. People who consume dairy products should watch it to develop an appreciation in very human terms for what's on their tables."
E. Paul Durrenberger, Co-founder and Board Member, The Sustainable Iowa Land Trust, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, University of Iowa and Penn State University
"Recommended...A well done, strong documentary...I recommend this film for high school through adult viewers. It would be a wonderful enhancement to courses or discussions on the American Agrarian movement, agricultural business, small business, food science, regional, and family studies."
Susan J. Martin, Tennessee State University, Educational Media Reviews Online
"Compact, exquisite...An ode to those living off the land and their own backbreaking labor as a positive choice, not a grim necessity. Reviewer rating: 3.5/4 stars."
C. Cassady, Video Librarian
|DVDs include public performance rights.
DVD includes SDH captions for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and scene selection.
Host a community screening
The film's website
Excellent POV Lesson Plans for Grades 6-8, 9-10, 11-12
Excellent POV Discussion Guide
Extensive POV Reading List, with recommended fiction and nonfiction titles for adults and younger readers
Awards and Festivals
Nationwide Broadcast on PBS's "POV"
Emmy Award Nominee, Best Business and Economic Documentary
Best Feature Film, Audience Award, Indie Grits
Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
Athens International Film + Video Festival
Independent Film Festival Boston
Chagrin Documentary Film Festival
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"Heart-warming...This intimate look at how one family is coping with the farm crisis and working hard to keep the family farm alive is ultimately uplifting."
Sue-Ellen Beauregard, Booklist
"A raw glimpse of what it takes to continue farming in an age of vertical integration and mechanization of agriculture...This is a film that impresses upon viewers that family farming is as harrowing as it is strikingly beautiful and noble...This film delivers an honest, heart-wrenching account of the realities of this lifestyle choice - growing food for yourself and others while remaining true to your values and beliefs. The beauty of this choice is framed against the daily heartbreak of unglamorous and thankless work. This film is ideal viewing for the broader public, as it is every bit as educational as it is artistic."
Alissa Boochever, University of Vermont, Gastronomica: The Journal for Food Studies