Winnipeg documentary filmmaker Katharina Stieffenhofer came home from a farmers’ conference two years ago so inspired by what she’d heard and seen she wanted to tell others.
She’d listened to talks by Martin Entz, plant scientist at the University of Manitoba, at the 2016 Prairie Organic Think Whole Farm conference.
It wasn’t the first time she’d been in his audience. Keenly interested in the environment and organic farm systems, she’d been on farm tours at Ian N. Morrison Research Farm at Carman too.
What impressed her in the winter of 2016, however, was how interested other farmers were too, and the sheer numbers attending that particular conference. She spoke to those already certified and those just thinking about transitioning a few acres.
“The event was sold out and filled beyond capacity,” she said. “I realized there was a growing momentum in organic and ecological agriculture.”
For the next two years she’s began interviewing and filming subjects for “From Seed to Seed,” a feature-length documentary film being released this month. The film features Manitoba farmers now changing farm practices to rejuvenate their farms and farm communities.
“From Seed to Seed” follows several farmers over the course of a growing season, who are changing their farm practices.
Its core subjects are Terry Mierau and Monique Scholte, small-scale farmers at Neubergthal. The couple has an interesting life story of giving up life as opera singers in Europe to pursue small-scale farming. They now live with their three children in the traditional Mennonite village in southern Manitoba, own 37 acres and farm, as they say in the film, in a way others might say isn’t possible anymore.
“I was told it wasn’t possible. Your dad doesn’t have land. You can’t be a farmer,” Mierau says in the film. “What I realized is you don’t have to inherit land and you don’t need 1,600 or 5,000 or 10,000 acres in order to farm. That’s one mentality of what farming is and it’s one kind of farming.”
Other farmers in the film include Brandon-area certified organic producers Ian and Linda Grossart, Andrew and Colleen Granger who are converting land, cattle producer Jared Puhach and Jonah Langelotz who is being mentored by Mierau.
Wayne Rempel, CEO of Poplar Grove/Kroeker Farms, speaks about that farm’s gradual conversion of more and more acres to organic production while Martin Entz talks about how farmers are converting a few acres at a time.
“Farmers are interested,” Entz says in the documentary. “One of the messages is ‘don’t convert your whole farm to organic, just convert a portion.’ I’ve seen a lot of real success stories like that.”
Winnipeg-based climate scientist Ian Mauro and activist Vandana Shiva of India are also interviewed in the film which takes the viewer through these farmers’ experiences from seeding to harvest, illustrating the variety of practices and scales of their different farms, and the complexities and challenges they face.
Stieffenhofer calls her film an exploration of a social movement in agriculture.
“It’s a hopeful story about farmers and scientists working together to regenerate the land, agriculture and communities towards a healthier future for all of us,” she said.
She hopes it will reach a wide viewing audience that those seeing it will better understand the work now underway between farmers and scientists to create new farm systems based on natural processes built around diversity and animal integration.
“I want to raise awareness about what we are already able to do in terms of growing our food without chemicals and the innovations that we’ve already attained,” she said. “I want to inform people about what is possible and why this is important.”
Stieffenhofer grew up on a mixed family farm on a Rhine island in Germany, coming to Canada when her parents moved to southern Manitoba to become grain farmers.
This is her second feature-length film. Her first documentary about a school gardening project in northern Manitoba “… And This Is My Garden” was released in 2010.
“From Seed to Seed” premiered during an invitational event on November 19 at Park Theatre in Winnipeg.
The film will be delivered to MTS Stories From Home this month with an air date announced on the website fromseedtoseed.com.
The film will be available free of charge to MTS TV customers.
To learn more about the film and view a trailer visit fromseedtoseed.com.