The end of 2011 marks a year of production on Growing Cities for Dan and I (Andrew)! We feel so fortunate and pleased to be working on this film and can’t wait to have a final product to show everyone. Although there is a long road ahead to reach that point we’ve really come a long way in twelve months. From dreaming of the open road and planning the itinerary last winter, to the road trip this summer, to a three-month stay in San Francisco transcribing the film – we have experienced and learned so much and are eager to share.
The beginning of 2011 saw Dan and I reunited in our hometown of Omaha, NE for the first time since 2006. While both working part time jobs we worked non-stop in our free time to discuss the wide variety of tasks we had to complete before we hit the road. We needed to do research on the farms and farmers, learn filming and lighting techniques, raise money, start a production company and so much more. The list was seemingly endless. We needed to pinpoint what cities we should visit, how long to spend in each place, who to talk to while we’re there, and figure out how each city fit in the bigger picture of urban farming. As two young filmmakers we also needed to learn some tricks of the trade such as the three point lighting system, how to get the best possible sound and video in various tough situations and how to overcome the many other challenges of shooting professionally on a limited budget and time. But day by day we prepared for the road trip of our lives, recruited our friend Brent Lubbert as production manager, and were ready to go by May 1st.
The days of May, June, and July were filled with countless hot hours in the van traversing 13,000 miles across the country, visiting and filming over 80 urban farms, meeting and speaking with hundreds of farmers and activists, learning about local economies, farm subsidies, organic fertilizers, healthy cooking practices, how to humanely transport bee hives, job creation strategies, how to milk goats, social justice, education, land use and development and so much more. That is to say we traveled the country with our eyes and ears wide open learning and tasting as much as we could.
We met the locals and tried the local delicacies. We can’t deny that we enjoyed a lunch of squirrel tacos in Austin, TX. We felt the rush of filming in Times Square when we probably weren’t allowed to be shooting. In New York City we also took an elevator up to a farm for the first time and sampled produce grown several stories up. We learned how amazing fresh honey can be in Los Angeles while relocating a wild hive of honey bees. We planted seeds in just about every city we stopped in. We saw farms in window sills, in the back of trucks, and floating on barges in the Hudson River. Also in backyards, alleys, on top of basketball courts as well as in countless vacant lots. It was fascinating to see how creative people can be when the situation called for it.
We went to the parts of town in LA, Oakland, Detroit, Philadelphia, and New Orleans that most people are told to avoid and met folks in each of these places doing amazing work for their communities through farming. We saw the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, Great lakes and mighty rivers, as well as the Gulf Coast. Only a trip like that helps you realize just how massive and diverse our country is. We saw people transforming the space around them and challenging the notion that city dwellers should only be consumers of their food. We saw people taking charge of changing the way they eat and it was incredibly inspiring – something we can’t wait to bring to the movie screen. It was a journey that tested us physically, mentally, and emotionally every day. It challenged our assumptions (both negative and positive) about America and dared to paint an encouraging picture of our future. As an activity or hobby urban farming is something anyone can get into. As a burgeoning nationwide grass-roots movement is it something we all need to get behind.
We can’t tell you how excited we are to bring the stories from our road trip to life in our film. With one year down we have at least another year to go before we’re finished. We thank you for all the support you’ve shown us so far and we pledge to work hard to finish the film in the upcoming year. The efforts of the men and women farming in our cities (and in rural areas) deserve widespread recognition and praise. These farmers should be elevated to the status of doctors, lawyers, and politicians. It’s time we give them their due – after all, without farmers, how would we sustain ourselves? In particular, urban farmers are creating their own realities by making cities more economically, socially, and environmentally just through their actions every single day. It’s our mission to help foster this movement, to tell these farmers’ amazing stories, and inspire people across the country to create GROWING CITIES of their own.