Rural Landscape Archive

 

This is a project to collect, digitize, compile and re-distribute a wide range of home-movies created on farms, and by farmers during the early days of home-movie-making. This period covers-RICK ADD DATES---, and happens to coincide with a profound period of change for American agriculture, when mechanization, market forces and federal policy conspired to transform these farm familys' relationships with the landscape. Our interest in this material is far from a theoretical, from a vague notion to save it from the dustbin for unknown future historians. NO indeed, we have a set of users firmly in mind, and they are the future farmers of this same landscape.

We see these materials, mostly poorly archived in basements and attics, as a practical repository for todays agrarians, with relatively recent, and highly relevant approaches in both stewardship and style. ADD SPECIFIC KNOWN CONTENT TYPE HERE The barnyard vernacular, the shed-designs for poultry, hog-feeding practices, visible diversity of the meadows and non-chemical management of fencerows, to the clothes worn during cattle roundups. Studying these scenes just out of sight for this generation.  whose attitudes and place on the land are already a barely forgotten lineage.

History

…. This series was instigated by Rick Prelinger of Prelinger Library in  (BIO)

Following in the footsteps of his highly successful series " Lost Landscapes" prepared now in 3 cities, Rick wanted to bring his methodology for community history to a rural audience, and to explore themes of the working landscape.  ADD MORE ?

Rick is delighted to work in collaboration with the Greenhorns  a young farmers organization, already familiar at the library through its publication of the New Farmers Almanac, which is rich with archival and found materials most of them from the Prelinger library . Our collaboration is both in collecting the materials, assessing thematic threads, and in distributing the evolving remix-kaelidescope in community settings across rural America. Rick has taken his show on the road to Detroit and Los Angeles, in collaboration with  ADD COLLABORATORS AND DETAILS HERE. Greenhorns, in a far different context have brought their own traveling exhibit with painted panels, oral histories, a moveable agrarian reading room and 'grange-future' show to Grange halls across California and beyond. The NY Times Magazine featured the last stop on our California Grange Future tour, 2014, by all accounts a huge success. Thanks to the momentum from that tour we're planing  Grange Future tours in Oregon and the Northeast in partnership with the Rural Academy Theater, a troop of populist puppeteers. The Adirondack portion of this tour, in particular, has a full set of programming attached, from draft-horse trials with partners DAP-net , lessons in silvi-pasture and forest-sports at Paul Smith's College, practical workshops on affordable historic preservation techniques for farmers restoring old farmhouses in the Champlain valley, to a lecture on this history of cooperation at our local grain-mill. ( and much more)

Bringing history as a practical tool… RICK COMMENTS.

 

Statement of Intention:

Our goal is to create a collection and presentation from a relatively short period of American family farm life. We will create an archive of these ephemeral, amateur/ home-movies made during the 1920's-1980's covering two distinct periods of prosperity and crisis. The films were usually created as a familial archive, which makes them tender portraits of a past-present. Because they are farmers, the relationship with place, with the work and mechanics of agriculture is often quite central to the films. We will be delving into the collection to discover the themes and topics prominent in the minds, and view-finders of the filmmakers.  While we have some expectation based on …. because this is a collection that has only just begun, it is still a mystery what will emerge.

From this collection, we can create a composite-piece, an hour-long tour through the footage and landscape which is screened without a sound-track to a live audience who can narrate along with the film as the recognize tractors, crops,

 

Background:

This present moment, ' between the generations' is an overlap in demographic experience and also land-ownership. Farmers alive today remember horses on the landscape, and often cared for those animals, they remember buying their own farm, and seeing a large family supported. Today, similar farmers have no hope of buying a farm, or supporting a family-- and with an estimated 400 million acres of US farmland in ownership transition over the next 2 decades-- the question of who will own, and farm this land remains unanswered. If current trends indicate the direction of travel, this land will become consolidated into larger and larger parcels, owned by absentee investment groups, equity funds. This would follow on the heels of a previous era of concentration- particularly poignant through the farm-crisis of the 1980's where more than 1/3 of family farms went out of business-- and the resultant simplification of farming systems.  Though the memories and memorabilia of the generation of farmers  who bore witness-- we can learn how devastating loss-- of farming-life ways, hedgerows, barns, small-town life, small town shops and services, and even the health of the streams and rivers.

 

Archiving the work of former generations, should not be limited only to film or cultural documentation--- similar efforts are needed in documenting and preserving a living lineage of mechanical, political and biological systems as well. The Grange is well suited to these practices, but time is short. In the northeast, this past,  (coldest on record) winter killed many of the stately trees, from in front of our early farmhouses. These locusts, oaks, beeches, elms, hickories, pears, apples,  planted by the first and second settlers in many areas, were planted within a farm-system which is now almost totally displaced. Many of these trees are still standing, quietly bearing un-harvested fruit, setting out a hopeful set of seeds, waiting to be re-discovered and preserved. These trees hold more than a cultural lineage of cider-making, and pork-fattening, as grand-mother trees, used as hitching posts and cradle-swings, they hold the latent genetics of a non-chemical agriculture, and the flavoring for hard cider.

 

Agrarian Futurism is on the rise, as young farmers envision and enact a kind of ' scar-tissue' approach to repairing and revising many of the abandoned practices and diverse, wild-edge land-use techniques. These patient orchards, which sat and waited under brambles are now being re-discovered, and re-awakened by top-workers making home-brew hard cider, and madly propagating their 'found' varieties.  These apples are the target of a new generation of ' fruit explorers, ' no longer scouring the colonies for botanical conquest, but instead scanning historic letters+ correspondence with nurseries, the backyards of Quakers, and keeping a wild-eye open to the emergent genetics from abandoned hedgerow-trees.  This is the active, production  oriented, historically literate agrarian movement we are working to serve.

 

Timeline/ Description of the Project:

Summer 2015

Soliciting for materials

Maine Sail Freight "cargo gala" celebration, Boston MA

Winter 2015

first screening, February Grange Tour in Oregon

Spring 2016

Summer 2016

touring screenings, Adirondack / NE Grange Future tour

 

Outreach Locations:

The following is a list of places where we will reach out for materials and advertise our growing online archive.

Agricultural History Association

Regional Sustainable Agricultural Organizations / conferences

(NOFA, MOFGA, Sierra Harvest, PASA, MOSES, EcoFarm etc)

Local 4H chapters

Used bookstores that specialize in agriculture

Historical Farm tool collectors/ collections

esp Rutgers, near Cornell,

Living History Museum and Outdoor education Association

Farm Bureau

Feed and Tackle Stores

County Fairs

Specialty crop fairs ( Almond, Strawberry, etc festivals)

National, State and Pomona (regional) Granges

Historical societies (rural)

Agricultural societies

Garden clubs (rural)

Small town cinemas, in partnership with "rural route film festival"

Chatauqua association and rural lecture (Amos Fortune, research others..)

Populist

 

Screenings:

The "show" will evolve over time, as more material is added and examined-- it will iterate as it travels, growing like a snowball, and attracting contributions from the places it visits. A perfect late-evening activity, this video presentation can fit into a multi-aspect traveling exhibit about rural lives and livelihoods, extending the conversation from recent and more distant history, towards the future actions and actors on the land.  We will use the show as an attractant to community organizing efforts around the revival and enlivenment, particularly, of a 150 year old farmers organization, known as the Grange, or "Patrons of Husbandry". The range of activities of Grangers, and farmers over the last century extend beyond the field's edge, from co-packing, warehousing+cold-storage, milling and comibine-repair-- the activities we'll see in the films reflect very much the mission at hand in these small towns, as we move from a period of monoculture, into a more diverse, resilient and multi-layered production. We feel this institution of the Grange, particularly, with its modest kitchens, piano, dance/ lecture halsl, and populist agenda holds a crucial social potential, and holds it already in a fraternal commons, without mortgage. Along with the physical infrastructure, the grange offers a scaffold and pattern of kinship and community purpose which has proven a crucial understory for cooperative efforts, particularly the cooperative effort of rebuilding infrastructure of small and medium-sized farms. The future, if it is pleasant, will require us to learn, and re-learn many new skills, and to repair, rebuild and invent a resilient farming, a design process we can cherish.

 

 

Project partners

Rick Prelinger, Prelinger LIbrary

Charlie Macquerie, Editor of the Greenhorns New Farmers Almanac, personal blog

Severine v T Fleming, GreenhornsGrange Future

, research manager for Prelinger

Cleo Ulatowski, Grange Future coordinator

Kathran Blofson, Grange Future oral history coordinator

 

FYI:

Target tours:

Februrary 2016 Oregon Grange tour

Summer 2016 Adks/ New England Grange tour

Upper Midwest tour fall 2017

Carribean Tour winter 2017

 

WANTED

Agricultural Home-movies from your basement or attic.

Have you seen a collection of carefully labeled, mysterious yellow boxes of film-reel in your back cubbord or barn?

Probably, you've never even watched these films, since they're not on a digital, VCR format, but don't' want to throw them out?

Well then, we're a match!

We are a young farmers organization working in collaboration with experienced archivists in a large-scale project to collect, compile and digitize family farm videos from the early period of home-movie making.

If you have such farm films, we can create a digital version for your personal use, in exchange for access to selections that we share with a broader audience.

We're interested in the farming practices and family stories in these videos and happy to be helpful in making sure they don't end up in the garbage pile, lost from history!

Thank goodness.

rural-landscape-archive@thegreenhorns.net

Please, reach out to us with a description of the materials you have.

Ideally include a photograph of the boxes and films, and if possible a topical description of what the films are about, when they were shot, by whom etc.

We look forward to being in touch with you, and working to archive and share these materials with the incoming generation of farmers.