Sustainable Farming & the Survival of the Human Race

Spencer MacDonald, director of Age of the Farmer, on what the average age of the North American farmer means for the future of our environments, economies and societies.


Spencer MacDonald is an independent documentary filmmaker born in NYC, raised in San Francisco and currently based in Portland, Oregon. What began as a desire to harness the most powerful storytelling medium of our time, has also developed into a love for its use of self-expression. Film is the most potent vehicle he has found to communicate on every level: viscerally, visually, psychologically, emotionally and intellectually.His goal is to use film to shed light on otherwise undocumented environmental, cultural and social phenomena; and thereby inspire change. All of his films have been for projects that he hopes will improve our planet and its inhabitants.


Age of the Farmer was shown at American University on Saturday, March 19th at 7pm.


DCEFF: How did you get involved in filmmaking?

SPENCER MACDONALD: A few years ago I spent a summer in a remote village in the Indian Himalayas, called Zanskar, where I taught English to Buddhists nuns. Their culture was so animated and lively, unlike anything I had seen before. I knew that I had to convey this way of life to my friends and family back home. All I had was my little point and shoot camera, but I used it every day to try and capture the essence of their culture. Although it seems so obvious now, that was the first time where I realized the importance of film, as the most powerful medium of our time. It’s been no turning back ever since.

DCEFF: What drew you to this particular project?

SM: I have spent much of the past few years on organic farms. From my experience I have come to believe that sustainable farming is one of the most important things that a human can do. Not only does it create more nutritious food, it also creates healthier environments, economies and societies. Sustainable farming is so fundamental to the survival of the human race, and it is heartbreaking to know that the average age of farmers in North America is almost 60-years-old.

DCEFF: What challenges did you face in the process of producing the project?

SM: This question would be best answered by our producer; my good friend Eva Verbeeck. Seems like the biggest challenge was finding farmers who would be a good representation of the culture that we were trying to capture. The most interesting farms are not on social media.

DCEFF: Why do you think DCEFF is important? Why should people attend?

SM: It’s important because humans, just like all other species, are a product of the natural world, and ultimately we are also at the mercy of the natural world. As a species we are doing a horrible job of securing a peaceful future for generations to come. The films that are selected by DCEFF are rays of hope and inspiration that we desperately need. Awareness is always the first step, and that’s what is happening at DCEFF.

DCEFF: How does your film relate to this year’s theme: “Parks: Protecting Wild?”

SM: It relates in the sense of protecting land. Sustainable, organic farming is assurance that that plot of land will have proper nutrient/energy cycles, which will leave the land better off for the next generations.

DCEFF: Why do you feel that it’s important to preserve parks and/or protect wildlife?

SM: Our parks are the only source of wilderness that many of us will ever see. If we have no wild lands with trails that we can wander through, how would we become aware of our connection with the natural world?

DCEFF: How do you hope audiences will receive your film?

SM: I hope they receive it openly. My goal would be for audiences to enter the magical world of farming for five minutes.

DCEFF: What’s the one takeaway that you want potential viewers to walk away with?

SM: I see this film as somewhat of a meditation on farming. While it would be wonderful to think of it inspiring change, my goal is to present some of the thoughts of these young farmers, and let audiences make up their own minds as to what to think about it. Ideally, it is just nice if people are still thinking of it in some aspect once they leave the festival.

DCEFF: What’s the next project in your pipeline? Does it address the same or another environmental issue that matters to you?

SM: Our next project is taking us to Kenya, to do a short documentary on Kenyan running culture. While on the surface this may seem very different from environmental issues, I always find myself relating everything back to the big picture of the human relationship to the natural world. I am curious to see how it unfolds. After that I want to explore the subject of Mycelium.



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