The Lands that Feed Us

The Lands that Feed Us Poster - "American Gothic"I announced last month that I was planning to pitch a short documentary about the Canadian Wheat Board to access a $50,000 grant from Telus StoryHive.  That plan was forced to evolve, since a condition of the funding is that the project is filmed in B.C., where I live.  I didn’t think a history of the CWB would be very complete without being able to visit the prairies.  So, instead, I’m introducing…

The Lands that Feed Us:  A film about access to farmland and land prices in B.C.  Access to land is probably the #1 concern I’ve heard from B.C. farmers since I started talking about agriculutural issues, but it’s not an issue that has much awareness outside the farming community.  This film can help change that.

The StoryHive grant is a bit of a popularity contest.  Telus runs a four day “election” for the grant, and the top 15 films automatically receive the $50,000 grant (another 15 will be chosen by jury).  The Lands that Feed Us has been accepted for voting.  That means we’ll be asking for your votes when the campaign opens for voting, July 30th to August 2nd.  Vote early and often!  It’s possible to vote on all four days that the campaign is open, which means you can expect to hear from me a lot at the end of this month.

How does this relate to The Hands that Feed Us?  I view The Lands that Feed Us as a subset of our bigger project.  While it will exist as a stand-alone 20 minute documentary, the issue of land access is important to farmers everywhere, and it give us an opportunity to create footage and make connections that will be useful for The Hands that Feed Us.

It will also kick off our fundraising campaign for the bigger project.  Because our plan is to raise money through sponsorship, demonstrating success in our campaign to raise $50,000 for The Lands that Feed Us will give potential sponsors confidence in our ability to create both a film with a message and the awareness campaign that goes with it.  And, once Telus has funded the first $50,000, we’ll be able to tell our sponsors that they are supporting a project that already has money behind it!

Preview:  The Lands that Feed Us pitch video

As part of our grant application, we produced a one minute pitch video for The Lands that Feed Us.  It won’t be publicly available until the voting starts, but you can get a sneak preview below.

Feel free to share it around your circle of friends — there’s nothing secret about it — but if you do, please tell them how they can support the project, either by signing up for this mailing list, or by e-mailing me directly at

Lying with statistics:  The difference between telling the truth and selling it

One of the things that challenges me most about campaigning is the way getting attention so easily trumps telling the truth.  I wrestled with this quite a bit as I was making the pitch video (which you can watch above).  Naturally, I decided to write a blog post about my struggle:

As my pitch video for The Lands that Feed Us loudly states, “the average farmer will be dead by the time the average farm is paid for.” It’s very headline worthy.  It’s also not very good information.

The post completely takes apart the statistics I used to back up the headline-worthy claim I made in the video.  Even though I took pains to source reputable statistics, and even though I have confidence that the essence of the claim is true, there’s an enormous difference between the pithy, one sentence headline that I used to get attention, and the 1,500 words it took me to explain what was going on behind the statistics.   One is a soundbite worthy of social media.  The other shows just how complicted it is to figure out what “affordable farmland” really means.

My goal for The Hands that Feed Us is to make something that gives people genuine understanding of why it’s so difficult for farmers to build viable businesses.  I want people to deeply understand the system that farmers live and work in.  I don’t want to make something that can be summed up in a soundbite.

Unfortunately, the first step of raising money for a project is to sum the project up in a soundbite.

Read more about the statistics behind land access in What the Stats on Farmland Prices Don’t Tell You.

What’s next?

  • Voting for The Lands that Feed Us happens July 30th to August 2nd.  There’s $50,000 at stake.  So, my goal for the next two weeks is to make sure as many people as possible are ready to vote for the project.
  • We are going to use the voting campaign to kick off fundraising for The Hands that Feed Us.  So, we’ll be reaching out to potential sponsors and distribution partners to let them know about the project, and to start making the connections and building the relationships that will help make our project a reality.
  • Flesh out the story and production plan for The Lands that Feed Us.  The application for The Lands that Feed Us happened in a huge rush.  We had just two weeks between the initial idea and the applicaition deadline.  So, our application shows a clear idea, but we have a lot of work to do to figure out who is in the film and how they all fit together.  On top of that, B.C. minister of agriculture Lana Popham has identified land access as her #1 priority, so there’s a chance the story could start unfolding even before our funding is approved.
  • Create a sponsorship package for The Hands that Feed Us.  Fundraising starts now, and we need to make sure we know what our sponsors will be getting for their money.  That means spelling out what amounts we are asking for, and what perks our sponsors get for each sponsorship tier.

How can I help?

  • Vote for The Lands that Feed Us every day from July 30th to August 2nd.  You can vote for the project four times in total.  Rest assured that you’ll hear from us when the time comes.
  • Tell your friends to vote for The Lands that Feed Us, and tell them to sign up for this newletter for reminders.  If the project gets enough votes, it automatically gets funded.  If you know a farmer (or many farmers) who struggle with access to farmland, this is a very easy way to help the issue get attention!
  • Know an organization or company that would make a good sponsor for The Hands that Feed Us?  Introduce them to me (by e-mail please:
  • Know an organization or media personality that might want to help support our project?  Bloggers, activists, or anyone who has a strong social media following would all help us get the word out!  As with potential sponsors, introduce them to me by e-mail: