Blog | October 11, 2012

Farmscape, a play about the challenges of farming

JoelBig shout out to Mary Swander, Iowa poet laureate and English prof at Iowa State University, and her students, who in 2007 created “Farmscape: The Changing Rural Landscape.” “Farmscape” is a grassroots documentary play based on Swander’s students’ own extensive interviews with Iowa farmers, big and small, conventional and organic, young and old. Those farmer voices are embodied on stage from the opening farm auction scene, and the play is built on their own words and dramatizes their own experiences.

"Farmscape" has been performed all over the Midwest, and this month the text of play is being published as a book from Ice Cube Press. The book also includes commentary from diverse champions of the Good Food Movement, including Iowa’s own farmer/philosopher Fred Kirschenmann of the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State, and Leigh Adcock, director of the Ames-based national non-profit organization, the Women, Food, and Agriculture Network. They are old friends of Farm Aid, and we highly recommend you read the book and, of course, see the play. Or… even better… mount your own production of the play—at your local high school, public library or even on your own farm–and pull in local musicians to provide live music before and after!

“Farmscape” is a new addition to an important and growing tradition of American farm literature, music and film. This tradition includes, for example, “Country,” the powerful 1980’s feature film written by Bill Wittliff and starring Jessica Lange and Sam Shepard that dramatized the emotional agony of an Iowa farm family in crisis. Just as “Country” spoke directly to the fundamental issues that gave rise to Farm Aid’s very first concert in 1985, “Farmscape” directly addresses contemporary farmer-centric issues that Farm Aid continues to wrestle with 27 years later: keeping the American family farmer on the land, resisting the continuing onslaught of corporate concentration and factory farms, and transforming American agriculture into the healthiest, greenest, most just and most humane farm and food system on the planet.

No need to escape from the farm! “Farmscape” it! Let us now praise famous farmers!

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