I don't remember when Austin first decided to become a farmer. It was relatively recently -- in the past 3 years or so -- but the idea from which it sprang is not known to either of us. It would seem to be a consequence several years in the making, the result of dozens of conversations and articles read and mental shifts interwoven to the point that one day an ordinary twenty-something with a biology degree decided his next move in life would be to California, to apprentice on an organic vegetable farm. That was three years ago, and since that time, we've moved to Sonoma, California, the heart of wine country, so that he could earn a living on land fertile enough to produce some of the country's best wine.
As a filmmaker, I was drawn to this story because, while not a farmer myself, I felt like I was living this story as well...our fridge is overflowing with fresh vegetables; our shelves are lined with preserves; and our closets and shed are stuffed with bushels of dried beans, ears of corn, and garlands of peppers. And while I will be the first to admit that I could never be a farmer myself, by living with Austin as he endeavored in his first few years as a full-time farmer (first as an apprentice at Soil Born Farms in Sacramento, then co-founding Lunita Farm, and finally moving to his current position at Paul's Produce), I witnessed firsthand the challenges of such a lifestyle, and the insanely long hours, endless to-do list, and physical toll that organic farming takes.
The slew of pro-farm, pro-farmer documentaries released over the past few years have made me both exultant and dismayed. It is impossible not to feel both jubilant and justified that organic vegetables are finally going mainstream. Nonetheless, the images being presented are often simplified and quixotic. Unarguably, there is an elegance and ease that comes with a purely pastoral lifestyle; however, the choice to be a farmer comes with immense challenge. Turning back to the land in an organic way marks the beginning of a long, uphill battle: not only are you challenging the status quo, you are also, in many places, taking a vow of poverty.
Despite all this, Austin and innumerable other young farmers like him are taking to the fields and reclaiming American agriculture (albiet slowly and on a micro-scale). If you know them, you know that they are never happier than when they're outside, working the land; or at farmer's market selling fresh, seasonal produce; or in a kitchen, showing their love by sharing their wares. It was this passion that first inspired The Organic Life and that continues to infuse the project with lasting meaning. It is my hope that this film, in turn, sparks and then invigorates your support for your own local farmers.