Tuesday, April 8, 2014
I went to a Florida Film Festival press preview for "After Winter, Spring"directed by Judith Lit at the Enzian Theater, (1300 S South Orlando Avenue, Maitland, FL.) This is a love story for the farmers in Perigord, France, which has been continuously cultivated for over five thousand years. One hundred years ago, half of the population of France were farmers. Now less than 3% are. Will the Perigord peasants be the last generation to employ and sustain the old methods? Will the world lose their “old peasant wisdom” of prudence, respect, and love of the earth? Filmed over four years, "After Winter, Spring" is a treasure trove of great food and farming traditions. With fascinating detail, it captures the roots of farm-to-table and the tenacity of the people who have taken one season at a time for generations. The filmmaker, an American ex-pat and Perigord neighbor, was raised on her own family’s farm in Pennsylvania. Her bond to the land and the people who love it translates into an insightful, lyrical tribute to a way of life on the verge of extinction.
Judith grew up on a small farm in Pennsylvania. She saw how her parents had to sell off the farm in small parcels until there was no land left to farm. When she traveled to France later in life, she fell in love with the quaint farming life. She packed everything and went to France to rediscover her roots. She interviewed her farming neighbors to learn about their more natural way of living.
The film didn't only show small farms as a bucolic ideal. Three generations of women ran a goose farm. In a rather graphic scene, one of the women answered questions as she shoved a funnel deep down a gooses neck to force feed it. She massaged the goose's neck to force it to swallow. The harsher sides of farming were shown, like shaving a slaughtered pig with a machete or breaking a chicken's neck and then plucking the feathers.
A tobacco farmer bragged about the beauty of his hand harvested crop. "The more beautiful it is, the prouder we are. It (the tobacco) sings on the verge of being brittle." All the farmers are trying to find a path through change. It is hard to compete against huge industrial farms that have multi-million dollar machines doing all the work. The smaller farming families feel their land helps preserve habitat. Since they are attentive to the land, they become more attentive to themselves and others. As one farmer stated, "I accept what life gives me. I can't do otherwise."
The one shred of hope is that people have grown sick of over processed food-like products. A younger generation is returning to the fields to live lives closer to nature. Farm to table, has become a new battle cry. Perhaps the pendulum can swing back. Perhaps Spring can follow a Winter of industrialized neglect.