KANSAS CITY, Mo. – As a member of the media serving the agriculture industry, I was lucky enough to be invited to a prescreening of the new feature-length documentary, “Farmland,” (www.farmlandfilm.com) directed by James Moll. The movie offers a firsthand glimpse into the lives of six young farmers and ranchers across the US. It’s a must-see for anyone who works in the agriculture and food industry, and in my opinion, a must-see for all Americans who enjoy the food that’s produced in our nation every day. It is also a must-see for industry critics who assume agenda-based movies like “Food, Inc.” and “Fast Food Nation” are the most accurate depiction of America’s food supply chain by sensationalizing all that is wrong with the system.

Though I have worked in the meat industry for more than 10 years, I did not grow up in the world of agriculture, so my learning curve is ongoing. Watching “Farmland” was a great way to learn. It was an incredible way to take a glimpse into today’s agriculture industry, and see how it is evolving into the agriculture industry of tomorrow. The six subjects of the film all have one thing in common – their youth. They are all the next generation of farmers and ranchers, and they all made the common decision to choose farming or ranching as their way of life and livelihood. At a time when multi-generational farms are disappearing and fewer younger people are going into agriculture industries, this film tells a great story about why these six individuals chose to carry on their families’ legacies.

The stories shared on screen include that of a fourth-generation poultry farmer in Georgia, a sixth-generation cattle rancher in Texas, a fifth-generation corn and soybean farmer in Nebraska, a fourth-generation organic vegetable farmer in California, a fourth-generation hog and corn farmer in Minnesota and a first-generation community supported agriculture farmer in Pennsylvania. Each story was unique but shared a common thread – each individual believes in the value of farming, has a passion for the business, and wants to help feed America.

The movie touched on such topics as how farmers and ranchers are at the mercy of the weather to do their jobs and have successful farming seasons; how prices can fluctuate from one season to the next as a result of supply and demand; and how hot-button issues such as genetically modified organisms, antibiotic use in animals and animal handling affect everyone in the agriculture industry.

None of these farmers made farming look easy – in fact, they showed that it truly is hard work. But it’s hard work that is worth doing. Farming is a lifestyle that’s crucial to sustain in the future. If aging farmers working in the industry right now don’t have another generation to hand their operations to, then tomorrow’s farming industry will change, and not for the better. We need to keep people working in agriculture and attract more young people to the industry. Hopefully a movie like this, combined with the great agriculture educational program at universities around the country, will allow tomorrow’s farmers to be well educated and prepared to continue to feed America.

There were so many messages passed onto the audience of this film, but to me, the underlying message was that it’s essential for people in the US to understand how food is raised before it ends up in our grocery stores and on our dinner tables. The more information people have, the more appreciation they will hopefully have for the process. And with that, hopefully, the more appreciation Americans will have for the hard-working people in this country that have chosen to raise and grow food for them.