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Minnesota Farmer Hits The Big Screen

EDGERTON, Minn. (WCCO) -- As concerns grow about the food we eat, American farmers are facing increased scrutiny and criticism. Now, the farming industry is going on the offensive with a new film premiering May 1.

"Farmland" is a documentary profiling six young farmers and ranchers, including 27-year-old Ryan Veldhuizen, who runs his family's farm near Edgerton.

He said he thought the first few phone messages from Hollywood were a joke.

"A hog farm in southwest Minnesota getting calls from a production company in L.A.? It's not typically what you expect," he said.

They were calling on behalf of James Moll, the award-winning director of "The Last Days," which won the 1998 Academy Award for best documentary feature. Moll wanted six young farmers and ranchers to let cameras follow them for months, in order to show farming through their eyes. Veldhuizen eventually returned the calls.

"I have no problem with people questioning the safety of their food," he said. "I feel that that is them being responsible. But at the end of the day, you've got to make sure you're getting your information from a reliable source."

The film was funded by the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. One of its goals is also keeping more young people from leaving the farm.

Figures from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture show the average farmer in 2012 was 56.6 years old. Ten years earlier, the average was 52.9.

"I'd be lying if I said (farming) was easy," said Veldhuizen, "but it is a lot of fun and very rewarding."

The cameras followed the farmers over a five-month period, capturing the stresses as well as the rewards. Veldhuizen said he wasn't paid, but he got to have his say.

"What we're trying to get across in this film is that food is still raised by people," he said, "people that have relationships, have interactions, and are families."

"Farmland" premieres at theaters May 1 in Oakdale, Elk River, Waite Park and Hermantown. It will be showing in Uptown on May 8.

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