Our first film was soil carbon cowboys, which we filmed in Mississippi (35 inches annual rainfall), North Dakota and Saskatchewan (about 14 inches each of yearly precipitation – rain, snow, dew). I screened soil carbon cowboys all over the world, and folks would say, “yes, it works in those places, but it wouldn’t work where I live.” So I filmed another one, in Georgia – south Georgia to be specific (100,000 beating hearts), and folks said “sure, it’s working in south Georgia, but it won’t work in north Georgia.” So we made a film in northern Georgia (this farm is medicine). “Yeah, but you won’t get those results in South Carolina.” So we made that one (givers & takers). But it was while filming in Norton, Kansas that the “yeah, but syndrome” grabbed me: Michael Thompson (during the drought) and his neighbor planted corn, the same corn, on the same day, in a rolling field – they didn’t even have a fence between their separate properties. Michael had been practicing no-till with cover crops with AMP grazing for 8 years, and his neighbor had not. When we filmed in July, Michael’s corn was taller, and a richer shade of green. His neighbor said, “yeah, but – you got more rain than me.”
Will showed me that focusing on soil health can have different grazing approaches – Will does not practice AMP grazing – he stacks enterprises, grazing 10 different types of animals (beef, pork, poultry and more) on the same land, in a grazing order that promotes symbioses, pest control, productivity and profit.
Will made me realize that the north star isn’t a specific practice, it’s soil health.
Show me healthy soil, and you’ve got my vote.
On all but the last part in the documentary (herd impact), I filmed solo, running the camera, the mics, and my mouth. This way of filming gives me the chance to really get to know the farmers and ranchers – and let them talk candidly, without a crew distracting them. I do have to keep an eye or 2 on the camera (and hope I haven’t hit the autofocus button by mistake) but I am able to let the folks in front of the camera know I am listening to every word they say. I try to keep real quiet and not say “uh-huh” and “right” and regular conversational stuff like that. I smile and nod my head a lot.