By Kolt Buchenroth, Ohio Ag Net
Warning: This story (and the video it’s about) portrays a fictional plotline about farmer suicide. It’s intended to raise awareness. I will do my best to keep the spoilers to a minimum, but they are in the story.
My phone buzzed with a message from one of my friends on Facebook.
“Hey Kolt,” the message read. “I was wondering if you’d seen the short film about small farmers and suicide.”
Farm stress is a topic that I have been passionate about covering since I started in the business. I’ve interviewed experts from Ohio State, advocates from Ohio Farm Bureau, and farmers about the issue. It’s something that happens too often and doesn’t get near the attention it deserves in my opinion.
Anyway — back to the story. I went about my evening and returned to my computer later that night to watch the short film. As usual, I loaded up several programs on my computer as I planned to continue working on a project while the video played, keeping half an eye on the video.
As the video played on, I found myself captivated like a little boy watching a superhero movie. Glued to the screen, I stopped what else I was doing and focused on the story.
I said I wasn’t spoiling, so I’ll tell you that the video approached its end scene and for the first time in a very long time, I cried.
“It feels like home,” one of my friends would later say after seeing the post I shared online. “The way they talked, what they talked about, even the places they were at like from a memory. The furniture, the old equipment always breaking, even counting the kernels.”
“These could’ve been my neighbors,” I thought. “I could’ve known that dog. He looks like my friends and neighbors,” I told my roommate.
It hit close to home. That’s what warranted the reaction.
After regaining my composure, I became curious. How do filmmakers from LA land on this topic? So, I sent the director an email to pose that question.
Adam Brummond grew up on a corn and soybean farm in Southeast Minnesota. His dad fulfilled his dream of farming with the first farm purchase in 1990.
“There’s no personal story, but I definitely have family members and friends that are going through this rollercoaster of a ride that agriculture business is,” Brummond said. “I was looking for a story to tell that I felt like I could bring an authenticity to that a lot of other folks couldn’t without a lot of research.”
Brummond was googling ideas when he came across a story published in The Guardian titled ‘Why are America’s farmers killing themselves in record numbers?‘
“It blew my mind,” he said.
Brummond — who remains a partner on his family’s farm — was oblivious to the issue.
“I knew that if I wasn’t aware, no one in the big cities was aware of this,” he said.
After more searching on the Internet, Brummond realized there really wasn’t a conversation about farm suicide. So he jumpstarted it.
I was really curious how he made it feel like a memory being played back.
“You’re always pulling pieces of yourself,” Brummond said of the filmmaking process. “The story has to come from somewhere. I injected a lot of personal memories into this film.”
Brummond did note that his personal life has not been impacted by this issue.
“It can feel so personal because everyone is going through the same thing in the agriculture community,” he said. “Everybody has had the moment where the truck is stuck in the middle of the field and you’re just trying to get harvest finished.”
The short was well received by the filmmaking community after winning the audience choice award at the Tallgrass Film Festival.
“It’s a hard subject matter and I wasn’t sure how it would be received by the rural farm communities. It’s actually hit home harder with the folks that eat, live, and breathe that world,” Brummond said. “My goal is that the film is seen by as many people as possible. It’s not an answer to the problem at all. I was trying to use my medium to raise awareness of an issue.”
More on the film can be found at dyingbreed.film. It’s embedded below, or you can watch it on Amazon Prime Video.
If you or someone you know are struggling with thoughts of suicide, text HOPE to 741741 or call 800-273-8255 (TALK). There are also resources available from ODA’s Got Your Back Initiative and on Ohio State’s “Lean On Your Land Grant” website. In an emergency, always call 911 or seek care from a local hospital or mental health provider.