Documentary Examining Class Divides in New England Farm and Food Communities to Be Screened at UMass Amherst

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AMHERST, Mass. – “Forgotten Farms,” a documentary film that addresses the class divides in New England farm and food communities, will be screened on Thursday, Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. The event is hosted by the university’s veterinary and animal sciences department.

The film is produced by Sarah Gardner and directed by Dave Simonds, who say that New England has lost more than 10,000 dairy farms in the past 50 years and fewer than 2,000 farms remain. Collectively, these farms tend 1.2 million acres of land and produce almost all of the milk consumed in the six New England states, but the new food movement often overlooks farmers who are at the foundation of the regional agricultural economy, they add.

“Only 100 years
ago, New England produced most of its own food on 16 million acres of farmland. Climate change will demand that more of our food is grown closer to where we live. As we strive to revive local production, we have much to learn from dairy farmers who have been managing most of the farmland and sustaining the farm economy all along,” the producer notes.

She says that through conversations with farmers and policy experts, the film reconsiders the role of these vital but forgotten farmers and offers a glimpse into the past and a vision for a future regional food system. The documentary shows the cultural divide between the new food movement and traditional farming, highlighting the need to examine differences, develop mutual understanding and find common ground.

Gardnerteaches planning and policy at Williams College, where she is the associate director of the Center for Environmental Studies. Her research and teaching interests include land use, urban planning, local politics, agriculture and food systems, renewable energy and climate change. A graduate of Smith College, she is a co-chair of the Williamstown Agricultural Commission and a board member of Berkshire Grown. Gardner was instrumental in the Williamstown Right-to-Farm bylaw and a leader of the North Berkshire Keep Farming project. She holds a master’s degree in public policy from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in political science from the City University of New York.

Simonds is an actor, writer and filmmaker who directed “Cherry Cottage: The Story of an American House,” which premiered at the Berkshire International Film Festival.