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Words from Dianne Dowling

farmers Ontario Canada

When we received a letter, in the spring of 2014, from a neighbour we didn’t know, asking if she could take photos at our farm for a documentary project, we were skeptical about how this proposal would work out.  What are we doing here that would make good photographs?  Maybe it will tie up too much time.  Maybe we won’t like working with her.

“Let’s meet her and we’ll see what we think,” we decided.

It worked out.  Beautifully.

Andree is curious, intrepid, serious, funny, committed.  She knows the ins and outs of our everyday lives.  She saw “the good, the bad and the ugly” of our work, and kept coming back.

As you will see in the photos, she was out with us in all kinds of weather — and usually, the stormier, the better.   Sunny blue skies are boring in photos, but a wind-blown, cloudy, turbulent sky with interesting light — that’s what Andree wants.

She was kneeling or lying on the ground in muddy gardens, and in the pastures to get close-ups.  She was with us during cattle round-ups to capture the action.  She was with us, but not in our way, not asking for set-up shots.  She spent hours in the barn at milking time — taking photos, yes, but often, just spending time with us to understand our work, and to help us with the work — feeding calves, cleaning pens, grooming cows or scraping up behind them.  She called this work “poop therapy” — physical work, clearly defined and useful, and a good way to do some thinking or to work off stress.

And what gifts she has given us!  Her friendship and enthusiasm.  The thousands of photos, winnowed down to hundreds of splendid images that she shared with us.  A photo book that we are proud to carry around with us and share with others, to tell our story.  The record of our work, and the affirmation that this work is worthy, appreciated and important.

Through our involvement in the National Farmers Union, we consider ourselves connected with small and medium sized family farms around the world.  These farms are the core of food production on Earth and the means to build local food security and local food sovereignty.  Given today’s uncertain political, economic and climate conditions, every community and every jurisdiction needs to build its own local food system, to create resilience, knowledge and capacity.  It is literally a matter of public safety and emergency preparedness.  Unfortunately, few politicians and policy makers seem to recognize this circumstance.

The people down the road from you that know how to grow and store food, how to save seeds, how to fix and build their own equipment, how to hustle to get a job done before rain or frost, and who love the work despite unfavourable and unpredictable weather, and despite low financial returns most of the time — those are people you need to get to know.  In this book, you will learn about five farms and about the people that work on those farms, in a particular time and place.

Every farm is like that — a certain location; a particular configuration of fields, forest, slopes, water and wet places; a certain combination of people, each with his or her set of skills, personality traits and aptitudes.

Thank you, Andree, for your farm photography project and for your advocacy for farmers and good food.

And thank you to the people in this area that are contributing to building our regional food system — farmers who work hard to grow food for nearby eaters and who support and help other farmers in the community; small scale processors, distributors and retailers; and the much appreciated eaters who put local food on their tables.

Dianne Dowling

November 2018

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