Every time we hear about a new series coming out online or on TV or a new documentary film being released, there’s excitement mixed with trepidation. Yes, we love seeing farmers and ranchers celebrated on screen — their stories deserve to be told, and told well. However, many show runners approach their projects with agendas, which does more to divide rather than unite.
The History channel wants it’s newest project to be a clean slate. No agenda. No activism. Just agriculture.
“There’s no one driving us forward saying we have to do this or that,” said Jeff Brick, the new docu-series’ showrunner. “There’s not a point we’re trying to make other than telling the story of these farmers.”
The TV network and BobCat Studios is working on an eight-part series tentatively titled “American Farmer.” The show is still in development but currently plans to follow five farming families throughout the planting, growing, and harvest seasons, and it sets out to follow folks of all stripes in several specialties. The series is being filmed in locations across the U.S., from New Hampshire to Tennessee to Alaska.
“One thing that [BobCat founder] Thom Beers likes to say is that a lot of farm documentaries are told from a point of view, and those points of view rarely seem to be the farmers’,” Brick said.
The production team is talking with farmers at the National Farm Machinery Show in Louisville this week, hoping to get a sense of what the American farmer is all about and helping to educate themselves about what makes all of us tick.
The question they were asking was simple: “Who is the American farmer?” The answer, of course, is complicated.
“These are heroic people who are gambling everything, risking everything every year, taking out huge operating loans, trying to control Mother Nature and put food on the table for themselves and for all of us,” Brick said.
BobCat Studios is the team behind Discovery Channel’s popular “Deadliest Catch” and is adept at storytelling. Brick, for his part, said he doesn’t have a farm background, but that has done nothing to extinguish his enthusiasm. When asked what has been the most striking thing he’s learned so far, he was quick to answer: how technology is used.
“I think one of the things we’re most excited about is looking for ways to destroy the stereotypes. … From the drones flying over these fields telling farmers how much moisture is in the soil to all the technology on display here at the machinery show, ag is a big world and a very high-tech one. It’s a cool aspect I wasn’t prepared for. It’s great to be bowled over and surprised by it.”
The release of the show is likely still many months to a year away, but it is shaping up to be one worth watching.
Ryan Tipps is the managing editor for AGDAILY. He has covered farming since 2011, and his writing has been honored by state- and national-level agricultural organizations.