By Erin Fitzgerald @fitzisit
When I assumed the helm of the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance in 2018, I have to admit that I had yet to awaken my inner Fellini. Certainly, there was a time in my life during which I enjoyed escaping reality with a good film, or better yet, facing reality with an eye-opening documentary. But using this medium to draw attention to sustainable agriculture? Climate change?
Definitely not top of mind.
Fast forward to today and there are too many people to thank for the release of “30 Harvests,” a USFRA-produced short film that highlights the urgency needed in the fight against climate change. It is with this type of storytelling that we can best capture the passion and hope our farmers have for providing a dependable source of healthy food while addressing economic and environmental concerns for current and future generations.
The docudrama follows the plight of farmer Jay Hill of Dell City, Texas, and farmer and soil scientist Meagan Kaiser of Bowling Green, Missouri. In the film, they articulate the challenges farmers face while embracing the opportunity to meet increasing demands for food, and ultimately help solve one of the greatest challenges of this generation: climate change.
Now, what’s behind the title?
Thirty harvests quantifies the crop cycles left before 2050, the year the global population is expected to reach 9 billion. For agriculture, that means we have 30 harvests left to grow food that nourishes people, while enhancing the environment – an incredibly grand challenge. Science shows us that soils have the capability of storing 100 times the carbon our country emits in a year. And yet, according to American Farmland Trust, the U.S. loses 175 acres of farmland every hour, mostly to urban encroachment. That means that our soils have even more importance than ever!
For too long, it’s been “lights!” “camera!” and wondering what to do for action. U.S. farmers and ranchers are signaling a change – we have to stop talking and start taking action, because time is of the essence. The “30 Harvests” film is a call to leaders in food, finance and science to be part of the solution with U.S. farmers and ranchers. We need a drumbeat of contagious collaboration.
This partnership has already begun. In June, nearly 100 top leaders across agriculture, technology, finance and investment, and food companies gathered at a 1,400-acre farm an hour outside Washington, D.C., for just this type of collaboration. The Honor the Harvest Forum, sponsored by the USFRA and the Aspen Institute, featured working sessions that centered around a defined task: harnessing the power of agriculture to propel year-on-year drawdowns of greenhouse gases and adaptation to an already changing climate, while growing shared value across the food chain. In the coming months, agricultural and food leaders will be outlining a path forward to a more sustainable food system and defining how food systems could look in 2030.
Erin Fitzgerald is CEO of the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance.