Of Farms and Fables combines the efforts of professional and non-professional artists by engaging artists in farm work and farm workers in storytelling and acting. The result will be an original performance in October of 2011 which will engage performers and audience in dialogue about local agriculture, farming, and the future of small family farms in Maine.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Being There (Cory)

At the farmer reading of the first draft of our script, back in April, this screenshot captures what my view was like:

I was in the room on Skype, and so I got to see some of the faces (depending on what portion of the circle I was aimed at), and hear the voices (sometimes missing words here and there), and even get some live feedback (though to respond, I had to shout).

At the second farmer reading, on a toasty July evening, the view from where I was sitting was a little fuller:

The difference is really profound. Feedback can be written down and emailed, interviews can be recorded and uploaded, but the energy that's there when you're all in the same room, breathing the same air, eating slices of the same pizza - there's not yet an app that can bottle that. When it comes to a play reading, spoken feedback is really important but so is that feedback that can't be thought out or planned: spontaneous reactions to a line or a scene that happen in the moment, that come from the gut, that are expressed not in words but in a sigh or a shift of the body or a chuckle or a glance. Being back in Maine after 11 months of working long-distance was a powerful reminder of the importance of the little things.

When I started writing the first draft, I felt like I was taking a jump into the dark. Working on the second draft was even scarier: for a long time, it seemed like I was writing a completely new play, and I felt there was no guarantee that it would constitute a step forward. The energy of support in the room during our reading last week, and excitement about the new draft, was something I was thankful to be in the room to feel.

I wanted to share some cool resources I found this week:
  1. Transferring the Family Farm: What Worked, What Didn't for 10 New Jersey Families - This document, available on the NESFI website here, gives 10 fascinating case studies of New Jersey farms transferring their property and business from one generation to the next. Working through them is really helping to give me a better understanding of the issues, tensions, and concerns involved in farm transfer, which has become a central concern of our script. Biggest lesson: Farm transfer is a REALLY involved process. It takes years - sometimes decades - to do it right.
  2. DACUM Occupational Profile for Northeast Small Scale "Sustainable" Farmers - Also found on the NESFI site; this is a profile, developed through farmer focus groups, of the skills and duties it takes to be a "small scale sustainable farmer," but they're definitely widely applicable, for the most part, to all types of farmers.