A Long Row in Fertile Ground
A Long Row in Fertile Ground
Full documentary & studio discussion now online!
Western New England’s agricultural legacy has persisted for more than three centuries, through waves of migration, technological innovation and economic uncertainty. In many ways it is the birthplace of American agriculture that exists to this day. A new WGBY production examines the history and present day status of agriculture in the region. The documentary, produced by Emmy Award-nominated WGBY producer Dave Fraser, will premiere on WGBY on Wednesday, July 9, at 8pm.
The Connecticut River Valley is home to New England’s longest river, a remnant of the last Ice Age. But the receding glaciers also left behind another gift—some of the richest soil on Earth. This fertile valley has attracted Native Americans and settlers since the early 1600s. It remains a commercial provider of products such as tobacco, tomatoes and corn. More recently, the idea of Community Supported Agriculture—community members and farmers in a relationship of mutual support based on an annual commitment to one another—was born in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts.
Interviews with a number of farmers, land preservationists and agricultural scholars from Deerfield to Great Barrington help provide a comprehensive view of this treasured resource and illuminate the complex story of the land, its people, its culture, and its agriculture. This WGBY production begins to tell that story.
Contributing to the program are John Brady, geology professor at Smith College; Kristin DeBoer, executive director of the Kestrel Land Trust; Joanna Ballantine, regional director for the West Division of the Trustees of Reservations; Phil Korman, executive director of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture); and Rich Hubbard, executive director of the Franklin Land Trust.
Local producers featured in the program include Clarkdale Fruit Farm in Deerfield, Luther Beldon Farm in Hatfield, Winter Moon Farm in Hadley, Szawlowski Potato Farms in Hatfield, Red Fire Farm in Montague and Indian Line Farm in South Egremont, the first CSA farm in the country.
The premiere broadcast of A Long Row in Fertile Ground will be followed at 9pm by a documentary originally broadcast on WGBY in 1973, titled Root Hog or Die. This newly restored film captures the lives and stories of the old-time horse farmers in Franklin County Massachusetts in their own voices, faces, ingenious technology and well-tended land.
"Root, hog, or die" was once a common saying in rural America, suggesting that coaxing a living from the land requires hard work. Through the words of the farmers themselves, the film paints a wistful but honest portrait of family farming's history in western New England. Following farmers though a year's cycle of logging, haying, dairying and sugaring, Root Hog shows a life that was as challenging, simple and spare as it was rewarding, harmonious with the land, and an integral part of local communities. The evening’s broadcast will also include a special panel discussion led by WGBY General Manager Rus Peotter. He’ll be joined by Dave Fraser, producer of A Long Row in Fertile Ground; Rawn Fulton, producer of Root Hot or Die; Phil Korman, Executive Director of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture); and Nancy Hanson, Farm Manager at Hampshire College.
Watch a preview of this new WGBY original documentary:
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