November 10, 2016 -- If you have any delusions about farming being a noble occupation, this film will show you otherwise. It is not just about the nuts and bolts of farming, but the difficulty, cruelty and unforgiving nature of it.
This is a film about Peter Dunning, sole operator of Mile Hill Farm in Vermont, near Brattleboro. He is not alone by choice. Dunning appears to be a depressed alcoholic who can get really cantankerous. He is not at all easy to get along with.
Dunning seems to have a love-hate relationship to his farm. He loves the wildlife, the land, and what grows on it, but he seems to be very weary, after 40 years, of dealing with hard-headed cows and sheep. He shows no sympathy at all for the sheep that he shoots in the head and butchers. This is shown in detail. He shows utter contempt for a coyote that he killed and strung up in the barn.
Dunning is seen yelling at various people in the film, including the film crew. He talks often of suicide. He talks about his wives and children, and about how they all left him and won't talk to him anymore. He seems profoundly unhappy, but at the same time, seems at peace when walking around the farm and looking at it.
Watching this, I remembered my own youth, growing up around my grandfather's farm, and around our own horses, chickens and cattle, driving the tractor, loading up hay bales, riding on the combine machine that separated out the grain, watching grandpa hooking up the milking machines to the cows and pour out milk for the semi-wild barn cats. This film brought back a lot of memories.
Dunning is not an old style farmer like my father and grandfather, but an organic farmer who sells his goods at farmer's markets. Farmer's markets are now very popular, as is organic food, and locally-grown food in general.
If you like to shop at farmer's markets, this film will show you some of the effort it takes to grow the food you eat, and it is not a pretty sight at times. It also makes a pretty good argument for being a vegetarian.
Dunning is a cantankerous, angry, lonely old guy. He has done some painting in his time, and he seems to be well educated. His personal history is long and varied. He is, however, basically a mean drunk, and it is evident why members of his own family don't talk to him anymore. If there is any kind of spiritual enlightenment imparted to those living in some kind of harmony with the land, not much of it has rubbed off on this old farmer. This film rates a B.
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