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Arts & Culture

POV: Farmsteaders

Clear-eyed and intimate, "Farmsteaders" follows Nick Nolan and his young family on a journey to resurrect his late grandfather's dairy farm as agriculture moves toward large-scale farming. A study of place and persistence, "Farmsteaders" points an honest and tender lens at everyday life in rural America, offering an unexpected voice for a forsaken people: those who grow the food that sustains us.
Courtesy of Shaena Mallett
Clear-eyed and intimate, "Farmsteaders" follows Nick Nolan and his young family on a journey to resurrect his late grandfather's dairy farm as agriculture moves toward large-scale farming. A study of place and persistence, "Farmsteaders" points an honest and tender lens at everyday life in rural America, offering an unexpected voice for a forsaken people: those who grow the food that sustains us.

Airs Monday, Sept. 2, 2019 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV + Thursday, Sept. 5 at 11 a.m. on KPBS 2

The Nolans return home to save their family's farm from industrial agriculture extinction

"Farmsteaders" captures the enchantment of rural life in southeast Ohio against the arduous realities of sustainable farming.

For Nick Nolan and his family of eight, maintaining a farmstead becomes a revealing cycle of ups and downs in the shadows of corporate agriculture.

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However, the Nolans are determined to reinvigorate their family dairy farm in the spirit of generations before them.

Returning to his childhood home, Nick Nolan reconnects to the feelings and experiences that marked his happiest times.

Having lived through an era when hundreds of dairy farms dotted the region, Nick pines for a familiar past where farmers were personally and closely involved with the land and livestock that nourish the community.

Clear-eyed and intimate, "Farmsteaders" follows Nick Nolan and his young family (pictured) on a journey to resurrect his late grandfather's dairy farm as agriculture moves toward large-scale farming. A study of place and persistence, "Farmsteaders" points an honest and tender lens at everyday life in rural America, offering an unexpected voice for a forsaken people: those who grow the food that sustains us.
Courtesy of Shaena Mallett
Clear-eyed and intimate, "Farmsteaders" follows Nick Nolan and his young family (pictured) on a journey to resurrect his late grandfather's dairy farm as agriculture moves toward large-scale farming. A study of place and persistence, "Farmsteaders" points an honest and tender lens at everyday life in rural America, offering an unexpected voice for a forsaken people: those who grow the food that sustains us.
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Emotional ties to his grandfather’s land fuel Nick’s ambition to revive the practices that supported his family.

However, he must operate against new competition: the large-scale corporate farms that have pushed small dairy farms out of the market for decades.

The experiences of the Nolan family reveal the many challenges of maintaining a dairy farm, including the risk of failure and pressures of success.

Through financial strain and time limitations, the Nolans resurrect the dairy farm and launch a farmstead cheese operation, Laurel Valley Creamery.

The Nolan family farm. Clear-eyed and intimate, "Farmsteaders" follows Nick Nolan and his young family on a journey to resurrect his late grandfather's dairy farm as agriculture moves toward large-scale farming.
Courtesy of Shaena Mallett
The Nolan family farm. Clear-eyed and intimate, "Farmsteaders" follows Nick Nolan and his young family on a journey to resurrect his late grandfather's dairy farm as agriculture moves toward large-scale farming.

Each member of the family must wear many hats for the business to thrive. Mallett captures moments with the Nolans as they navigate between two extremes of hardship: from having too little business to having more shipments than they can handle.

Despite it all, Nick and Celeste’s strength in parenting remains steady, balancing work and family with tremendous grounding.

Nick and Celeste Nolan. Clear-eyed and intimate, "Farmsteaders" follows Nick Nolan and his young family on a journey to resurrect his late grandfather's dairy farm as agriculture moves toward large-scale farming.
Courtesy of Shaena Mallett
Nick and Celeste Nolan. Clear-eyed and intimate, "Farmsteaders" follows Nick Nolan and his young family on a journey to resurrect his late grandfather's dairy farm as agriculture moves toward large-scale farming.

As both intent observers and active participants, the Nolan children play central roles at Laurel Valley Creamery, learning and growing through their involvement on the farmstead.

Nick’s reflection of his own childhood experiences parallel scenes of his children, who establish a natural bond with the livestock and landscape.

To the Nolan children, farmsteading is an inherent part of their lives.

Clear-eyed and intimate, "Farmsteaders" follows Nick Nolan and his young family on a journey to resurrect his late grandfather's dairy farm as agriculture moves toward large-scale farming.
Courtesy of Shaena Mallett
Clear-eyed and intimate, "Farmsteaders" follows Nick Nolan and his young family on a journey to resurrect his late grandfather's dairy farm as agriculture moves toward large-scale farming.

The concept of symbiosis stretches through the film – from its relevance in the family’s deep attachment to the land and its animals to their relationship with clients and local consumers.

In this natural cycle, everyone and everything works in tandem. Through the Nolans’ experience, Mallett shows a “return to our roots,” one that results in food that is rich in heritage and heart.

“More than a story of sustainable food production, 'Farmsteaders' is a story of resilience,” said Justine Nagan, executive producer/executive director for POV/American Documentary. “Viewers will be left in awe watching Nick and Celeste, building their farm while raising their family. Farmsteaders is a proud declaration of rural American perseverance."

Dirt road in Southeast Ohio. A study of place and persistence, "Farmsteaders" points an honest and tender lens at everyday life in rural America, offering an unexpected voice for a forsaken people: those who grow the food that sustains us.
Courtesy of Shaena Mallett
Dirt road in Southeast Ohio. A study of place and persistence, "Farmsteaders" points an honest and tender lens at everyday life in rural America, offering an unexpected voice for a forsaken people: those who grow the food that sustains us.

Watch On Your Schedule:

This film will stream online on POV.org in concurrence with its broadcast. Full episodes of POV are available to view on demand for a limited time after broadcast.

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Credits:

Director/Cinematographer: Shaena Mallett. Producer: Chad A. Stevens. Editor: Kelly Creedon. Executive Producers for POV: Justine Nagan and Chris White. The film is produced in collaboration with milesfrommaybe Productions in association with American Documentary | POV.

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