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New Zealand's first ever documentary film on family farming is now available on DVD – buy it here.
See the trailer:
Read on for
to mark the United Nations 2014 International Year of Family Farming
using historic footage on the creation of family farms, the lives of family farmers, and the education of the next generation of family farmers.
Family farming is a great way of life
Farming with the family is a way of life that is loved and valued by those who work the land. Family farmers aged eight to eighty plus share their stories in this documentary, with excerpts taken from films made between the 1940s and the 2010s.
High school children in Ruatoria in the 1940s are shown learning how to prune fruit trees and keep bees, and the narration tells us that “Growing up should be both serious – and delightful.” That's true for the other farm children we see, such as Peter and Dion preparing their pet calf for the Show, Malcolm learning how to shoe a horse, the Kirkpatrick children eagerly waiting for a visit from their Correspondence School teacher, Neroli drafting sheep and Lindsay studying farm wildlife.
The activities of the adults are just as varied. Although well past retirement age, the Babich parents were still working in the family's West Auckland vineyards tending the vines, while their sons made wine and managed the estate. Tim and Ngaire Te Aika spent years turning challenging land and a semi-derelict house at Mason Bay on Stewart Island into a successful farm, and a comfortable home for their daughters. Willie Kong recalls helping his father and brothers on the family's market garden near Oamaru in the 1950s, in the days when the land was still ploughed with a draught horse. Liz Trower notes that when she was growing up on her family's dairy farm in the Waikato, few women were farming in their own right or working in the dairy industry in any capacity, but now farm women do a lot more work outside the farm house. Murray Johns from Banks Peninsula has added telling his farm's history and demonstrating farming skills to tourists to his regular work, so that his grand children – the seventh generation of his family since his ancestors established the farm in the 1840s – will be able to stay on the farm.
While the film is mainly a record and a celebration of family farming as a way of life, it also provides an opportunity for today's family farmers to talk about whether – and how - the rapid pace of economic and social change is endangering family farming. They are becoming aware that some of the valuable attributes associated with family farming – like strong and supportive rural communities and prosperous regions – can't be taken for granted any more. They remind us that family farming as a skilled and economically significant way of life has been the basis of flourishing in the towns and cities as well as in the countryside for over a century, and that New Zealand stands to lose a lot if it loses family farming.
Why the film was made
Family Farming in New Zealand was commissioned by the NZ 2014 IYFF Co-ordinating Committee (Brendan Hoare, Christine Dann, Jane Adams, Keira Jacobson and Richard Fitzgerald) to mark the United Nations 2014 International Year of Family Farming in New Zealand.
The 2014 IYFF had four objectives, which were to:
Creating farms for families and supporting family farming were top priorities for successive New Zealand governments from the 1890s right through to the 1990s. In the early twenty-first century, however, there seems to be less awareness among both policy-makers and the public of why and how the family way of farming is good not just for the farmers themselves, but also for the country as a whole. So the NZ Co-ordinating Committee decided to focus on Objective 2 - increasing knowledge, communication and public awareness of family farming – by making a film to tell the history of family farming in New Zealand, celebrate its diversity and strengths, and raise some questions about its future.
Brendan Hoare, Chair of the NZ 2014 IYFF Co-ordinating Committee says his team is thrilled to have been able to make this original and significant contribution to documenting the history and importance of family farming in New Zealand.
“Family farming is currently facing threats and challenges right around the world,” he notes. “That's why the United Nations agreed it was worth dedicating a whole year to raising its profile, and encouraging governments and civil society organisations to see what a valuable contribution family farming has made and can make to economic, social and environmental well-being.”
“In New Zealand, we thought that a film which celebrates the diversity of family farming in Aotearoa, past and present, would be a good way to mark the year, and the 2014 IYFF committee is delighted that a film maker of Hugh Macdonald's experience and calibre was able to make it for us.”
How the film was made
Most of the historic film excerpts used in the film are from short documentaries and magazine items made by the National Film Unit between the 1940s and 1970s. They are now part of the Archives New Zealand National Film Unit collection. In some cases the whole film is on line at New Zealand on Screen.
More details on the films used (when they first appear), and where the whole film (if available) can be seen are given for each chapter of the film, below. Most of the new (post 2010) footage in the film is from the Hugh Macdonald Film library, or was shot especially for the film by Hugh Macdonald.
The prologue sequence of city kids visiting a dairy farm is from Where Does Milk Come From? (1996), a short informational film made by Hugh Macdonald Productions for NZ Milk Products SE Asia on behalf of the Singapore Ministry of Health, for use in Singaporean schools.
The farm near Otaki that the girls visit is still (in 2015) owned and operated by brothers Max and Erwin Lutz.
Chapter 1 – Making Farms for Families
The swagger is from On the Friendly Road (1936; directors: NZ Film Guild; NZ Film Guild), an 84 minute drama about hard times and winning through them.
The song 'Farewell to Geraldine' (words by swagger Joe Fleming and music by Phil Garland), is from Phil Garland's album Under the Southern Cross.
The break up of the big estates is from The Land People (1967; director: John Cooper; National Film Unit), a 17 minute documentary on the history and work of the Department of Lands and Survey.
Chapter 2 – A home on the farm
The creation of family farms on the Volcanic Plateau and the family arriving on their new farm there are from Pumicelands (1954; NFU) on line here.
The La Trobe family is from People of the Waikato (1956; director: Oxley Hughan; NFU). This short film about the Waikato region is on line here.
The farm households with new mod cons are from Farming in New Zealand (1952; director: Oxley Hughan; NFU) on line here.
The Te Aika family is from To the Back of Beyond; Farming at Mason Bay, Stewart Island (2012; directors: Dave McCarlie and Dave Asher; South Coast Productions), available on DVD from South Coast Productions here.
Chapter 3 – Farming Families at Work
The dairy farm girl in the green dress is from material filmed for the documentary The Green Circle (2012; director: Hugh Macdonald; Hugh Macdonald Productions), a 25 minute documentary on the history of dairying in the Piako District, which is shown on request at the Morrinsville Heritage Centre.
Cousins Peter and Dion and Karina the calf are from North Island Dairy Farm (1964; director: Rudall Hayward; NFU).
The mutton birding families at work are from Portrait of Southland (1958; NFU) on line here and Muttonbirding on the islands off Stewart Island (1934; directed and produced by Captain George Turner; courtesy of the Grant Foster Archive).
The wheat harvesting scenes are from Canterbury is a Hundred (1950; director: Oxley Hughan; NFU) on line here
The Canterbury ploughman is from Year after Year – Canterbury Ploughman (1953; Pictorial Parade # 14; NFU).
Malcolm and Neroli are from High Country Children of New Zealand (1986; directors: Yvonne Mackay and Dave Gibson; The Gibson Group). More information on the film is here
The German-descent Eggers family, Dutch dairy farmer Peter, and the Dalmatian Babich family are from New Country – New People (1978; director: Sam Neill; NFU), a documentary about European immigrants to New Zealand, on line here.
More information on the Babich family's almost 100 years of family winemaking, from 1916 to 2016, is here.
Chapter 4 Learning on the farm
The Maori school children and the Ruatoria community are from Maori School (1947; Weekly Review #324; NFU) online here.
The Kirkpatrick family and their Correspondence School teacher and Lindsay the young naturalist are from A Letter to the Teacher (1957; director: Kathleen O'Brien; NFU) online here.
The high country family getting feedback from the Correspondence School teacher are from The Snowline is their Boundary (1955; director: Oxley Hughan; NFU) online here.
The calf club parade is from Taranaki (1954; director: Oxley Hughan; NFU) online here.
In Chapter 5, Farming communities and Chapter 6, Back to the future, there are no films not already listed on their first appearance above.