SIOUX CENTER, Iowa - Prairie Grass Productions has produced a video about farmers that's also designed to attract interest from non-farmers.
Titled "Sioux County Agriculture'' the DVD was produced at the request of the Sioux Center Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee.
Trisha Schreier said the chamber ag committee wanted to create a DVD for several reasons.
"Our initial goal was that the video would be placed in the second and fourth grade classrooms to help promote our local agriculture," said Schreier. "The video can be used in conjunction with their agriculture chapters to bring it to life."
Students can relate to the farmers in the video because they live in Sioux County.
"Our second goal for the video, was for it to be a virtual tour," Schreier said. "We get a lot of people and businesses that are interested in going on a farm tour of Sioux County. With all the rules and regulations, traveling from farm to farm without spreading diseases can get a little complicated."
By watching the video, which takes less than one hour, folks visit eight farming operations in the county.
Fred Sick, a local veterinarian and member of the Sioux Center Chamber of Commerce Agriculture Committee, approached Professor Mark Volkers of the Digital Media Production Department at Dordt College in May 2010 about the idea.
Volkers said it was a good match because "we're right here, in the heart of America's bread basket." He chose two students to help him.
"Brett Leyendekker and Gary Huitsing have a track record here of being both very creative and meticulous in their media creation," Volkers said. "Brett is doing an ag major and a digital media minor, so it was a perfect fit. Once on board, the project started to grow much bigger than we originally planned. It was important that we bring a producer on board. Aaron Yoder was the natural choice for that."
The host of the documentary is Andy Schuttinga, an adjunct instructor at Dordt College.
"I have lived in cities all my life, so it was pretty easy for me to ask a lot of questions of the farmers. I learned a great deal," Schuttinga said.
The movie is divided into eight episodes, beef, chickens, crops, eggs, dairy, Boer goats, pigs and sheep. Schreier said most of the farms were chosen at random with some help from Brad DeVries at the Farmer's Cooperative and Sick.
"Many of the farms chosen were using new technology," Schreier said. "For instance, Joel Schuiteman uses mono-slope barns at his beef cattle feedlot. The Rozeboom Dairy recycles the sand bedding."
Some filming was done ove summer, but the main production began in August, when the students returned to college.
"We filmed almost every Monday for eight weeks to capture the work and life on the farms," said Leyendekker.
Huitsing wondered how the final product would look. It wasn't until after the first shoot at Schuiteman's beef feedlot that the structure and the story began to establish itself.
"The farmers were so willing to take Andy around, showing him their facilities, answering his questions, as well as helping us to make the shooting go smoothly," said Huitsing. "
Aaron Yoder, who spent the fall semester filming at the farms, edited the footage.
"Sioux County farmers seem to be concerned not only with getting high yields, or with getting the animals to market weight as quickly as possible, there seems to be a genuine concern with being good stewards with the resources that they have been given, and that is shown through the way in which they care for the land and animals," said Yoder.
Each farmer was asked why farm in Sioux County. The prevailing reply was "Proximity. We have everything here. You can get grain from the Farmer's Coop, you can have the manure you need to fertilize the land, you can purchase hay or bedding from your neighbor, or bring your crops into the elevator. Having everything in proximity helps save money," said Schreier.
The film was shown at the Sioux Center Chamber's annual agriculture breakfast March 16 at the New Life Reformed Church in Sioux Center.