Perhaps no place in our country better captures the enduring qualities of small town America than Cooperstown, New York, the two-hundred-year-old village nestled in the foothills of the Upper Catskills on the shores of Otsego Lake, and legendary home of the Baseball Hall of Fame. What better place could there be for the world premiere of James Spione’s deeply felt ode to his family’s fifth generation homestead, American Farm?
On February 19th of this year, many people from Cooperstown and the surrounding community—including nearby Richfield Springs, where the film was shot—converged on the Fenimore Art Museum for the first public screening of American Farm. Ames family members came from as far away as Boston and Rhode Island, and a number of the director’s friends from Brooklyn and Manhattan made the four-hour trip to attend the screening. So many people showed up, in fact, that the museum had to add a second showing the following day to accommodate everyone. All of the proceeds from the premiere went to benefit the local education programs of the Cooperative Extension, and the film raised over $1100 to be used for a series of workshops for farm kids in Otsego and the surrounding counties.
The audience for the event seemed evenly split between those who lived on farms, and those who did not, which made for a lively and thought-provoking discussion after the screening. Many people seemed to identify with the issues raised in the film, speaking eloquently about their personal struggles with farming. One man described his inability to save his own family's multi-generation farm from foreclosure; he said the Ames family should be proud of running their operation successfully for so long. A number of viewers were struck by the honesty of the Ames family in the movie, their willingness to discuss openly their sometimes painful family experiences. Others, especially at the second screening, were very concerned about the consolidation of farming into the hands of a few powerful corporations and wanted to express their concerns. The movie was a potent catalyst for an engaging exchange of ideas and feelings about the state of farming—and family--in America.
After the premiere, several people approached the director and said how important they felt it was that the film be shown to urban audiences. They felt that most people in our country have no idea what farmers go through to produce food for their communities, and thought that American Farm might help bridge that gap by helping to educate audiences who have very little knowledge about the realities of farm life today.