New film resource helps local farmers share what they know

left: Hannah Roessler. Photos courtesy of Hannah Roessler



It’s hard out there for a farmer.

It’s exponentially harder out there on Vancouver Island, where land is expensive and an aging population of farmers have fewer and fewer new food growers to share their sage wisdom with.

Although funding for the on-farm delivery of agricultural research findings no longer exists, the hope for practical ideas travelling between farms is still very much alive thanks in part to the Farmers Filmanac, launched this spring to make the problem-solving side of husbandry in the Pacific Northwest a bit easier.

“I wanted to create something useful for the small scale farming community, though it’s not a replacement for in-person sharing,” explains Hannah Roessler, creator of the project and a Masters candidate in environmental studies at the University of Victoria. “My goal has really been to address a need with creativity, to see if video as a method of knowledge transfer is a valuable way to share adaptive strategies from farmer to farmer.”

Without a background in film but with a personal interest and many years spent in gumboots as a farming apprentice, Roessler began interviewing local organic growers to get a sense of how climate change was affecting their practices. While the environment is certainly changing at a greater speed and scale than before, she learned that shifting weather patterns are actually the one constant that a farmer can count on every year. Owing to this, small scale farmers are incredibly flexible—but they need each other’s tips to flourish.

“Farmers are amazing scientists,” says Roessler. “They’re well-versed in systems ecology and soil science and they’re excellent storytellers.”

And they want their information to be locally-relevant, easy-to-use and from another farmer—at least according to the busy growers that she was interviewing.  On the heels of two bad spring seasons where adaptive strategies were at a premium, Roessler began editing together short and sweet ‘how-to’ clips (about three to five minutes in length) to support this transfer of knowledge.

“The films will never be as good as two farmers standing in a field talking but they’re one up from reading a book,” says Roessler, who estimates that the project and its dozen or so videos has received nearly 6000 hits so far.

Like so many of her peers, Roessler didn’t grow up on a farm and discovered a love for growing food later in life.  Between degrees at UVic, she spent three years in Nicaragua working on a permaculture farm with a women’s cooperative and saw first-hand how local experience (in this case, shared using hand-drawn illustrations through the Campesino a Campesino movement) becomes incredibly powerful when shared widely.

“I think that the ability to communicate agricultural information with a wider audience in a new medium will help people—including consumers and policymakers—better understand the costs of local food and the issues that farmers face,” says Roessler.

Between time spent finishing her thesis and consultation work, Roessler will keep adding to the Filmanac as long as farmers keep getting in touch to share ideas.

“Really, it’s all about exchange,” she says. “Older farmers can leave their life’s work for other to tweak and try but they can also learn totally different skills—or a brand new and much better way of doing something—from new farmers.

“I’ve just created the vehicle for the farmers to put data into; they’re the ones with all the good ideas.”


BY: Melanie Tromp Hoover


The films are available at the site under the ‘Farm Videos’ tab in the main navigation. is the intro page for it but they’re sorted by subject in the tab.



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