Everyone loves a good story about hard laboring people who succeed in life by taking challenges and working hard. Also, a good story about farming, one of the first activities that preoccupied humankind since thousands of years is still compelling to watch, because modern technologies and innovations in the field are used to further grow the resources land provides for food and other by-products that can be commercialized on the market.
Given that farming is something that all people and cultures have in common, no matter how low or highly developed they are, this topic was also covered in many fictional and non-fictional works, including in movies. So, if you’re passionate about farming and you want to expand your knowledge regarding some of the best movies (and documentaries) about farming out there, we have some interesting picks to add to your binge-watch list. Please note that these movies about farming are not presented in a particular order, so it’s up to you to decide which one you like the most.
1. At Any Price (2012)
This movie is focused on the competitive world of farming, with an ambitious father who wants that his rebellious son helps him expand the family farm. The movie goes beyond the issues that farmers have to face in today’s world and it also touches on the generation gap. It highlights the interests of the young generation that are completely different from the ones their parents used to have, in this case, working the land.
2. Places in the Heart (2012)
The story of a widow who tries to save the family farm in Texas in the Depression era is very touching. It shows how a woman had to take upon what was considered to be “a man’s job” if she wants to save what is dear to her. With a little help from some interesting characters, the widow manages to establish a profitable cotton farm. The location used for this movie was Waxahachie, near Dallas, Texas.
3. Country (1984)
Another drama based on the struggles that a family must deal with to keep their farm during difficult economic times. What’s interesting about this movie is the particular hardships they have to overcome, mainly the drop in crop prices, the pressure to pay up a Federal Housing Administration loan and natural catastrophes in the area (tornadoes).
4. The Real Dirt on Farmer John (2005)
This one is not exactly a movie, but a well-made documentary about a farmer from the US Midwest named John Peterson who combined his family traditions with an innovative farming system to expand his family’s farm. The farm, Angelic Organics, still exists and is the largest community-supported agriculture operations in the USA.
5. The River (1984)
The last movie of a trilogy of family farm-themed ones (including “Country” and “Places in the Heart”), it’s based on the true story of farmers in the Tennessee Valley who were forced to take jobs in steel mills to make some money. The movie focuses on the struggles of a family farm that is forced to face natural disasters (floods) and financial debt.
6. The Egg and I (1947)
Based on the bestselling memoir written by Betty MacDonald, the movie tells the story and fun adventures of a newlywed couple who decide to operate a small chicken farm. Of course, it’s all hilarious because it’s not so easy raising chickens, as the couple soon finds out and it becomes a real challenge to make the chicken farm profitable.
7. To Make a Farm (2011)
Leaving everything behind and having a fresh start at a small farm seems like a dream come true for many people who simply find themselves challenged and tired of technology and modern social interactions. This is what the documentary about five young Canadians who decide to become farmers is about. About reconnecting with nature, about the future of farming in general and about the future of food we put on the table. It’s interesting to see the motivations behind the decisions of each of the young farmers and how they plan to become successful in their new endeavor.
8. Farmland (2014)
Another interesting take on the “traditional vs. modern” concept about farming can be seen in this documentary about several ranchers and farmers and their opinions on new technologies used in agriculture. The goal of the documentary is to present a possible perspective gap between those who produce the food and those who consume it. The farmers express their views on sensitive topics in modern agriculture such as GMOs, antibiotics used in animal feeds and the treatment of farm animals in general.
9. The Good Earth (1937)
The story of two Chinese farmers, husband, and wife, deals with the struggles they have to face before World War I. After a short period of prosperity, when they start to have enough food and money to buy more land and expand their little farm, drought and the subsequent famine drive the family to do all it takes just to survive. When the drought is over, they try to get back to working their farm, but they don’t have the money to buy seeds and an ox. Gaining possession of an unexpected treasure in the form of some jewelry, the family prospers once again and their sons become well-educated young men. Unfortunately, family issues arise and when everything seems to point towards a rupture, another disaster, this time in the form of a swarm of locusts, threatens their farm and the entire village. Now, the two sons put their differences aside and join forces to try and protect their land from the locust threat. In the end, they all learn a lesson: the land can give you plenty of resources and wealth but it can also bring you down when you least expect it.
10. Before The Plate (2018)
Have you ever wondered where does all the food comes from that ends up on your plate? This is the answer that a Toronto-based restaurant is looking for in this interesting documentary on how food is obtained. From organic farms to cattle ranches and sunflower fields, all the ingredients used in the dishes served in the restaurant come from different farms and different farming systems. It makes you think twice about the choices you make each time you purchase food in a store or when you eat at a restaurant.
11. Well Fed (2017)
The problem of food resources in the world is nothing new. Areas where people have plenty of access to food, there’s an oversaturation on the market and wasting food, unfortunately, comes with the territory. On the other hand, in some of the poorest countries in the world, people don’t have enough to eat because they lack the resources and the possibility to have access to food and famine is a serious problem. In this documentary, two Dutch friends try to showcase how some types of farming can damage the earth and how biotechnology can save poor countries from starvation. It’s a parallel between those who can consider themselves privileged and don’t know how to value natural resources and those who cherish everything nature is giving them and try to survive on what little they have at their disposal.
12. Rams (2015)
It’s always a good idea to sprinkle some light-hearted topics here and there between all the farm life dramas on this list, so this Icelandic comedy is something to add to your watch list. The movie tells the story of two brothers who are not close at all (by “not close” I mean they haven’t spoken to each other in 40 years) but who have to team up to save what they love the most: their sheep. A lethal disease suddenly affects the sheep in the area, so the authorities want to cull all animals to contain the outbreak. The brothers do everything in their power to save their special breed of sheep from dying and with them, their entire way of living which has been passed down from generation to generation.
13. Hybrid (2000)
If you don’t know who Milford Beeghly is, then you’re most likely unfamiliar with corn hybrids and how they influenced the development of corn cultures all over the world. This documentary tells the story of an Iowa farmer who was one of the early developers of the hybrid seed corn and it deals with his obsession with genetically engineered crops. He was viewed as somewhat of a madman during his life, but that didn’t stop him from going after his goal, even if that meant neglecting his own family during the process. As much as his contribution to Milford Beeghly in genetic crop engineering can’t be overlooked, his personal life was far from spectacular.
14. Bloody Milk (2017)
This French movie depicts the daily life of a dairy farmer that shares a real bond with his cows. Since a cow epidemic breaks out in his area, the dairy farmer worries a lot about his cows because, if they get infected, they will have to be killed. Not only does the movie focus on the daily activities in a small dairy farm, but it also highlights some of the practices in the field by comparing small farms and bigger dairy farms and the lifestyle common to most French villages. Overall, it’s a rather touching story, that speaks not only of the hardships a small dairy farmer has to overcome but also about the special bond that develops between farmers and their animals.
15. White Material (2009)
Based on the racial conflicts that arise in a Francophone African state, a woman has to fight for her coffee plantation. Even though other topics touched upon in this movie are not to be neglected, we included it on this list because it shows some of the issues owners of coffee plantations have to deal with.
16. Rice People (1994)
During turbulent times, a Cambodian family tries to grow rice, given that most people surrounding them have lost the connection with the land and are not interested in growing rice but are rather used to getting it from sacks provided by the United Nations. Growing rice becomes the main preoccupation of the head of the family, but he dies because of an infection and his wife doesn’t have the strength and the willingness to tend to the rice fields. The responsibility falls on the shoulders of the oldest daughter of the family who tries to fulfill her father’s dream to grow rice on the family’s plot of land.
17. The Biggest Little Farm (2019)
Generally received with good reviews, the documentary follows the journey of a couple who tries to establish their little farm. Granted, the topic is not new, because farms and families seem to go hand and hand both in fiction and in real life, but it’s always interesting to see different perspectives on what “farm life” means to several individuals. Some critics say that the film lacks depth because it doesn’t deal with some important issues that farmers have to face or they are only briefly mentioned, but the cinematography is beautiful and it offers a positive view on agricultural activities.
18. Red Persimmons (2001)
This documentary is about a tiny village in Japan called Kaminoyama, where the villagers are growing, peeling and packaging persimmons, as they are their main source of income. The villagers are convinced that a unique combination of natural elements is what makes their persimmons superior to all the others. However, this beautiful tradition may soon be forgotten, as in our fast-paced world, many people don’t care as much where their food comes from, just how easy it is to obtain.
19. Nowhere in Africa (2001)
Life of an African farm is not easy, especially when you feel like a fish out of water. A German Jewish family finds refuge in Africa in the 1930s and have to change their lifestyle completely because they have to adjust to living and working on a farm in Kenya. Not all family members are happy with the change, but returning to Germany is definitely not an option for them, so they will all have to learn to love their new home and environment.
20. The Dust Bowl (2012)
Finally, our list includes a documentary focused on the drought that affected the North American prairie farmland in the 1930s and its consequences on the farmers in the area and on the economy during the great depression. It also provides some insight into the lessons future generations could learn how to adjust to the effects of climate change in agriculture.
Hopefully, this list can help you pick some new movies and documentaries to watch, but feel free to let us know in comments below which are some of the best movies about farming in your opinion.