Southeast Missouri farmers appear on TV documentary

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

EDITOR'S NOTE: The date when the story was to air was initially incorrect. The documentary aired last weekend.

EAST PRAIRIE, Mo. -- Three Southeast Missouri farmers are helping tell the story of agriculture through a nationally syndicated documentary special broadcast locally last weekend.

"Against the Grain: The Year Mother Nature Struck Back," produced by an Emmy award-winning team, Weller/Grossman, and agriculture industry experts, the documentary focuses on a number of farm families as they battle the forces of weather that are "against the grain." Each family tells their own stories in their own words.

Among farmers featured is Kevin Mainord of East Prairie.

"I'm excited that the program gives an urban audience -- because most of the stations it's going to be on are in the metropolitan area -- a chance to see what farmers do for a living and where their food comes from," said Mainord, who has been involved in agriculture for 30 years and serves as East Prairie's mayor.

Mainord said his involvement with the documentary came about last spring when Avatar Studios of St. Louis came to Southeast Missouri to cover the breach of the Birds Point-New Madrid levee and talk to those affected by the flooding.

"Many people think their food is manufactured somewhere in a plant and just shows up there, and they have no idea what a grower goes through to produce a bushel of corn and/or soybeans," Mainord said. "I think they'll have a better idea after watching this program."

Against The Grain Productions LLC was formed two years ago to bring awareness of U.S. farm and ranch communities to the general public through dramatic programming on broadcast TV, the Internet, digital distribution and DVD.

The special follows farming families in Missouri and Minnesota whose daily struggles put their lives in danger and their businesses at risk, according to Against the Grain's website. Conflict comes from their battles with the elements including devastating tornadoes, extensive flooding and lingering drought and their efforts to make their personal finances work, the website said.

Clearly, every year they must start over, but they do so with a positive spirit and a commitment that uplifts all, the website said. The program explores the continuous effort farmers must expend in order to bring food and fuel to the public.

Often times, Mainord said he hears -- usually through forms of media -- disparaging comments about farmers from individuals who don't know much about agriculture.

"They don't realize that farmers are on their side," Mainord said.

Farmer Ed Marshall of Charleston, Mo., who is also featured in the documentary, agreed.

"I think farmers get a lot of bad press," Marshall said. "People say we get all these subsidies and wait on government checks, and that's not anywhere close to being true. I'd much rather get my check at the grain elevator.

He continued: "The only way we're going to get good press is if we tell the true story -- and the rest of the story."

And the truth is Mother Nature often dictates the growing season. Last spring 3,500 of Marshall's acres were flooded when the levee was breached.

"We go from -- it's feast or famine," Marshall said. "We had a flood last year and drought this year. It's part of farming: You never know what to expect. If you don't love it, it's definitely not for you. You've definitely got to have your P's and Q's and sense and wit about you. It's tough. It's callous."

Marshall said in addition to knowing where their food comes from, he wants others to be educated about the adversities farmers face.

"If it was easy, anyone would do it," said Marshall, who grows soybeans, wheat, corn and grain sorghum.

In syndication, the special -- which has been picked up by 180 stations -- will reach a broad area of the American public who may have never seen what farmers experience.

"I hope they see how tough it is -- the money we go through, the risks that we take, not only physically but monetarily -- and what it costs to put a crop in and get it out," Marshall said.

U.S. farmers must raise the food so everyone can have it, Marshall said, adding the United States is the largest exporter in the world.

Mainord also pointed out there are several industries like Pioneer Production plant in New Madrid and Monsanto at Matthews which are supported by farmers.

"These are multi-million-dollar companies that are here only because of the farmers," Mainord said. "... Equipment suppliers are here to support agriculture and they support a lot of people and a lot of families through their employees."

The special will act as a stand-alone program as well as a pilot premiere to a possible weekly series of "Against The Grain," according to the program's official website.

"I think it's exciting just to get the message from a farmer's perspective out to the public," Mainord said. "Ed Marshall's involvement emphasizes what farmers have to go through just to push a bushel of grain."

Tom Raffety who farms in Illinois and Missouri on both sides of the Mississippi River will also be featured in the special.

Mainord said he hopes fellow farmers are pleased after viewing the documentary.

"Hopefully, they're happy about the undertaking -- to tell their story on a more national basis," he said.

Marshall said people need to be educated. He thinks farmers will appreciate their story being told.

"Farmers are pretty innovative and stick together," Marshall said. "We're kind of a tough bunch."

For more information or to view video clips of the docudrama, visit www.againstthegrain.tv.

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