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Film about English dairy farm could be a positive for ag biz
Truth from the Trenches
How many YouTube videos have you watched with farm boys dancing in a wheat field, singing a parody to a popular song and promoting agriculture?

Answer: Lots.

So, if these farming videos from across America go viral, then there must be a hunger to see more actual farming, right? Maybe the world is sick and tired of the anti-big farm rhetoric and they want to see the everyday life of a working farm?

Maybe the world likes to watch the lifestyles of the not so rich and famous, but of the everyday working man? Or, maybe people just like to see real young men who aren’t afraid to work and are proud of their farming lifestyle?

Whatever the reason, there is a curiosity to quench – and The Moo Man is trying to quench it.

At the Sundance Film Festival, the so-called “Super Bowl” of independent film festivals, held in Park City, Utah, there is a documentary featured called “The Moo Man.” Here is a summary of the film taken from Sundance.org:

In the bucolic English countryside, Stephen Hook runs the family dairy farm, Hook and Son, a lo-fi anomaly resisting a hi-fi world. Farming is a hard life and an even harder business, but Stephen and his family make it work by staying small and offering services like home delivery.

And it’s not just a profession for Stephen; each cow has a name and is lovingly cared for, especially the farm’s resident “cover girl,” Ida. It becomes quite clear that Stephen’s unconventional and heartwarming friendship with his herd is what really enables the farm to survive.

I watched a short clip of the film and it looks interesting. The Sussex, England, dairy farm is just a farm and the cows are just cows. While everything seems to be taken care of, the farm would probably not make the Most Beautiful Farmstead list. It had weeds growing up between the buildings and gates that were bent, keeping Holsteins in that were not all that clean because … well, they are cows.

From what I’ve read, this film looks promising for everyday agriculture. It doesn’t make large farmers look greedy or small farmers look wacky. It’s just a documentary about a small-scale dairy farmer who has names for his cows and enjoys being a dairyman.

But just as I got excited about a really cool, well-done, unbiased film about dairy farming, I started to poke around into Mr. Hook’s business. I have found he is a proponent of raw milk and is being sued by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) for allegedly breaching food hygiene regulations, for selling raw milk from his cows through a vending machine at a London food establishment.

Does this blemish his reputation as a dairy farmer? You may hear a resounding “YES” because of his unrelenting methods to make money on a small dairy farm in England. But for those same reasons, you have to know that Mr. Hook possesses the same thing every other dairy farmer possesses: An intrinsic desire to be independent and the will to make it happen.

And that is what dairy farmers are made of – sheer determination with tons of tenacity. Without this, there would be no butter to put on the popcorn that we munch while we watch “The Moo Man” movie.

Kudos to the film industry for finding dairy farming interesting. Let’s hope this fun film finds its way to a theater near you!

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Those with questions or comments for Melissa Hart may write to her in care of this publication.
1/30/2013