Freedom Farms Featured in Documentary
Julia Hannan recently produced a documentary highlighting local agriculture featuring several local farms, including Freedom Farms. In this interview, Julia describes her passion for good food, good stories, and why the story of local food is so important.
Julia Hannan recently produced a documentary highlighting local agriculture which is currently on display at the David L. Lawrence Center in Pittsburgh. This documentary is sponsored by Dollar Bank and features several local farms, including Freedom Farms. In this interview, Julia describes her passion for good food, good stories, and why the story of local food is so important.
Freedom Farms: You are the VP of Production Services at PMI TV. How did you end up working in video production?
Julia Hannan: I actually have a background in music. I was a classically trained opera singer, and of course, I wanted to be a rock star, but I hated performing. I decided I liked being behind the scenes, so I ended up with a degree in song recording which migrated into video post production. I’ve always enjoyed telling stories. I love movies, I love film. I’m not in the spotlight, but I’m behind it.
What is your role at PMI?
JH: I’m basically a video editor by trade, but I also run the production department at PMI. We do broadcast TV commercials, corporate videos, and television syndication, and we’re starting to do feature films produced here in Pittsburgh. My job gives me the opportunity to pick projects I really like and produce them.
How did you end up producing a documentary about local agriculture?
JH: One of our clients, Dollar Bank, created a video wall in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. We create the content to highlight the Western Pennsylvania region. This time, I proposed agriculture, because food is such a big topic right now.
Growing up, my parents always went to the farm market. I grew up in Wexford, right down the road from Soergel’s Orchard. I learned what fresh Pennsylvania apples and cider tasted like. I tasted real tomatoes. A lot of people take for granted that you can buy tomatoes year round in the grocery store. Those tomatoes look pretty, but do they taste good? A fresh Pennsylvania tomato in July isn’t anything like a winter tomato grown in Mexico. I love food, and to make good food you need to use the best produce. We’re so lucky to have a strong agricultural industry in Western Pennsylvania, and not everyone appreciates that fact or knows that story.
What are the key elements of the story that you wanted to tell?
JH: I wanted to educate people living here as well as people who are not from this area that we have an agricultural mecca here. We have beautiful farmland that produces all this really good food. I want to convince people to take a few more minutes to think about the food that they are eating. In our society, we’re so focused on health and wellness. A lot of people go to the gym, take vitamins, put on face cream, and then buy cheap processed food. We need to remember what dinner should be, and how important food is. Dinner should not just be a task, it should be a fun event that you share with your family. This all starts with supporting local farmers. The quality of food available here is far superior to the food that is shipped across the country or the continent. In our film, we feature people who care about growing quality food. I want consumers to realize how important it is to appreciate and support our local farmers.
Who did you decide to feature in your film?
JH: I tried to go across the region. I came out to Butler to profile Freedom Farms. I went to Brunton Dairy in Aliquippa. We featured Braddock Farms, which is part of Grow Pittsburgh and shows what an urban farm can look like. We went to Wild Purveyors in Lawrenceville, which is a store featuring wild mushrooms, berries, and paw paws. We also featured the downtown Pittsburgh Farmers Market in Market Square, a beekeeper, and a florist. All of these people are supporting the local economy.
How did you learn about Freedom Farms?
JH: I have a funny story about that. I have horses, and a couple of years ago I was going to visit a farm in Butler. I like to explore the area whenever I’m driving, and if I see a farmstand I will stop. I saw the Freedom Farms Market and pulled over. That day, I had been clipping a horse, and the horse hit me and gave me a bloody nose. I looked a little beat up, so I almost didn’t stop but I’m really glad I did. I was really excited about their local meat. I bought eggs and bacon and rainbow carrots and tomato basil pie. I fell in love with the Market. I picked up a copy of Freedom Farms Magazine and read more about what the Farm was doing, and that day I bought a CSA card.
What made you decide to include Freedom Farms in the documentary?
JH: When I started this project, I immediately thought of Freedom Farms. It’s a great story. The King family really has a stand alone farm. It’s an all encompassing place. You can get meat and cheese and produce and honey and baked goods. People really can go and stop at the Farmers Market and get pretty much everything they need for the week. That’s a really good story.
Are there any behind the scenes filming stories you want to share?
JH: Our crew arrived at the farm early in the morning, and it was time for Pete to go feed the animals. Our guys saw this beautiful sunrise and had to get a shot of it. Meanwhile, the animals were anxiously awaiting their feed. Pete took off to feed the animals while we shot the sunrise, and then we were wandering around the farm trying to find him. We were using a drone for filming, and the pigs were terrified of the drone and hiding in the woods. I wanted to get a shot of the pigs, so I had given them a handful of food?, and Pete comes flying up, asking why they were eating. He wasn’t feeding them because he had to load them on a trailer later that morning. Poor Pete! We started off not making him very happy. Then we interviewed him and he got warmed up and said so many great things. He really cares so much about what he is doing.
Farmers are scientists who understand the soil, and magicians who can pull something out of nothing. Farming can be glorious, and it can be devastating.
Now that the film is finished, how can people watch the documentary?
JH: The film will be playing at the Convention Center for the next year. It may play for many years. It will also be featured on Dollar Bank’s YouTube channel.
JH: I specifically over-interviewed everyone when we came out to the farm because I have a bigger vision for this documentary. We’re going to start looking for funding to create a documentary using a lot of the footage we’ve already started with. Really what I hope to do is something in the style of Chef’s Table on Netflix. I want to make an educational documentary about eating locally, eating seasonally, and the importance of healthy food. It’s something we really want to do and we’re going to try to make it happen. We are working on getting funding.
We want to tell an in-depth story about the importance of supporting the local economy that is right here. If you shop at Aldi’s, how long has your food been shipped? How is it fresh if it was picked a week ago? It’s not. What is good for our local economy is good for us too. So much of our food is grown in California and Arizona, where the water is running out. It’s not a sustainable method of agriculture. In Western Pennsylvania, we have plenty of water. Farmers are getting more and more savvy, using high tunnels, teaching people to eat seasonally. We should? be eating fresh strawberries year round. If we want fresh tomatoes in the winter, we should can them in the summer. Eating locally in the winter means you’ve got to learn to can and to eat from the freezer. Buy meat from Freedom Farms that is frozen immediately after butchering, and then design your meals around the freshly frozen meat in your freezer. We should preserve the awesome local food we have.
As soon as we started to tell some of these stories, we realized there are so many more. There are so many people out there doing wonderful things, and so much more we can tell.