Letter from Rachel Ward

Director of the feature documentary Rachel's Farm

Rachel's Farm
Written by Rachel Ward
Read time – 4 minutes

Dear visitor,

As many of you know, my new film Rachel's Farm is now touring Australia. My inspiration for the film came from personally experiencing the Australian Black Summer bushfires in 2019 and subsequently reading Charles Massey's book Call of the Reed Warbler which details the challenges and accomplishments of many early adopters of the regenerative way of farming. This was the catalyst for me to understand the ecological impacts of conventional agriculture on my own rural property and embrace more regenerative practices.

If you haven't seen the film, you can book tickets to see it here, or if you have seen it maybe you are here as a consumer looking to find retailers that prioritise best-practice farming, perhaps you are custodian of some land and want to do best by it, or maybe you are simply curious to learn about what regenerative and holistic farming is all about. Whatever the reason, I’m grateful that you are interested enough to be checking in on us and learning about a way of farming that prioritises regenerating our landscapes.

In the short time that I have been farming regeneratively, and doing my homework, I have come to understand that the competition (and consequent pressure on retailers) to push prices lower and lower, is only made possible when the health of our food and the health of the environment is not factored into the price. Perhaps you already understand this, but I shudder at how ignorant I was and how many still are; unwittingly playing a part in the degeneration of our health, landscapes, and polluting our waterways.

Of course, many, many farmers do their best. They don’t want to see their soil degraded, their water tables shrinking and their rivers polluted with chemicals but, to stay both domestically and internationally competitive, what choice do they have? To put it into context, we are still living in a farming era that began in the 1970’s when President Nixon’s agricultural minister, Earl Butz, said ‘Get big or get out’.

Today, it is almost impossible for small farms to compete with industrial scale farms, even without taking the environment into consideration. The decline of the small family farm is evident everywhere. 

Is this the progress we want? Are we okay for our health, and the health of our landscapes, to take on the inevitable impact of cheap food? Are we okay with the city-country divide getting wider and wider and keeping us ignorant long enough for economic forces to do their mischief until it’s too late; our soils are blown away, our food empty of nutrition, and our rural towns hollowed out?

It’s this fear for the imminent future that has galvanised me to make a documentary about farming. I wanted to bring the experience of running a small farm and its multiple trials and tribulations back from obscurity. My farming story is just one but I have gathered some brilliant minds into the mix - farmers that can see and articulate a way forward for small farms to exist productively while healing our wounded country, caring humanely for animals, and delivering the kind of healthy, tasty, produce that our grandparents once enjoyed.

My hope is that the film will fill in the void between the food that sits on our plate and the all the processes by which it got there. That it will illuminate the impact of different approaches to farming, and allow consumers to connect their food with their values.

Call me an idealist, a dope, deluded, grandiose, but I believe that it is only a question of filling in that blank behind the plate and many consumers will make the choice for their health, their taste buds, their children, their environment and their rural communities. And, of course, once they demand it in louder and louder voices, the retailers will provide it and everyone will breathe a sigh of relief as the planet takes a gentle shift towards hopefulness.

Please let me know if you have questions and I will try to answer as best I can.

All the best,