Positive NoteWritten by Jennifer Womack
Early May, I made an evening trip north to Wright to join a group of locals as they watched the documentary film The First Millimeter: Healing the Earth. There was a healthy crowd in attendance and I’m told that on the previous night a crowd of about 130 people gathered at the Camplex to watch the film about livestock grazing and soil health.
I’d already seen the movie, as I’d watched it prior to writing an article late April about the early-May film debuts. I’m not usually one to watch the same movie twice, but I was interested in seeing this film a second time.
Beyond the film itself, I had a couple of other reasons for attending the event. I wanted to show my support for area rancher John Flocchini, whose Durham Buffalo Ranch was included in the documentary. I also wanted to ask the movie’s producer Chris Schueler what drove him to make a documentary about livestock grazing. The answer wasn’t what I expected.
Mr. Schueler teaches classes on documentary film production to college kids in New Mexico. One of his students invited him to lunch with a gentlemen involved in holistic resource management. Schueler found the discussion so interesting that it launched him into the three-year process of creating this film in some not-often-visited corners of the world. With urban roots, he was able to see this story’s importance and with it the importance of range resources and their stewards.
I walked out the door of the Wright City Hall building glad I’d attended for yet a third reason, one that didn’t occur me until I visited with Mr. Schueler. I’ve long believed mainstream media too often portrays rural residents as naïve and simple-minded. By allowing livestock producers to tell their stories and the planning and thought processes that go into animal husbandry, Mr. Schueler shone a light of sophistication and intelligence on the people who make their living in agriculture around the world.
While visiting Wyoming Chris Schueler was joined by Mr. Flocchini and Roland Cruise, who helps with grazing management on the Durham Ranch, in speaking at area schools. It was the second time some local students had the chance to meet the documentary film producer. Some of them, along with other children from the world, were featured in the video talking about the importance of stewardship and our soil resources. Visiting with a wide array of students, including a film class at the High School in Gillette, I couldn’t help but see the trio’s travels as a PR boost for ranchers.
As I watched the film my mind also hearkened back to the carbon sequestration discussions taking place in parts of Wyoming for several years now. Touching on the value of good carbon cycles to healthy rangelands, the film drives home the point of agriculture’s ability to make a difference in the amount of atmospheric carbon. Regardless of whether or not one believes in global warming, the benefits of managing for increased litter cover and organic matter have benefits that hit home more closely and quickly than the gaseous content of the atmosphere. One person in the film describes plants as the bridge between atmospheric carbon and soil carbon.
The movie will show on PBS beginning next month in its roughly hour-long format. I’m anxious to see hear how Main Street America reacts.