Private Project

Delmarva and the Ground for Change

The environmental stewardship of farmers around the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays has made them leaders in practices that protect and promote healthy soils. These very practices also safeguard working lands against extremes posed by climate change. This film follows three different family-owned farming operations on the Delmarva Peninsula who all care about and depend on soil.

  • Karrah Kwasnik
  • Karrah Kwasnik
  • Trey Hill
    Key Cast
  • Matt Fry
    Key Cast
  • Megan Fry
    Key Cast
  • Laura Hill
    Key Cast
  • Roland Hill, Jr.
    Key Cast
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Genres:
    Environmental Documentary
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 29 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    September 1, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    9,600 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Karrah Kwasnik

Funded through the USDA Northeast Climate Hub at the University of New Hampshire, Karrah strives to make the complexities of farming and climate science more approachable through visual storytelling mediums. As a first-time filmmaker based in Durham, New Hampshire, Karrah shot, edited, and produced the environmental documentary feature, Delmarva and the Ground for Change, over the course of three years.

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Director Statement

We all know that climate change is causing greater environmental and economic challenges for U.S. agriculture. However, we might not all know that soil health practices can help working farmlands become more resilient to these mounting climate extremes and can even contribute towards fighting climate change. A lot of farmers know this though, and I wanted to use film as a way to give them the time to share their knowledge and perspectives. According to the most recent USDA Census of Agriculture (2017), our Maryland and Delaware farmers are leaders in practices that protect and promote healthy soils. More specifically, the practices of cover cropping and no-till farming are huge in these two states. Farmers here are also under an immense amount of environmental pressure in being so close to the Chesapeake and Delaware bays. To put some numbers to it, 29% of Maryland and 19% of Delaware cropland acres were reported to be ‘under cover’ in 2017. In contrast, only 3.9% of cropland acres in the U.S were planted with cover crops that same year (a 50% increase from 2012). The highest reported use of no-till on cropland acres in the country also occurs in Maryland (58%) and Delaware (54%).

In addition to seeking out the stories of farms active in soil health, I also wanted to work with large-scale farm operations for a few reasons. First, within the Northeast, farms tend to be small with high farmer-to-consumer direct sales (i.e. farmers markets, community supported agriculture programs). However, this picture of farming is not representative of American agriculture as a whole. Data from USDA’s Census of Agriculture tells us that many medium to large-scale farms are getting bigger, while many small farms are getting smaller. So, it was really important to work with farms that could represent agriculture beyond the Northeast. Second, we are seeing fewer and fewer active farmers – largely due to an aging generation of farmers with fewer young people going into (or staying in) farming. Because of this, the disconnect between our farmers and the American consumer continues to widen.

With this film, I saw an opportunity to address this gap, and show the faces behind some of our region’s larger farming operations. I felt that this topic was also important to document because portrayals of ‘big’ farms are often seen as inherently bad, and ‘small’ ones as inherently good. I think that many of our ‘big’ farms can do (and are already doing) a lot of good through their environmental stewardship in an expansive and efficient manner. And when it comes to creating a more resilient food system in the face of climate change for a growing population, we need everyone on the same team.

Through this visual journey with three different family-owned farming operations, I hope that this film increases public awareness on what some of our nation’s farmers are already doing to adapt to and/or mitigate climate change. In addition, I hope that this inspires confidence in the ability of more farmers to cultivate resilient soils.