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Growing Solutions

This film looks at real-life solutions to challenges plaguing farmers, such as water scarcity, soil degradation and the ravages of climate change. The flip side of that coin is a regenerative agriculture that means farmers can rebuild degraded natural resources and be more resilient in the face of mounting challenges. It highlights new milestones on the road to creating a perennial polyculture that could replace our current model that relies on annual crops planted in monoculture. This emerging model mimics Nature's eminently resilient prairie ecosystems.

  • Leo Horrigan
    Out to Pasture; Food Frontiers; Out of Our Heads
  • Leo Horrigan
    Out to Pasture; Food Frontiers; Out of Our Heads
  • Mike Milli
    Food Frontiers
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    41 minutes 57 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    May 22, 2020
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
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  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Leo Horrigan

Leo Horrigan is a food system correspondent for the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF). He has made three documentary films for the Center, and four in all. His most recent film, "Growing Solutions," explores innovative approaches to crop production challenges that plague farmers, including soil degradation and water scarcity – and all against a backdrop of a rapidly changing climate. In 2016, he released "Food Frontiers," which looks at cutting-edge projects around the United States that are increasing access to healthy food. In 2010, his first documentary for CLF, called "Out to Pasture," highlighted the advantages of raising food animals on pasture instead of in confinement. In 2016, he also completed a film called "Out of Our Heads," which is a rare and intimate portrait of a men’s retreat that strives to create emotional healing using poetry, myth, rituals and community-building.

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Director Statement

The issues discussed in "Growing Solutions" are both timeless and increasingly urgent. We need farming systems that do not degrade the resources necessary for future generations to grow food – soil, water, seed biodiversity, and the farming workforce itself.

Rather than dwelling on the problems caused by our conventional farming methods, "Growing Solutions" shines a light on people who are already modeling solutions to what have been our most intractable farming problems, including soil loss and climate change.

One farmer profiled in the film, Gabe Brown, is part of a new movement of farmers whose methods are regenerating vital natural resources. For example, Gabe describes “growing topsoil” on his farm while his neighbors watch their topsoil degrade and diminish. This regenerative movement hints at what could become a larger shift in how we practice agriculture.

It is possible to envision us moving from a Chemical Age in farming into a Biological Age. Fundamentally, this means supporting the biology in the soil and above ground in ways that both enhance natural resources and create bountiful yields on our farms. This might sound unrealistic to many who know agriculture’s struggles, but the truth is that many farmers around the world have already made this shift, with great results.

The transition to a high-input, chemical agriculture was a dramatic one. Agriculture is fully capable of making an equally dramatic pivot toward a regenerative model. Having a public that is well-informed about the transformative possibilities will help propel this shift and hasten it.

"Growing Solutions" ignites vital conversations about what our future agricultural methods and landscapes need to look like. Moreover, it highlights our profound symbiotic relationship with the land, and how that relationship is empowering our agricultural community to make transformative change.