My Farmland ( 78mins)

My Farmland explores how Chinese national and Chinese immigrants' investments are affecting traditional Canada’s agricultural sector by following three families: two in tiny Saskatchewan farming communities, the other in the wine-making region of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. The film tells a very human story of how communities react to an influx of people from a different culture who hope for a better life by working the land.

Stuart Leonard, a fourth-generation farmer in Ogema, Sask., sees how much land Chinese-Canadian investors are currently buying. Without the same access to investment capital, locals like Leonard can no longer compete for acreage. Will there be a fifth generation of Leonard family farming? That’s the type of question many Canadian farmers are asking themselves, and it’s changing close-knit agrarian communities like Ogema.
David Fu is a newcomer to Coronach, Sask. He once worked a tiny farm in China and, after 12 years in Vancouver, was finally able to realize his dream and buy a farm. Fu remembers seeing prairie farmland for the first time: “I was shocked when I saw big, big, flat, endless area. All this crop and farmland. I got emotional. Why wasn’t I born in this area? I struggled so many years to get here. To own a large piece of farmland is my dream.” Now, he must learn how to farm and make a living in Canada. He hopes there will be generations of Fu family farmers to come.

When Simon Zhang’s wealthy uncle in China made a prestige purchase of a small winery in Ontario’s Niagara region, Zhang never dreamed he would be managing it one day. “At the beginning, I didn’t even know the names of the grapes,” he says. Zhang and his family have to confront local resistance to the new ownership, a language barrier and a huge learning curve. What changes will the new owner of the winery have to make? Can the prospect of a potentially large Chinese market bring some prosperity?

Regardless of their backgrounds, Leonard, Fu and Zhang face a shared reality: agriculture is a very risky venture. In 2017, a serious drought brought all these hidden tensions to the surface for the Fu and Leonard families, in particular. Both faced hard choices and had to decide whether to sell some of their land or farming equipment to cover financial losses.

My Farmland is a powerful film about how Chinese investors and immigrant farmers are changing the landscape of Canadian farming and the impact of this change on local farmers. With intimate and unique access, the film captures the subjects’ deep emotional journeys in a changing world and the challenges both cultures face in the agriculture business.

My Farmland delves into many sides of this complex, unfolding transition. Is the increase in foreign ownership resulting in xenophobia or racism? Can two very different cultures find common ground and work side by side?

  • Diana Dai
    Director
  • Diana Dai
    Writer
  • Diana Dai
    Producer
  • Stuart Leonard
    Key Cast
  • David Fu
    Key Cast
  • Simon Biao Zhang
    Key Cast
  • Project Title (Original Language):
    我那片田园
  • Project Type:
    Documentary
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 26 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    February 1, 2019
  • Production Budget:
    307,570 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    Canada
  • Country of Filming:
    Canada
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    digital
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    No

  • Feb winner of best feature documentary 2019 Changing face International film festival
  • Yorkton
    Canada
    Nominated for the 2019 Golden Sheaf Awards: “ Best Point of view docs” and “Best Multicultural doc”.
  • Spotlight Silver Award at 2019 SPOTLIGHT DOCUMENTARY FILM AWARDS in the US.
  • 53rd WorldFest-Houston International Film Festival
    Houston
    United States
    Platinum Remi
  • Univserse multcultral international film festival 2020
    LA
    United States
    Best Education Film winner
  • Sunrise film festival

    Canada
    Official
  • Barnes Film Festival
    London
    United Kingdom
    Finalist
  • Tokyo Lift Off Film Festival
    Tokyo
    Japan
  • Hidden film festival worldwide
    London
    United Kingdom
  • Culture & Diversity film festival
    LA
    United States
    Best feature documentary
  • Toronto open world festival
    Toronto
    Canada
    Semi-finalist
  • Washington DC Chinese film festival
    Washington
    Canada
    December 26, 2020
  • Tehran international Cinefest
    Tehran
    Iran, Islamic Republic of
Director Biography - Diana Dai

A multi-award winning documentary filmmaker, Diana has received the prestigious Gemini Award and the Golden Sheaf Award for the CBC documentary "China's Earthquake: The People in the Pictures". She has also received several awards in international film festivals. She is the director for a well-acclaimed documentary “My First 150 days”; “China: The Miraculous Transformation” and “SARS: Cover up and Aftermath”; in addition to other documentaries.

The documentaries that Diana directed/produced have aired in North America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Her documentaries are also collected by many renowned universities and libraries around the world.

Diana was one of the founders for the Mandarin program for OMNI TV in Canada. Diana has taught the "Television" and "Film and Video" courses at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, where she is one of the authors for the textbook "Television in its social context".

Diana obtained a Master's degree in Communication Studies (TV Production) at the University of Leeds in the UK.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

Our world is becoming a global village, with an unstoppable flow of people, goods and services across international borders. Canada is no different. Investments made by foreigners and immigrants have become a controversial topic for the locals — especially when they happen in our rural farming communities.

When wealthy Chinese national investors and Chinese immigrants and begin to buy farmland in Canada, it impacts local farmers, who have lived and farmed on their land for generations. Unlike the cities, where people from many different backgrounds are omnipresent, these farming communities are tight-knit, with many relatives living in the same small towns, sharing similar lifestyles.

In recent decades, it was rare for immigrants of ethnic minorities to settle on farms. Now, aspiring farmers are coming from around the world and they bring with them more money to buy land, which challenges the traditional lifestyle in Canadian rural communities. It’s understandable that the locals are afraid; they don’t know these newcomers; they feel that their community is losing its Canadian identity; and typically, with change, comes resistance.

Some provinces have strict limitations on the number of acres that foreign individuals or corporations can own in Canada. Some locals call visible minorities by their ethnic origins like “Chinese” or “Indian”, even though they are Canadian citizens. When immigrants who purchase farmland are labelled as foreign investors, it can create hostile relationships with the locals. The line is blurred when farmland is purchased by an immigrant, who may be financially backed by foreign investors. It’s confusing for locals who don’t understand where the money is really coming from.

I was born and raised in China, and educated both in the U.K. and China. Having lived in Europe and Canada for many years has given me the advantage of understanding both western and eastern cultures. I know how difficult it can be to uproot yourself to start a new life in a country with a different culture and socio-economy. I can also relate to the other perspective: how hard it can be when something or somebody new comes along and your comfort zone is suddenly and irrevocably forced to change.

When I heard about David Fu, a Chinese immigrant farmer who had bought land in small-town Saskatchewan a few years ago, I travelled there to meet his family. In China, farmers cannot own the land they farm. David was thrilled to become a landowner there and the whole family worked hard and enjoyed the fruits of their labours, which David would have never had on his tiny state-owned farm in China. But I also witnessed their struggles; they were having more problems than the local farmers. They were trying hard to prove themselves and to be accepted by the local community.

At the same time, the young local farmers’ livelihoods are being threatened. Investors are increasing the price of land, so much that young farmers like Stuart Leonard are no longer able to purchase it — similar to young families in Canada’s cities who find themselves priced out of the housing market. The only locals who benefit are the retirees who sell their land to foreign investors, often the highest bidders.

A well-known winery at Niagara-on the-Lake, purchased from locals by a Chinese investor was struggling with a high staff turnover rate and was up for sale again. Some locals had mixed feelings about working for a company whose owner is a foreigner from a different culture and living in another country. At the same time, the owner had invested a lot of money to revive the business and was offering jobs to the community.

There are two sides to this story. New people coming to Canada are hoping to have a better life and a successful business while locals want to maintain the status quo of their comfortable lives.

The landscape in Canada is changing, whether we like it or not. Our communities may change; our neighbours may change. And the newcomers, whether foreigner or immigrant, need to make efforts to understand the locals who have lived in their communities for many generations. Through communication, they can work together to form a new harmonious and integrated society.

No man is an island; success does not come easy. We all have common values and goals. I hope people from both cultures strive to understand others’ perspectives; to see the strengths inside each other and to make the best of it.