Farmsteaders

This screen-grabs from “Farmsteaders” show members of the Nolan family.

The film “Farmsteaders” captures the enchantment of rural life in southeast Ohio against the arduous realities of sustainable farming. For Nick Nolan and his family of eight, maintaining a farmstead becomes a revealing cycle of ups and downs in the shadows of the current economy. However, the Nolans are determined to reinvigorate their family dairy farm in the spirit of generations before them.

That’s according to the opening of a news release about the film, directed by Ohio University graduate Shaena Mallett. “Farmsteaders” will have its national broadcast and streaming debut on the PBS documentary series POV and pov.org at 10 p.m. this coming Monday, Sept. 2 (check local listings).

The film is produced in collaboration withmilesfrommaybe Productions in association with American Documentary | POV. POV is American TV’s longest-running independent documentary series, now in its 32nd season.

“Returning to his childhood home,” the release said, “Nick Nolan reconnects to the feelings and experiences that marked his happiest times. Having lived through an era when hundreds of dairy farms dotted the region, Nick pines for a familiar past where farmers were personally and closely involved with the land and livestock that nourish the community. Emotional ties to his grandfather’s land fuel Nick’s ambition to revive the practices that supported his family. However, he must operate against new competition: the large-scale farms that have pushed small dairy farms out of the market for decades. The experiences of the Nolan family reveal the many challenges of maintaining a dairy farm, including the risk of failure and pressures of success.

“Through financial strain and time limitations, the Nolans resurrect the dairy farm and launch a farmstead cheese operation, Laurel Valley Creamery.

“Each member of the family must wear many hats for the business to thrive. Mallett captures moments with the Nolans as they navigate between two extremes of hardship: from having too little business to having more shipments than they can handle.

“Despite it all, Nick and Celeste’s strength in parenting remains steady, balancing work and family with tremendous grounding. As both intent observers and active participants, the Nolan children play central roles at Laurel Valley Creamery, learning and growing through their involvement on the farmstead. Nick’s reflection of his own childhood experiences parallel scenes of his children, who establish a natural bond with the livestock and landscape. To the Nolan children, farmsteading is an inherent part of their lives.”

Through the Nolans’ experience, the release states, Mallett shows a “return to our roots,” one that results in food that is rich in heritage and heart.

“More than a story of sustainable food production, ‘Farmsteaders’is a story of resilience,” Justine Nagan, executive producer/executive director for POV/American Documentary, said in the release. “Viewers will be left in awe watching Nick and Celeste building their farm while raising their family. ‘Farmsteaders’is a proud declaration of rural American perseverance.”

“Farmsteaders” Director Malett is a documentary filmmaker, photographer, educator and farmer. Her first feature-length documentary film, “Farmsteaders” has screened at national and international film festivals and received the Best Feature Film Award and the Audience Choice Award at the Indie Grits Festival. The film also received the Jack Spadaro Documentary Award from the Appalachian Studies Association. 

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