Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association

The 27th annual OEFFA conference, March 2006 in Granville, Ohio, included a public reading of What Will Be in the Fields Tomorrow? –one activity of 50 workshops and presentations. Playwright Barbara Carlisle directed an amateur cast of familiar faces from Ohio’s agricultural community. Howard Sacks, director of the Rural Life Center at Kenyon College (Gambier, Ohio) introduced the piece and participated with Voices Project principals in a panel and audience talk-back after the presentation.

  •  “The presentation was a very effective vehicle for stimulating conversations regarding agriculture,” noted Sacks. “The use of amateurs is both the performance’s strength and weakness. This approach enables communities to replicate the play, and it adds local appeal. . . . This is a very valuable and creative project!”

This was the largest pilot audience. Two hundred sixty attended the presentation after dinner at the end of the first day of the conference; 60 stayed for the talk-back. Seventy-three percent of those returned surveys. This audience really affirmed they did not want to see a resolution to Bertie’s dilemma of what to do with her farm. Also explored was the difference between professional actors presenting – vs the value of having people familiar to speak the roles –giving their own credibility to the messages. This group also expressed the concern that a non-sustainable group might not be interested. The Traverse City community theatre presentation showed that they were wrong!

Comments included:
 “This really created a sense of community at this conference and made me feel hopeful about the work that I and others are doing.”

“It was 100% authentic!”

“When you put people on a stage, people listen to what is being said.”

“The stress of families needing to get money out of the land – the struggle to do honor to the land – to keep it in the family—balancing that – the idea that lots of people want to do the right thing; but that the right thing has changed.”

. . . particularly held my attention. . .
“It was the words of real farmers.”

“. . . that with education and talking and listening, more can be done to sustain sustainable farming.”

“the emphasis on values in the rural community”

. . . is effective for public education. . .
“First person presentation makes it very strong and raises questions that appeal to many different groups.”

“Anything that brings attention to the problems of farmers is needed.

Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association