Heroes and activists are not always easily recognizable. Yes, the environmental movement has its share of super stars and big names – Al Gore, Robert Redford, Joanna Macy and the Sierra Club, to name a few.

But, typically, ranchers and grain farmers hailing from the heartland don’t immediately come to mind as conservation leaders; and it may be a stretch to consider conservation a deeply held, conservative value.

“Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman” challenges those stereotypes, showing that environmentalism is not confined to the more liberal coasts.

As the May selection for the Salem Progressive Film Series, the documentary tells the story of the largely hidden and entirely unexpected movement among ranchers, farmers and fishermen to restore America’s forests, grasslands, wildlife soil and fisheries.

These are “heartland conservation heroes who are feeding the world while stewarding the land and water,” according to the film’s website.

The film, based on the book of the same title by Miriam Horn of Environmental Defense Fund, is directed by Oscar nominee and Emmy winner Susan Froemke and Emmy winner John Hoffman, and narrated by journalist Tom Brokaw.

Horn is the guest speaker for the Salem showing at the Grand Theatre. Following the showing, she will be ‘Skyped” in and projected onto the movie screen to speak and answer questions.

Horn said her aim with the book and movie is to inspire hope and “remind people that conservation is a deep, traditional and conservative value. It’s not a liberal value. It’s not exclusive to liberalism.”

She also wants to spread the news of this largely unrecognized conservation movement.

In communities across the country people are coming across the political divide and putting aside historical animosities to work together and find innovative ways to conserve and protect natural resources, she said.

The film travels through the Mississippi River watershed, featuring a fifth-generation Kansas farmer, a fourth-generation rancher in Montana, and a Gulf Coast fishermen in Louisiana, a leader in bringing red snapper back from near obliteration due to over fishing.

Horn said the documentary follows her book well, but time constraints required the filmmakers to leave out two other conservation heroes, a Mississippi riverman and Louisiana shrimper.

She said she chose the Mississippi River to focus on because it is a quintessential America place. But, it is by no means the only area where ranchers, farmers and fishermen are working on conservation efforts and reaching across political divides to protect the environment.

Horn said much work is being done in the Pacific Northwest to conserve soil in orchards and to fish in ways that don’t deplete fisheries and the marine environment.

Traditional farmers and ranchers aren’t likely to call themselves conservations but under Horn’s story-telling powers they emerge as heroes in the race against climate change leading to more severe flooding, storms and droughts.

Following the film’s showing in Salem, people can do their part by supporting sustainable agriculture and fishing practices, Horn said, adding that people exercise their rights as citizens to contact their elected officials, attend town hall meetings and write letters.


Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman

Salem Progressive Film Series
Guest speakers & audience discussion follow,

Tuesday, May 15, 7:00 pm

The Grand Theater
191 High St. NE, Salem
(503) 881-5305