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Lilac Ridge: Life on a Family Farm
August 15, 2013  
Lilac Ridge Farm

This is a compelling film about sustainable agriculture in Vermont through the lens of a single farm- Lilac Ridge, originally a traditional dairy operation, which has transitioned to organic and added organic vegetables and other products to become a truly diversified farm.

Three generations of the Thurber family appear in the film, talking about life on the farm and how they made important changes that have led to their current success.

The average forkful of food in the US has traveled 1,300 miles to the dinner plate. This statistic irks many Vermonters, who feel that utilizing local and sustainable food is a crucial opportunity to address a multitude of issues in one fell swoop. Through a radical transformation of the American super-size-me agricultural paradigm, one could cut greenhouses gases, reduce the environmental impact of mega-farming, re-establish community and improve nutrition for all, among other things. Vermont is an unlikely place to be at the forefront of this movement because of its comparatively short growing season, yet Vermonters are finding ways to successfully scale down the agricultural status quo while ensuring profits and long-term success to small time family farmers.

This film is an intimate portrait of the participants in a small family farm, showing their relationships with each other, with their community and with the farm. Ross and Amanda Thurber are not necessarily interested in changing paradigms or fueling a revolution in American agriculture. They are primarily interested in making a go of the family farm they inherited from Ross's parents, Stu and Bev (who continue to play a part in operating the farm). To succeed in this endeavor, they have changed a lot about how that farm works; some of their ideas are reflective of the steps many small Vermont farms are taking to achieve success in a nation of super-sized agricultural giants.

They have diversified. What was once a dairy farm is now an organic vegetable-growing, direct-to-restaurants wholesaleing, cut-flower­supplying, farm stand-purveying, egg-producing, farmers' market-retailing operation. They have also transformed every aspect of the farm to attain certified organic status.

They are also taking advantage of Vermont programs that support many of their efforts. At the farmer's market, they accept coupons from families on food stamps and from elderly customers through a State program to help small farmers and to provide better nutrition to those populations. Food stamp recipients at the market can also swipe their food stamp cards in a card reader to receive tokens valid for purchases from the vendors there.

Amanda is on the board of the Farm to School Program, which is committed to maximizing the amount of locally grown food in public school cafeterias. Unexpectedly, some unlikely players in the local food services industry have become quite enthusiastic about the program. She also hosts classes from several local schools and makes classroom presentations at the schools as well.

The film shows the farm through the seasons: planting, harvesting, sugaring, logging and, always, milking. We see interactions with the local community: conversations at the farm stand and farmers' market, a watermelon tasting at the High School, a benefit dinner at the farm. Ross and Amanda, and Stu and Bev talk about farming in Vermont, changes in the state over fifty years, and other issues.

Ames Hill Productions, located in Marlboro, Vermont, is the partnership of Andy Reichsman and Kate Purdie. They have been making films for the past twenty­five years. Recent productions include films for The Hopkins Center for the Arts at Dartmouth College, The River Gallery School of Art in Brattleboro and The Student Conservation Association.


Lilac Ridge: Life on a Family Farm was produced by Andy Reichsman and Kate Purdie


Lilac Ridge: Life on a Family Farm is a production of Ames Hill Film and Video Production


Visit the film's website


[Lilac Ridge: Life on a Family Farm originally aired on MPBN Community Films April 25, 2013.]

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