: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Development


An international group of farmers and scientists are undertaking an ambitious experiment to solve humanity's greatest challenge.


Ten miles from the Canadian border, a young farmer is making radical changes to his fourth-generation family farm by growing a new experimental grain called Kernza. Bred naturally by scientists in Kansas, this humble new grain has flipped the paradigm in plant science and promises to withstand and mitigate the devastating effects of climate change. 

Kernza is a perennial, meaning the plant comes back each year without having to plant new seed. For over 10 millennia there has never been a perennial grain or cereal crop used in agriculture. The implications of developing one would be enormous, the decrease use in tillage would preserve the soil and reduce the need for large inputs of fuel and fertilizer, and might serve as a carbon sink—mitigating climate change. 30 years ago, when scientists in Kansas started to look at the problem, the larger scientific community thought it was impossible. But for the past 16 years the scientists have been developing the first perennial food grain, Kernza, proving the assumptions wrong. Scientist in all parts of the world are now working on developing different perennial crops: perennial rice in China, perennial Sorghum in Uganda, and Kernza and more in Kansas. 

Our young farmer is one of the first to put these plants to test on a working farm, but for now, the yields are lower than their conventional counterparts. The hope is that millions of acres of cropland will be replaced with these perennial alternatives creating a more resilient food system, but others are skeptical they can deliver what they promise.


Seventy percent of the world's croplands are planted with annual crops, requiring tillage. This tillage has led to a loss of 24 billion tons of fertile top soil a year, carrying away vital nutrients.  More chemicals are applied to the field to make up for this loss, which runoff into waterways and create dead zones in our oceans. This problem has been looked at and discussed at great length, but rarely do we see a film that focuses on the people who are creating solutions to these issues.  

The story of perennial agriculture is at a critical moment in its trajectory.  Farmers will start to figure out if Kernza can be practically integrated into a global food system. Our young innovative farmer, embodies a struggle that is universal: how to push forward into progress against the traditions that have sustained our family and communities for generations. It is a nuanced, complex story that will give the audience insight into the challenges farmers face under a global food system. 


John Picklap - Director & Cinematographer

John Picklap’s directorial work has premiered at AFI DOCS, Mill Valley Film Festival, won a Vimeo Staff Pick and Best Short Documentary at LA Lift-Off Film Festival, and been featured by Independent Lens, The Atlantic and Atlas Obscura. Picklap is a 2019 SFFILM Artist-in-Residence, and he is currently directing a program in co-production with ITVS about a young Korean-American farmer in Northern California.


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