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Documentary about organic farm turns into story of drought

Documentary about organic farm turns into story of drought

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Common Good Farm

David Ozinga (right) and Michael Thurber have been filming Evrett Lunquist (left) and Ruth Chantry as they've worked through the drought at Common Good Farm.

RAYMOND -- Evrett Lunquist and Ruth Chantry agreed to open their home, farm and lives to a two-man documentary crew, because they wanted to show the best the couple’s certified organic farm can produce, and how they produce it.

And they did. The first of four planned segments of “Higher Ground,” a film being shot by Open Harvest Natural Foods Cooperative Grocery staff members David Ozinga and Michael Thurber, takes place in the spring. It serves as an introduction to the married couple, who own and operate Common Good Farm, their land and the beginning steps of the farm-to-table process for the people who buy their goods through Community Supported Agriculture, Open Harvest or elsewhere.

They filmed Lunquist introducing 300 baby chicks to the farm, individually dipping their beaks into their coop’s water source, so they’d know where it is. Lunquist discussed the strain of rhubarb they had gotten from Chantry’s parents’ grandparents, and how the family has more than 100 years of history with just this one crop. 

In some of the scenes from the spring segment, you see Lunquist working outdoors, wearing his rain jacket. On Sunday, Ozinga and Thurber plan to premiere the second segment of their documentary to Open Harvest members. It will show the couple during the summer months, during the drought.

"On a real basic level, we had an unexpected story happen," Ozinga said.

They followed it, switching gears from what was planned as a year-in-the-life story of the farmers to a story of a family struggling with the drought. Neither the farmers nor the filmmakers knew they would be participating in a documentary about what Lunquist said was the hardest summer he’d endured in 16 seasons of farming this land, but they kept going.

"Our image of the farm is, I would say, one of bounty, and producing a lot of food," Lunquist said in an interview last month, which was filmed by the documentary team. "And this year was really kind of a documentation of a struggle to produce a little bit."

"Maybe the story got better, but it was pretty painful (to film)," Ozinga said.

The second segment of “Higher Ground” will feature footage from late April up through the past few weeks. The hens still laid eggs, the pigs still grew and the summer CSA orders were fulfilled during those months. But the dearth of rain made each day an exhausting trial, Lunquist said.

Chantry said they had some austere measures for dealing with the water shortage, especially after their well, like so many on farms throughout the region, went dry.

The kitchen sink water went to the toilet. The water to wash the egg bucket went to a tree they didn’t want to lose. Basically, she said, they tried to get two uses out of their water.

“We kind of slid into home base under the ball to fulfill our CSA, and after that, it’s been lots of strikes,” Lunquist said.

They told their CSA members that they would see the full impact of the drought in their fall offerings. Where they normally would produce 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of winter squash, for example, this year, they got about 20 pounds.

“That’s not what you would hope to put out there,” Chantry said. “You want to put something gorgeous and lovely and the best of what you can do out for all to see, and that’s not what’s here right now.”


Reach Cory Matteson at 402-473-7438 or, or follow him on Twitter at @LJSMatteson.


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Features reporter

Cory Matteson is a features reporter.

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The annual Dig Deeper Farm Tour, organized by Open Harvest Co-op, is an effort to show visitors the starting point of the farm-to-table connection, said Michael Walter, produce manager at Open Harvest. Last year, he said, about 300 people toured the four participating farms.

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