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Woodford County Farmer's Story Reaches Screens In All 50 States

Alex Sing
Ines Sommer, left, worked with Terra Brockman on producing the film, "Seasons of Change on Henry's Farm" that is available to audiences in all 50 states for a limited time through the Gene Siskel Film Center.

A documentary film about an organic vegetable farmer in Woodford County is now available to a much wider audience.

"Seasons of Change on Henry's Farm" follows Henry Brockman as he works to adapt his practices to meet the rising challenges posed by climate change.

The film came out last year, with its first screening in Bloomington-Normal. It’s temporarily available to audiences in all 50 states through the Gene Siskel Film Center’s website.

The film’s creators, director and producer Ines Sommer and co-producer Terra Brockman, said Henry’s story is worth ruminating on now, as multiple crises threaten food supplies and the people who produce them.

“It's more relevant now, actually, than ever. And year by year is probably going to get more relevant,” Brockman said. “Climate change is coming harder and faster than even the models that the scientists predicted. Even what you see in the film, which looks pretty devastating, is worse year by year by year—and especially this year.”

In addition to co-producing “Seasons of Change on Henry’s Farm,” Brockman is Henry’s sister and works on the land part time. She said they’ve seen it all this past growing season: huge swings in temperature, extreme rainfalls, a very late frost, a prolonged drought—all topped by the first summer flood Henry has experienced in his more than 25 years of farming.

“His production is down to maybe 60% of what he normally would have,” Brockman said. “If a regular conventional farmer who does mono-cropping with corn and soybeans had had similarly devastating weather, they would be out. They would have no income except for the taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance.”

Credit Alex Sing
Henry Brockman has been farming in rural Woodford County for more than 25 years. Each year, challenges mount coinciding with the effects of climate change.

But in this case, she said, Henry’s diverse crops make his farm more resilient and adaptable. Even with the devastating flood, his production is coming back as fall crops are coming in—which is a boon, Brockman said, since farmers like Henry aren’t eligible for subsidies.

And these problems aren’t unique to Henry’s land in the Mackinaw Valley. All small food producers are grappling with the continually worsening effects of climate change, which the film’s creators said is what makes his story important to highlight.

“I think people find it very enlightening, both in terms of understanding better how food is grown, what the labor is that goes into growing food, and also understanding better how climate change can already impact a small farm in Illinois,” Sommer said. “We seem so buffered from the greater weather events, and the film kind of shows you how it already has an impact.”

Brockman said it also gives central Illinois residents a window into what one of their neighbors is going through, and paints a picture of the area’s agricultural potential that goes beyond corn and soybeans.

“One of the many great things about the film is that you get a really intimate view—a really beautiful view with Ines’ camera work and beautiful, poetic sort of lyrical eye—that now gets to people who maybe we'll never get to Henry's farm,” Brockman said.

“Here's this film that gives you this really personal and pretty, but also sobering, look at one particular farm that otherwise would be largely invisible here, right here in our own backyards.”

WGLT's Dana Vollmer talks to Ines Sommer and Terra Brockman, creators of the film "Seasons of Change on Henry's Farm" update the continuing resonance of the subject's fight against the effects of climate change.

Tickets to stream “Seasons of Change on Henry’s Farm” can be purchased here. Sommer cautions to act quickly, as the Gene Siskel Film Center has only removed the “geo-blocking,” making the film accessible regardless of location in the U.S., for a limited time.

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Dana Vollmer is a reporter with WGLT. Dana previously covered the state Capitol for NPR Illinois and Peoria for WCBU.