True Grit – a review of “Droughtland”

There is something innately inspiring about the rancher.  When you see them in photos toiling their craft.  When you hear them speak about the life they live and the struggles they bear on broad shoulders.  Age doesn’t play a part in this – they’re a unique group of folks who have grown up through generation to generation working the land and the animals.  Both my parent’s families were (and still are) ranchers and farmers in Montana.  My dad’s talked about what life was like on the farm. I’ve always been fascinated by it and held a deep respect for those that continue to work the land.  Colorado has it’s share of agriculture folks and it’s the subject of the film, “Droughtland” produced by Steffan Tubbs.

To be fair – I know Mr. Tubbs via as a friend Facebook and Twitter.  I’ve followed his adventures in storytelling about Veterans (spoiler – he supports them and even published a book) and his everyday work for our local AM news station, 850 KOA.  I also am acquainted with one of the subject matter experts featured in the documentary.  Chris Spears is an old friend from a Speech and Debate Class at Metro State back in 2002.  He’s 850 KOA’s meteorologist and works for CBS4 Denver in the same capacity.  Oh and he teaches my Weather and Climate class at Metro.  Part of me seeing this film was an extra credit assignment.  The bigger part was opening up my mind to someone we don’t think about – our farming community.  Given Steffan’s track record and the inclusion of the legendary Pat Woodard with Chris’s expertise – there was plenty of good reasons to see the film.

Let’s get this out of the way first – this film will leave you asking plenty of questions.  After the credits rolled the 200 or so folks who were in attendance had lots of questions, ideas and things to say.  It’s a big issue.  Central to the documentary is the concern that Eastern and even South West Colorado has been experiencing an event on par or even (and the film suggests this)  worse than the 1930’s dustbowl.  Lack of rainfall, loss of grazing grounds with low grass and the eventual reality of ranchers having to slowly reduce their herds are all spotlighted in the film.  These are hardy people.  Tough.  I used the headline title of “True Grit” because they are exemplary examples of it.  They continue to soldier on through dwindling crops, low head counts and falling profits – which provides for their family.

Through the film you meet a various cast.  Several older farmers.  A young rancher(Chip Reid) who together with testimony from his mother had me on the edge of misty tears.  A church preacher who’s doing all she can to inspire her fledgling community through The Word and song.  A school teacher who’s looking at a shrinking community.  It is a perfect panoply of those that are struggling to provide for their community.  It also brings the viewer to pause as each of them speaks to how they provide for the Metro Denver with milk, meat and vegetables – and what happens to the marketplace when they start selling, closing and losing.

I tweeted the moment the lights came up that every single Coloradoan needs to see this movie.  Every.  Single.  One.  I’m not backing down from that claim.  The movie makes points about those of us in The Metro Denver Area and how the exponential growth is driving water demands.  It also shines a jarring light on the complicated world of water rights.  One of the ranchers featured in the film was with us the night of the premiere and spoke at length about wells being shut off by the State of Colorado and others because of how the structure of the rights required water be divided in a certain way.  There are more customers than there is water.  Also – we send lot of this water out of state. And that’s just scratching the surface.

I can not emphasize this more – you need to see this movie.  It’s $20.00.  Buy it.  Share it.  Talk about it.  Get to know how it affects you.  Get to know who provides your food.  And get involved.  It’s a simple little film with no narration – simply the shepherds of the land sharing their love of what they do – and why it matters.

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