Videos depict some land-friendly methods of farming

November 30, 1993|By Rebecca Long | Rebecca Long,Frederick News-Post

FREDERICK -- He's into movies -- not actually a movie star -- but playing an important role in entertaining and educational films.

Frederick's Robert Rooy has been an independent filmmaker for 20 years, producing successful works for everyone, including farmers involved in sustainable agriculture.

Mr. Rooy is well qualified to make such videos. He grew up in Iowa on a farm and is familiar with rural living. The free-lance assistant director of feature motion pictures and films for television also has quite a list of credits to his name.

Among his projects are "Honeymoon in Vegas," "War of the Roses," "Lonesome Dove," "Diner" and "Brubaker."

The series of sustainable agriculture videos are half-hour shows discussing new ways to sustain farms, economically and environmentally. The videos were made in cooperation with Rodale Institute in Emmaus, Pa.

"Rodale Institute is a nonprofit organization," Mr. Rooy said. "They have a whole test farm."

Mr. Rooy and his wife, Sarah Jones, distribute the popular videos.

The agriculture videos were quite an undertaking for the five-year Frederick resident. "A person I worked with went to Rodale Institute and they approached me about doing research for the LISA program [Low-Input Sustainable Agriculture] to see if it was worth doing a video," he said.

The research involved the 13 Northeastern states and took nearly four months. "Sustainable agriculture, to me, is not just to sustain the farmland, but to sustain the farm and the farm family; that is an economical issue," Mr. Rooy said.

"Farmers don't use chemicals because they want to -- they use them to make sure they can make a living," he said. "It is very difficult to make a living as a farmer, especially starting out."

His parents reared five children on 80 acres. "The next generation, my brother and sister took 400 acres to raise their families and now their sons and daughters need 1,000 acres to sustain a family," Mr. Rooy explained.

"Farming takes longer hours and women are working off of the farm," he continued. "The quality of life has gone down because of long hours and fewer laborers. There are all of these economic pressures on farmers who are just trying to keep their heads above water."

His enthusiasm and support of agriculture and farm life encouraged him to produce the videos, which sell for $29.95 each or $149.95 for the set of six. The Rooys have sold nearly 400 copies of each video.

The videos profile the impressive strides many farmers have made toward a more sustainable agriculture. They document the methods that farmers have developed to lower, and sometimes eliminate, the use of insecticides, herbicides and synthetic fertilizers.

The subjects of the videos include field crops, rotational grazing, vegetables, high-value marketing, integrated pest management (IPM) for vegetables and small fruits.

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