What would North Dakota look like without its vivid farms of wheat?
That question might never need to be answered, thanks to the local families that work each year to harvest the state’s most popular and abundant grain.
Their stories were captured on camera and featured in a new documentary, which was screened this week at the Bowman Theatre.
Over the past four years, Conrad Weaver, a documentary filmmaker and video producer, made a journey of more than 100,000 miles to capture the essence of important agriculture producers in his new film, “The Great American Wheat Harvest.”
The film, which the theatre held special screenings of on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, brought Conrad, of Emmitsburg, Md., to southwestern North Dakota.
Several key scenes in the film were shot on the Dilse farm north of Scranton.
It tells the story of five harvesting families and crews who travel from Texas and voyage across the western plains and up to the Canadian border and beyond each year harvesting wheat.
“At first, I thought it would be a film about big farm machinery and beautiful landscapes, and those things are there, but it’s really a story about people,” Weaver said.
“The Great American Wheat Harvest” explains how harvesting and farming families take incredible financial risks most people wouldn’t dream of taking, in order to make a living.
The work they do enables the rest of us to have food on our tables, Weaver said.
During the 2013 harvest season, the farms faced frost, drought, storms and the challenges of living life on the road, all of which is documented on camera.
The producer of the film contacted Melissa Case, co-owner of the Bowman Theatre, and discussed the film. Katie Dilse of Scranton, whose farm is featured in the movie, also spoke with Case about the film and it was decided they would host its screening.
“It tells a story about the custom combiners and their work … and one of the crews has been coming to the area for nearly 30 years,” Case said.
Prior to the screenings, Case downloaded and screened the first 15 minutes of the film—what she saw were beautiful scenes of the plains in full harvest, leading her to exclaim that the movie was very visually engaging.
The only other movie specially screened at the Bowman Theatre was “Wooly Boys,” a 2001 film starring Kris Kristofferson and Peter Fonda, which was shot throughout the Badlands of North Dakota.
Weaver’s film had its national premiere at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. on National Ag Day in March.
It has since been screened in theaters and special events around the country.
Thousands of people have already viewed the film and the response is overwhelmingly positive, according to Weaver. He added that he hopes people will have a better understanding of where their food comes from and what it takes to get a loaf of bread to the table.
“The Great American Wheat Harvest” will be released on DVD and Blu-ray later this month, which will also contain many extra features not seen in the film.
For more information about the film, view the film’s trailer, or to pre-order a DVD or Blu-ray, visit www.GreatAmericanWheatHarvest.com.