Maine Farmland Trust is based in Belfast, but advocates for farmers all across the state. On Friday, June 25, MFT will bring a gala celebration of food, film and art to downtown Rockland, culminating in the premiere of eight commissioned “Meet Your Farmer” film shorts at the Strand Theatre at 345 Main St.

The short documentaries were produced by North Haven’s Pull-Start Productions, a small company run by Cecily Pingree, her brother-in-law Jason Mann and his brother Lindsay Mann. Pingree and Jason Mann comprise the shooting crew, trading off on high definition digital camera and sound duties. Pull-Start has produced several projects focused on the sea, a natural fit for an island-based company. For the “Meet Your Farmer” series, it put in a lot of mainland mileage.

“Maine Farmland Trust contacted us in September about telling the story of Maine farms and farmers, to show the diversity of what’s going on,” said Pingree, who said she “fell into” filmmaking during a few years she spent in New York.

The North Haven native did not go to school for film, but had an internship with Big Mouth Films, a socially driven documentary company. When a position opened up, she filled it and found “I just really loved it.” She also loved Maine, though, and knew she would be back. Pingree lived and worked in filmmaking in Portland for a while before returning to North Haven.

“I think we’re really lucky, because we’ve been consistently busy. I teach and Jason’s a bartender, but this is the full-time gig,” she said, adding that Pull-Start makes the balance work by combining commissions with independent projects.

The “Meet Your Farmer” series of shorts, which run five to seven minutes each, began with brainstorming sessions between the filmmakers and MFT. They started with a list of some two dozen Maine farms, then began to sort by location, size and products.

“We whittled them down with [MFT executive director] John Piotti and members of the board, all with excellent suggestions how to showcase the diversity and different locales … we could easily have done 200 shorts,” said Pingree.

The resulting films, seen as a whole, offer a window into farming in Maine in the 21st century, a subject that ranges from way Down East to the Canadian border, from Aroostook to York counties; from the burgeoning community supported agriculture movement to a ninth-generation family business; and from dairy to fruit to potatoes, wood and more.

“There’s diversity in age, too,” said Pingree. “There are a lot of new, young farmers, but the state has this great history and legacy.”

Many of the farmers featured in the “Meet Your Farmer” films will be on hand for the Strand screenings and gala, including members of the ninth-generation Bell family’s Tide Mill dairy farm of Edmunds. Waldo County’s Chase family will have the shortest trip.

“Creating the ‘Meet Your Farmer’ films for Maine Farmland Trust was a great experience for us,” said Mann in an MFT press release. “We were lucky to have the opportunity to meet such hardworking farm families and to experience firsthand the vibrant culture of farming in Maine.”

That luck is playing into Pull-Start’s current production, an independent documentary about the nine organic dairy farms that were dropped by H.P. Hood and went on to form Maine’s Own Organic Milk.

The MFT gala events will begin at 4 p.m. with a two-hour reception at the Caldbeck Gallery at 12 Elm St., which has been hosting “Field Stone,” an exhibit honoring the work of Joseph A. Fiore to benefit MFT, this month. At 6 p.m. at the Strand, there will be a reception featuring mouth-watering hors d’oeuvres created by some of Rockland’s finest chefs from locally sourced, farm-fresh ingredients. Participating will be Amalfi on the Water, Café Miranda, In Good Company, Lily Bistro, Primo Restaurant and Thorndike Creamery. Farmers Fare from Rockport will contribute a lavish display of local produce such as cheeses, cold cuts and seasonal greens. The Strand’s bars will be open on both levels to sell drinks, and Whiffletree, the Monroe string duo of brothers Tyler and Seth Yentes, will play in the theater against a backdrop of historical black and white farm footage from the collections of Northeast Historic Film in Bucksport.

The “Meet Your Farmer” screenings will begin about 7:15 p.m., with commentary by the filmmakers, Piotti and many of the farmers. Afterward, coffee, chocolates and local Maine ice cream will be served for those who wish to linger and mingle, provided by Rock City Roasters, Black Dinah Chocolates and Stone Fox Farm Creamery.

Tickets for the entire event — opening reception, films, and sweets and coffee — are $25, $20 for MFT members and are going fast. For the screenings followed by treats, tickets are $10. Tickets may be purchased through MFT (338-6575) or at the box office on the evening of the event.

“As filmmakers, we work with nonprofits to help them shape their mission into a visual media. It’s up to them how they to use it — it’s a tool,” said Pingree, adding she thinks there will be a number of screenings and, later, DVD sales. The Strand premiere will be the first time Pingree and Mann will see their work on the silver screen.

“Actually, it’s the first time we’ll see any of our work on that big a screen,” said Pingree.

Pull-Start also was commissioned to create a Web site dedicated to the “Meet Your Farmer” films, a site that will launch in conjunction with the premiere. The films will be available for viewing at For more information about Maine Farmland Trust, visit To find out about Pingree and Mann’s work, visit

VillageSoup Art/Entertainment Editor Dagney Ernest can be reached at 207-594-4401 or by e-mail to