Depicting the intimate emotional and physical strife of small-scale farming, Farmsteaders, directed by cinematographer Shaena Mallett, offers a raw glimpse of what it takes to continue farming in an age of vertical integration and mechanization of agriculture. On 110 acres in rural southeastern Ohio, Nick Nolan and his wife, Celeste, are determined to resurrect and maintain Nick’s late grandfather’s dairy farm in an area that once sustained several hundred neighboring farms, now down to a dwindling few. With beautifully shot home video–style footage, the camera both narrates the Nolans’ business pursuits and captures the seasons and rhythms of farming life. This is a film that impresses upon viewers that family farming is as harrowing as it is strikingly beautiful and noble.

Farmers such as the Nolans are faced with the moral dilemma of living in accordance with a romanticized vision of raising a family—which for Nick and Celeste includes four...

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