Coming to Ground


Farmers find the ground shifting under them; add rising energy costs,drought, soil and water depletion, and climate change; this could be a moment of catastrophic change

Product Description

“In broad and beautiful strokes, the film draws attention to the urgent necessity of and positive models for revitalizing local food systems.”  Leah Bayens, St. Catharine College

Coming to Ground uses Kentucky farmers’ experience following the dismantling of the tobacco economy to make a case that other governments should adopt policies that follow the Kentucky model of state investment in small-scale agriculture. In Kentucky’s case, those funds came from tobacco lawsuit settlements.  The film foretells a change in farming and one state’s work to end 300 years of mono-cropping tobacco toward a sustainable, crop diverse future.


This film shows a classic drama of how change is made, the struggle of farmers, government officials, and policy makers as they try to move away from dependency on ‘traditional’ industrial, petroleum fueled farming methods and the global tobacco market to a more sustainable and sane agricultural economy.  Since 2002 there has been an explosion of crop diversity, environmental innovation, sustainable and organic farms, along with sharp growth in farmer’s markets, regional infra-structure and agricultural enterprise. This is the story of how farmers, food policy reform and agricultural thinkers came together in an unprecedented movement to change agriculture in Kentucky.

Coming to Ground features Roger Thomas and John-Mark Hack from the Kentucky Governor’s Office of Agricultural Policy, Mary Berry, founder of The Berry Center, Wes Jackson, of The Land Institute,  among others.  Moon over Fox Hollow-other angle

“We believed that with the right leadership and the right buy-in from all the affected constituencies  that we could set Kentucky on a path to a new era of rural prosperity, one that even  surpassed the heyday of what the tobacco program offered the state.” John-Mark Hack, founding director of the Kentucky Governor’s Office of Agricultural Development

“Kentucky has created a vision, and not only a vision, but a process that is both democratic, and has certainly allowed people on the grassroots level the opportunity for input to determine their future.”  Martin Richards, Community Farm Alliance

“Coming To Ground features many depictions of agricultural change that are extremely valuable for classroom use, but I particularly liked the sections linking soil fertility and cattle grazing, and Mary Berry’s reflections on change, “didn’t think they saw any change occurring, but later realized it was going on, to get where they are today.” Great job.” Dr. Deb Nehr, Professor and Chair, Department of Plant & Soil Science, University of Vermont

“Coming to Ground is precisely the documentary the nation, needed. In broad and beautiful strokes, the film draws attention to the urgent necessity of and positive models for revitalizing local food systems. It does so by sharing stories of Kentucky’s most influential leaders in the shift to small-scale agriculture. The film shows the positive potential in the confluence of humane farming, politics, and economics, in part by describing the pivotal role the Burley Tobacco Growers’ Co-Operative had in facilitating stable markets for farmers and protecting them from the whims of the economy. These protections, in turn, encouraged sustainable land distribution and close-knit rural communities.

By tracing the devastating effects of the Burley legislation’s demise—namely, rural outmigration and pressure to get big or get out—Coming to Ground provides a glimpse of what happens when farmers lose the mechanisms that guaranteed their leverage…

Coming to Ground profiles a handful of Kentucky’s resolute farmers, businesses, and advocacy groups that have invested those funds in ways that allow them to cultivate healthy soil and seed, work within manageable scales, bolster local economies. In so doing, these farmers show that the short-lived industrial model isn’t the only way farming can be done.

The film tacitly calls for policy and practice that support farmers in the way the Burley Tobacco Grower’s Co-op program once did. This, it suggests, is one way to ensure that farming remains a viable vocation and that young people can take over their family farms.”  Dr. Leah Bayens, Berry Farming and Ecological Agrarianism,  St. Catharine College

Mary Berry-web

 Mary Berry, vintner and founder of The Berry Center



2014 Screening, Biodynamic Association National Conference, Louisville, Kentucky

2013  Screening – Xavier University – Xavier Sustainability sponsored Coming to Ground in collaboration with Green Umbrella, IMAGO, InterFaith Business Builders.

2013  Screening – The Living Room Theater, Portland, Oregon

2013  Official Selection Athens International Film and Video Festival

2013  Screening – Vernonia Grange, Vernonia, Oregon

2013  Screening – Dairy Creek Community Food Web Film Series at Forest Grove Grange Hall,  Oregon

2012  Screening – BlueGrass Bioneers at the University of Louisville

2012  Screening – Community Farm Alliance’s “Farm Night Out” at Lazy Eight Stock Farm, Berea, Kentucky


2012    Kentucky Educational Television broadcasts 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015


Agricultural policy shifted Kentucky agriculture away from tobacco for crop diversity, and farm to table market development


Produced and directed by Jean Donohue and Fred Johnson, Consulting Producer Gurney Norman, in association with Media Working Group, Inc.

For more information about the production visit COMING TO GROUND.ORG


DVD 86 min.



Additional information



Digital Streaming License

Media Working Group grants (the Licensee) the rights to encode digital streaming files in any file format from any DVD or VHS cassette already purchased from Media Working Group Films (or purchased at the same time as the license). For a period of 3 years from the purchase date, licensees may deliver the contents of these files via password-protected digital streaming only to registered students, accredited researchers, faculty and staff of that institution. Files may be used for in-class instruction, inclusion in course management software, library research, extracurricular activities, distance learning programs, public performances (provided admission is not charged) and any other activity directly administered by the licensing campus. Content of the files (the video program) may not be altered or edited in any way. The licensing institution must guarantee a password-protected environment without the ability of a user to download the program.

We will forward a complete Digital Media Streaming License agreement for you perusal upon request. Please email us – mail (at) mwg (dot) org


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