Five Farms: Stories of American Farm Families Five Farms home page

Listen to the five one-hour documentaries in the Five Farms series. These episodes follow our five farm families through a year of their work and their lives. This series was distributed by PRI, Public Radio International, for broadcast nationwide by public radio stations.


To hear the Five Farms documentaries, click the links below to listen in your internet browser using QuickTime. Or, to download mp3 files of each documentary, right-click each link [PC users] or press option-click [Mac users].

Listen to "Planting" (released April 27, 2009)
Spring planting on the family farm is the time of the annual gamble --- on the alchemies of nature, on the health of livestock, on future fall harvest market prices.
Planting introduces five families who are among the 1 percent of Americans who live and work on farms: the Griffieons of Iowa; the Pecusas of Hopi, Arizona; the Mains of northern California; the Wises of North Carolina; and the Hagers of western Massachusetts.

Listen to "Nurturing" (released May 4, 2009)
Early summer is a time of long days on the family farm, perfect for nurturing crops and animals as they approach the peak of growing season.
Nurturing illuminates the daily work of farming through the parents and children in each farm family. It also reveals the distinctive challenges and joys of raising a family --- and growing up --- in farm country.

Stewardship (released May 11, 2009)
Stewardship focuses on the daily choices farming families make to preserve their land, water, and air --- the fundamentals of farming. During mid-summer visits to a Massachusetts milking barn, an Iowa soybean field, an apricot orchard in California, a hog farm in North Carolina, and a desert corn field in Arizona, we hear five families describe and demonstrate what sustainability means on their farms.

Harvest (released May 18, 2009)
Autumn is harvest time. That means Iowa corn and soybeans; fruit dried in the California sun; greens, beans, and potatoes; slaughtered hogs and beef trucked to market. It also means Thanksgiving turkeys.
Harvest follows the families to the grain elevator, the farmers markets and, in a welcome break from work, the State Fair. It's the time of summing up after the long growing season --- the time to decide whether the gamble of early spring planting season has paid off.

Succession (released May 25, 2009)

For each of the families of Five Farms, the question looms large: Who will take over the farm? Succession features the next generation --- the young people in each farm family. Who will continue to farm; who won't, and why? Some have gone away to college or to explore work off the farm, and have returned with new ideas and new energy. Others leave farming for good. The program also explores community connections that are part of rural life.

Original music by Wesley Horner, who studied composition with Donald Martino and Malcolm Peyton, New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. Performed by NEC undergraduates Kalindi Bellach (viola) and Yi Wei (percussion). Recorded by Antonio Oliart-Ros at the studios of WGBH Boston.

Additional link:
Features on the Griffieon family of Ankeny, Iowa, broadcast on National Public Radio's™
All Things Considered™.

In collaboration with Wesley Horner Productions and Iowa Public Radio, the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University produced an occasional series on the Griffieon family, of Ankeny, Iowa, for NPR's™
All Things Considered™. These pieces followed the Griffieons through a year of their lives while exploring challenges and tensions faced by a Midwestern farm family. The series was produced by John Biewen of the Center for Documentary Studies and Rob Dillard of Iowa Public Radio.

#1: April 28, 2008
It's a good time to be a farmer in Iowa. Corn prices are soaring, and with help from chemicals and biotechnology, Midwestern farmers produce more corn on an acre of land than ever before. Craig and LaVon Griffieon and their four children are the fifth and sixth generation on the family's farm near Des Moines. They raise corn, soybeans, and livestock on 1,100 acres. They say times are good financially, but they're ambivalent about the direction of American agriculture. Craig and LaVon disagree over how they should manage their farm and their land.

#2: May 27, 2008
The United States was born as an agrarian society. As recently as 1950, 15 percent of Americans lived on farms; today, it's barely 1 percent. So for most of us, the annual gamble of spring planting has become a remote, almost exotic experience. Recently, the Griffieons of Ankeny, Iowa, have been sowing seeds --- Craig, on the family's 800 acres and on several hundred acres owned by neighbors, and LaVon, in gardens next to the farmhouse. The Griffieons are determined that their children will continue to plant crops on the family's land, the sixth generation to do so.

#3: June 23, 2008
The June floods in Iowa devastated some towns and farms, while leaving others largely unaffected. The Griffieon farm, just fifteen miles north of Des Moines, is at a safe distance from the Cedar and Des Moines Rivers, which overflowed into Cedar Rapids and Des Moines. The Griffieons are following the weather --- and another ongoing news story: soaring grain prices that are putting food out of reach for some of the world's poorest people. Many analysts say one factor in the food crisis is the U.S. government's embrace of ethanol. The policy means a growing fraction of the nation's corn crop is fueling American cars. It's a point of disagreement in the philosophical divide between Craig and LaVon Griffieon.

#4: July 31, 2008
For many American children, summer vacation means freedom from homework or from any work at all. But not if you're a farm kid. On their 1,100-acre farm near Ankeny, Iowa, Craig and LaVon Griffieon raise corn, soybeans, beef, pork, and poultry. They've also raised four children: Autumn, Nick, Phillip, and Julia.

#5: September 19, 2008
Late summer is state fair time. For most city dwellers and suburbanites, the fair means rides on the midway and deep-fried foods on a stick. For farm families like the Griffieons, of Ankeny, Iowa, the state fair is still about agriculture --- and hard work. The two youngest Griffieon children are teenagers and active members of FFA, formerly known as Future Farmers of America.

#6: October 13, 2008
Farmers in the Midwest are preparing for a fall harvest of billions of bushels of corn and soybeans. Craig Griffieon and his wife, LaVon, farm more than 1,100 acres near Ankeny, Iowa. We've been following the progress of their crop, and the couple's discussion about farming with or without the help of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Craig practices conventional farming, with chemicals. But at LaVon's request, he reserves a small plot of land for experiments with organic farming. We join Craig and LaVon for a field inspection of their corn, planted in May, and now nearly ready for harvest.

#7: January 2, 2009
The growing season is over in all but the warmest parts of the country, but for most farmers the work doesn't stop. This year the Griffieons of Ankeny, Iowa, raised successful crops of corn and soybeans, amid a continuing family debate over the use of farm chemicals. Husband Craig uses chemical pesticides and fertilizers and genetically modified seeds. His wife, LaVon, wishes he wouldn't. On the livestock side of the family business, though, LaVon mostly prevails. She and the couple's daughter, Autumn, sell beef, pork, and poultry in local markets.

#8: March 3, 2009
Late winter on an Iowa farm is a time for taking stock: for assessing last year's growing season, preparing for spring, and planning for future generations on the farm. In the final story in our series, Craig and LaVon Griffieon revisit a running debate over their farming practices. Craig uses chemicals and genetically modified seeds, while LaVon prefers to farm organically, without chemicals. The Griffieons are joined in that debate by Autumn, the oldest of their four children.


Five Farms: Stories of American Farm Families, Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University, 1317 W. Pettgrew Street, Durham, NC 27705,

Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University WNYC | | 93.9 fm | am 820 Center for Creative Photography About Five Farms Listen: Audio Look: Photographs Production Team Learn More Web Extras News Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University About Five Farms The Families Listen: Audio Look: Photographs Production Team Learn More Web Extras News Listen to the April 28, 2008 segment (4:05 minutes) Listen to the May 27, 2008 segment (4:09 minutes) Listen to the June 23, 2008 segment (4:37 minutes) Listen to the July 31, 2008 (5:12 minutes) Listen to the September 19, 2008 segment (2:49 minutes) Listen to the October 13, 2008 segment (4:58 minutes) Listen to the January 2, 2009 segment (4:11 minutes) Listen to the March 3, 2009 segment (5:04 minutes) Listen to "Planting" (released April 27, 2009) Listen to "Nurturing" (released May 4, 2009)