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Film Review: "Gracie's Backyard" by Olivier Asselin &

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"Gracie's Backyard" is the latest video release by, and delivers a well-rounded view of permaculture practices that is often overlooked.

Ridgedale Permaculture Farm is a working regenerative agricultural system covering 10 hectares in the northern climate of Sweden, specializing in pastured poultry and market garden produce, while educating interns on silvo/agroforestry permaculture.  Many students come to Ridgedale with no previous farming experience, and that’s not a problem for Richard Perkins.  “I’m looking for people who are driven by a desire to be a benefit,” says Perkins, who hired his market garden manager based on his character, and not his skills.  His belief in the value of his staff’s diverse skill sets has allowed the farm to flourish, both as a business, and as a community.  Workers can follow their interest and move through all functions of the farming process without restraint, building strong bonds between one another.  “I feel like my strengths and flaws are welcome here,” said one woman.    

That holistic approach to the farm business is an overarching theme.  Although the film begins with the farm, it quickly becomes apparent that this is not a traditional farm success story.  "Gracie's Backyard" goes beyond the pastured eggs and CSA boxes and into the hearts of people.  Unlike most other environmental films concerning permaculture, the film gives equal value to the practice of growing children and human interactions; it shows the often overlooked social aspects of what our modern systems lack in education, employment, and community.  

The film captures the essence of profitable business and environmental responsibility without losing the romantic charm of agricultural idealism.  As the farm’s cook stated, “We’re not doing hippie stuff; it’s more about achieving something, and trying to be more free, and have free time to do what you like.  It’s also to create a better world.”

An intrinsic part of that better world is the namesake of the movie, Grace.  At almost 6 years old, she has an amazing grasp on the circle of life, and her part in it.  There is no school in the world that can provide the education she receives every day in her backyard; “Gracie is…living very spontaneously and very empowered to get into anything she wants,” says her Father, Richard.  She has a role on the farm, helping in whatever way she can, and is not excluded in the decision making process.  “I think the more we include kids, in an adult way…the more they take responsibility,” he adds.  That model seems to be working; according to her fellow farmers, Gracie holds her own in both labor and conversation, to the point where her fieldmates sometimes forget she’s a child.

As with all films, the visuals are vibrant and beautiful, and the soundtrack is tailored to the visuals.  Olivier Asselin’s camera work is tight and succinct, bringing the right amount of breadth and depth to the landscape without losing the focus of the individuals in them.  The story weaves the threads of earth care and people care together in a way that usually gets lost in the shadow of a PDC, and does it in gentle, intelligent way, making  "Gracie's Backyard" a delight to watch.

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