Farm Collector

Dryland Documentary Announced as Official Selection at Julien Dubuque International Film Festival

Press Release
Hare in the Gate Productions, LLC.
7060 N. Borthwick Ave.
Portland, OR 97217 

Sue Arbuthnot


Dryland Documentary Announced as Official Selection at the

Julien Dubuque International Film Festival

A small town in the American West struggles for survival, fueled by ingenuity, heart, and axle grease.

PORTLAND, OR, April 13, 2014 – Sue Arbuthnot and Richard Wilhelm, the creative force behind Hare in the Gate Productions, announce their feature documentary Dryland has been invited to screen as an Official Selection of the Julien Dubuque International Film Festival. Dryland is a portrait of rural America in transition through the eyes of a young man pursuing his dream. With the help of his resilient John Deere combine, “JAWS” he strives to fortify the farming community his family has been a part of for generations. There will be four screenings during the festival: Thursday April 24th, 3:00 p.m. at the Five Flags Center; Friday April 25th, 9:00 a.m. at the Platinum; and Saturday April 26th at 12:00 p.m. at Lot One, and Sunday, April 27th at 9:00 a.m. at the Dubuque Museum of Art. The filmmakers are excited to bring the story of “JAWS,” back to the heartland in which it was created. They will be present and hope to spark conversation about the need to preserve family farms, while bridging gaps between urban and rural Americans after each screening.


Set in Eastern Washington’s dryland wheat country, the film follows Josh and best friend Matt over ten years, as they pursue their passion for farming and quest for victory in the annual Lind Combine Demolition Derby. With barn-raising fervor, this annual event raises funds for the community of 500, while supporting the legacy of regional family farms. Called “a bittersweet and beautiful new film” by Modern Farmer magazine, Dryland plays a cinematic duet between an exuberant, freewheeling spectacle and a meditation on our changing heartland.

The sign on remote US 395 in Eastern Washington first enticed the filmmakers in 2003: “Welcome to Lind. Drop in—Mt. St. Helens did! Combine Demolition Derby and Rodeo.” Intrigued, Sue and Richard pulled into the Lind rodeo arena to observe the drivers’ meeting a week before the derby. “We were immediately struck by the participants’ love of family, land, community, and the willingness to fight for a threatened way of life,” Sue notes.

Over the years, the filmmakers returned to follow Josh and Matt through high school and college, as they pilot “JAWS”—a hulking blue vintage John Deere combine—in the annual derby. But even as they ride to victory, Josh and Matt witness their town dying. Then, Josh loses a lifelong bid to stay on his fourth-generation farm and must leave to find work. As agricultural technology advances, and the need for labor wanes, fewer young farmers can stay on the land, a refrain heard often around the country. When higher costs force farms to consolidate or grow, many family farms and the rural towns depending on them simply disappear. Despite the odds, many communities are now fighting back, finding new ways to keep young farmers on the land.

The film showcases an original score by Mark Orton, who most recently scored the Oscar-nominated Nebraska, shot partly in Montana. Orton’s multi-instrumental score deftly characterizes the yearning of a young farmer, his community, and the striking landscape they cherish. Songs by John Mellencamp, founding member of Farm Aid, who donated a song, and the legendary late Don Walser, round out the film’s soundtrack.

“Dryland is a both a raucous celebration of the culture of agriculture and an honest look at the reality of family farming. The question at its premise, whether the family farm can sustain the next generation, is a question faced all over this country and one that is crucial to the future of the food system and our nation. Dryland is a fantastic story of farming, family, community and hope!”
—Jennifer Fahy, Farm Aid

This tale, exemplifying both the measured cadence of rural life and a powerful sense of place, is more timely than ever, as Americans across the country are increasingly keen to connect with the source of their food and the craft of farming. Audiences of all ages and backgrounds will be inspired by youthful optimism, generational perseverance, and a town cultivating rural resilience.

“Dryland does an remarkable job of capturing the heart and soul of two dryland wheat farming families in eastern Washington, displaying their passion for farming and their commitment to maintaining their way of life. It provides an excellent opportunity for those of us not living on a farm to see firsthand what it takes to be a successful farmer in today’s economy.”
—Tom Davis, Washington Farm Bureau

About Hare in the Gate, LLC
Based in Portland, Oregon, Sue Arbuthnot and Richard Wilhelm formed Hare in the Gate Productions in 1999, creating award-winning documentaries that explore such topics as affordable urban housing, Native American history, and the work of world-renowned artists. Their work aims to forge connections and deepen our understanding of a complex world. Splitting time between Portland and rural southeast Oregon, both partners maintain close ties with rural life and a deep interest in the viability of the family farm. More information can be found at, or join the Dryland conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

  • Published on Apr 18, 2014
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