Farm and Ranch Museum Stars in Film

Farm And Ranch Museum’s old iron plays starring role in PBS documentary.


| April 2013



Farm

Filming began at the museum’s farm in western Nebraska in July 2011.

Photo Courtesy Inspirit Creative

The Farm And Ranch Museum, Gering, Neb., was transformed into a film production lot in July 2011, as a film crew from Inspirit Creative arrived to shoot footage for the upcoming film documentary, Harvesting the High Plains .

Directed by cinematographer Jay Kriss and produced and scripted by him and Sydney Duvall, the documentary tells the story of Kansans Ray Garvey and John Kriss, who endured the Dust Bowl days to create one of the largest wheat farming operations on the High Plains.

“It was essential for us to show vintage farm equipment in the film,” says Jay, whose grandfather, John Kriss, served as a partner/manager of G-K Farms. “We were fortunate to obtain rights to use archival 16 mm film shot by Works Progress Administration (WPA) cinematographers in the 1930s. But we also wanted to film vintage tractors, combines and equipment at work in the field. So I posted inquiries on tractor collector websites, looking for specific years and models of equipment we could use in the film.”

On location in Nebraska

“Jay’s inquiries led him to our museum website,” explains Jack Preston, co-director of the Farm And Ranch Museum. “By sheer coincidence, we were both in Washington, D.C., at the same time, so we had an opportunity to sit down and talk about the film. He was looking for vintage equipment that would have been used for ground preparation, planting, tillage and wheat harvesting in the 1930s and ’40s. It turned out that we had much of what Jay wanted, so he made arrangements to visit our museum.”

In July 2011, filming began at the museum’s farm in western Nebraska. About 75 acres of the 100-acre farm is planted to crops each year, and a portion of that had been planted to wheat just ready for harvest. The biggest filming challenge the filmmakers faced was the scenic Scotts Bluff National Monument, which towers 830 feet above the valley floor a scant half-mile from the museum’s grounds. Since the film is intended to depict the flat plains of Kansas, the cinematographers had to focus their cameras tightly on the equipment.

Search for period pieces

The Farm And Ranch Museum has more than 50 vintage tractors in its collection, most of them in running condition and many in their original paint. That was just fine with Jay, who says Ray Garvey and John Kriss didn’t believe in spending money on new equipment. “I wanted the equipment to look like it had been working for a few years,” he says.