Rachel Ward: Accidental Farmer

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The Hollywood star tells a tale of regenerative farming on her land in Australia in the film Rachel’s Farm.

Rachel Ward has had a long career as a model, actress, screenwriter, and director. The English-born Australian has graced the cover of Vogue and Cosmopolitan, and worked across from Steve Martin, Burt Reynolds, and Richard Chamberlain. Now she’s bringing her talents to a slightly less glamorous, but more important field: regenerative agriculture. In October, she hosted a screening of her film, Rachel’s Farm, at the Lobero Theater in downtown Santa Barbara. Previously shown at the Santa Barbara Film Festival in February, the return engagement was presented by Santa Barbara Permaculture Network as part of a western United States film tour of Washington State, California, Colorado, and Arizona.

Rachel’s Farm tells her uplifting story as an “accidental farmer” on an 800-acre property in New South Wales, Australia, where she discovers the power of the earth to heal and become highly productive when managed regeneratively. Rachel’s journey begins with the welcoming of her first grandchild and worries about the environment after experiencing Australia’s Black Summer of 2019–2020, when climate change fueled wildfires that raged across the eastern half of the country. 

Her farm was spared the flames, and having owned the farm for more than thirty years, Rachel dug in. She learned about how the heavy chemical use of conventional farming was worsening climate change, and then spent years toiling with her team to transition her land entirely to regenerative practices that work with nature instead of against it. The movie follows the emotional highs and lows of that transition, but leaves the viewer feeling overwhelmingly positive and hungry to learn more, and to join Rachel’s effort.

In a conversation before the screening, Rachel shared that she made the movie not necessarily for farmers, but for regular folks, particularly parents. Rachel shared that her goal for viewers is to “learn about their food and where it comes from,” and hopefully “seek out community-supported agriculture, buy their food directly from farmers,” and use sustainable and regenerative practices. 

Rachel and her team have positioned their film as an educational hub, with thoughtfully developed companion content to take learning and awareness beyond the screen. The film’s website helps students, farmers, and community members learn about climate change and the health benefits of regenerative agriculture. More specifically, Rachel has developed a regenerative agriculture curriculum for secondary and agricultural school students as well as community members that is free to download and use. Additionally, she welcomes communities to host screenings of the film, even offering a free toolkit for how to host a successful screening.  

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Rachel and her team have positioned their film as an educational hub, with thoughtfully developed companion content to take learning and awareness beyond the screen.

Many films over the last decade have dealt with issues around our health, our planet, and animal welfare, but Rachel’s Farm (and its related resources) are refreshing. More feature film than whistleblower documentary, the film offers an engaging narrative that educates viewers, but critically leaves them feeling uplifted and capable of translating that feeling into immediate, gratifying action. 

The heavy exposé-style documentary films about agriculture that came before Rachel’s FarmCowspiracy, What the Health, and Forks Over Knives — are meaningful and powerful; they matter. But guilt or blame do not inspire action. Playing in a similar field, albeit with a much lighter tone, Game Changers and Kiss the Ground, and most recently Common Ground (which screened in Santa Barbara earlier in October) effectively educate viewers without stoking fear or rage, which feels helpful and productive. Because if you know the truth, but feel so badly about what you’ve learned that you are paralyzed to inaction, then nothing has changed but your awareness. We all want and need action.

What You Can Do

The 2018 film The Biggest Little Farm did a wonderful job of introducing many Americans to the power of regenerative agriculture through its positive, feature-film-style narrative about a farm’s transition from conventional to regenerative agriculture in California. Rachel’s Farm uses the same successful playbook to tell a deeply personal regenerative farming story in Australia, and importantly, offers each viewer simple ways to take action: 

  • Find out where your food comes from. 
  • Buy food directly from sustainable or regenerative farmers when you can. 
  • And if you so choose, dive into a full curriculum to teach our children and farmers how to regeneratively tend our Earth.

To learn more and view a trailer, visit Rachel’s Farm.

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