Dream Job: Homegrown Video
Frank Melli spent most of the last two decades working for New York-based broadcast operations, but he is now focusing his lens on Virginia''s communities and rural scene. Meet the Farmer TV, which Melli founded with farmer Michael Clark, showcases the stories of local growers and other food producers and the chefs, organizations, and markets they serve.
The concept for the Meet the Farmer series came out of a documentary Melli and Clark produced in collaboration with the Piedmont Environmental Council''s Buy Fresh/Buy Local fundraiser, a gathering of chefs, farmers, and other community producers. “There was such a strong interest in the documentary that it sparked the idea to do the weekly TV series,” Melli says, noting that the piece was shown at the Blue Ridge Heritage Festival, the University of Virginia, and local restaurants, among other venues.
The documentary turned into a pilot for the series, which officially launched in December 2008. Recent episodes have shown how the Jefferson Area Board for Aging has used fresh, local produce to enhance nutrition at its senior centers; how Cismont, Va.-based Sharondale Farm grows mushrooms for a nearby teahouse; and how the Charlottesville City Market fosters community and continues to grow in popularity and revenue.
Melli, the show''s executive producer, shoots Clark interviewing the movers and shakers of Virginia''s community food movement with his Canon XL1 andedits using Apple Final Cut Pro. For additional special effects and graphics, he turns to a GlobalStreams GlobeCaster Studio 8000.
The show started out airing on Charlottesville Public Access Television''s Comcast channel (and CPA-TV''s website) and the city of Charlottesville''s government access channel, and it has expanded into six other Virginia counties. Full episodes can also be viewed on Meet the Farmer TV''s website and YouTube channel.
In addition to producing the show, Meet the Farmer TV has developed websites for several local farms—for free. Melli says it is a goal of the organization to foster community connections and create tools that can empower local growers. Melli adds that he and Clark want to expand the organization into a larger agriculture-focused video network that helps food producers form good, trusting partnerships with government agencies and others.
Meet the Farmer TV has a regional focus, but Melli said the buy-local movement could have a national impact. “Part of the mission of Meet the Farmer TV is to expose the potential that local community food systems can provide a solution to the economic crisis that we are in nationally,” Melli says. “We are trying to reveal the hidden benefits and deeper values of buying local and the effects that it has on the environment, society, and economics.”