Marketing Farms: A Q&A with Andrew Plotsky
Here’s Farmrun's proposition: While you finish the harvest, Andrew Plotsky will handle the marketing. Many small farmers struggle with building a strong brand identity -- vital for connecting with consumers -- but Plotsky’s media company uses video, illustration and photography to show the grit and the beauty of small farms and businesses.
We spoke with him about wanting to eat breakfast with Wendell Berry, making blood sausage and having “farm cred.”
Modern Farmer: What drew you to the Pacific Northwest?
Andrew Plotsky: Well, I came here to work for Farmstead Meatsmith up on Vashon Island. For a long time, I had this infatuation with trying to find the responsible way to kill animals. So I reached out to Brandon, who unbeknownst to me had started Farmstead Meatsmith a couple of weeks before we corresponded. I called him up and said, “Hey, I want to stay with you for a week and film you slaughter a pig.” I did that, and I made a film called “Blood Sausage,” documenting a slaughter and butchery. Then I was out feeding pigs with Brandon right before I left I was like “Can I come work for you?” and he sort of wrinkled up his brow and said, “Yeah, okay.” So I ended up moving out there February of the following year.
MF: Are you the sole artist behind Farmrun?
AP: Yep, it’s all me. Which is really liberating but also creatively challenging to have to do everything. I like being pushed to expand my repertoire. I studied environmental science, so I really just taught myself all these things that I do now as a business. I am always in pursuit of expanding my technical boundaries. There are a lot of resources out there I could use to more efficiently improve myself. But I have a combination of stubbornness and idealism and go-getterism, so I like just doing it on my own.
MF: Is there one medium that resonates with you?
AP: It might make more economic sense to specialize with one thing and get better at that, but I really appreciate diversity in my workday. It helps me remain excited about what I do. But where it all (video, print design, illustration, identity design, photography, custom lettering and sign painting) really comes together in is video, because all those mediums can literally can be part of one video.
MF: Has there been a project that you’ve been particularly connected to?
AP: Farmstead Meatsmith is definitely the one that I am still most excited about. It was the most intensive, but more than that, it was the culmination of a philosophical pursuit that I was engaged in for years. It was a manifesto, it was a thesis, it was my personal exploration. It was this incredibly comprehensive and intensive multimedia exploration of eating animals. It was really satisfying to step back and realize I had created a philosophy, or enunciated it, because in farming circles, we have these huge questions. It it okay to eat animal? Do we eat animals responsibly? How do we grow delicious, nutritious food in a non-destructive way? But the answers are incredibly complex and its really hard to explain that even to yourself.
MF: It seems like you’ve forged a deep relationship with the people and the work. Do you work with these people for long periods of time?
AP: Generally, I don’t spend that much time with the people that I film. For me it comes down to striving to be a nice person and make whoever I am around comfortable such that they want to open up, so I can capture them honestly and for the product to feel intimate. With agrarian subjects I feel comfortable with them, and maybe they feel comfortable with me because I am actively agricultural. I’m not coming out from TIME Magazine or Popular Mechanics with my clean clothes and my nice shoes and just asking them stock questions. I feel that we have cultural commodity between us and that allows for more comfort or something.
MF: So is there someone you’d like to work with?
AP: There are people and ideas that I’d like to explore further in a manner that is more consistent with my interests in exploring concepts as opposed to accomplishing economic goals. I’m really generally interested in elders, old folks, more deeply rooted wisdom, the cultural loss of the transfer of knowledge, subsistence lifestyles, family-scale tradespeople.
MF: Like that wonderful boot maker, George?
AP: Yes, George. George was actually my dream-man. I totally fell in love with George. I’d really love to spend a couple weeks with Wendell Berry and pick his brain. Actually, what I really want to do is eat breakfast with Wendell, and film him and Tanya eating breakfast. I’m interested in just hanging out and having experiences with people and bringing my camera along to document them rather than going to Wendell Berry and saying “I want you to give me some sound bites” or “Wendell, say that thing that you said about sex money and economy.”
This interview has been edited and condensed.