My Father’s Garden

Director: Miranda Smith
Screenwriters: Nathaniel Kahn

Institute History

  • 1996 Sundance Film Festival


My Father’s Garden is a powerful testament to the destructive legacy of chemical farming in America. Drawing on her own life as the daughter of an early chemical farmer in the fifties, and the life of pioneer organic farmer Fred Kirschenmann, filmmaker Miranda Smith explores the use and misuse of technology on the American farm. Kirschenmann, a third-generation farmer, left his work as a university professor to help his family’s farm in North Dakota make the transition from chemical to organic farming. Realizing that chemical farming was damaging agriculture, Kirschenmann became a leader in the movement to return to organic methods.

Intertwined with Kirschenmann’s portrait are lyrical sequences featuring the filmmaker’s own family. Through 16-mm family films of life on their Florida orange farm and bittersweet voice-overs, she recalls her father’s enthusiastic experiments with chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Ignorant of their dangers—as was most of the agricultural community—her father dreamed of turning his farm into “paradise.” Smith’s personal story—and its devastating conclusion—endow Kirschenmann’s tale with astonishing emotional resonance and emphasize the universal nature of his cause. My Father’s Garden is a haunting depiction of the deceptiveness of modern technology and its threat to the future of the American farm.

— Lisanne Skyler

Screening Details

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