Everyone needs to watch this documentary from Slamdance Studios. While it is at times difficult to watch, “The First Season” delves into the work done by neophyte dairy farmers Paul and Phyllis Van Amburgh in upstate New York. The couple sold their home, left their jobs, bought a defunct 1700s dairy farm and moved to become dairy farmers as well as give their young children the opportunity to grow up in the country.
What started with the couple’s desire to grow their own food turned into a full-scale dairy farm, complete with an entire herd of cows and calves, several horses, a group of rambunctious pigs and four curious children.
The rocky start – the milking shed wasn’t ready when the cows started calving – turned into months of teetering on the brink of disaster. But the Van Amburghs stuck it out and after almost two years, they were breaking even.
The film guides the viewer through hardship and success, and highlights some of the struggles that may not be immediately apparent – a sink full of dishes and dinner to get on the table, for example. Caring for five children and trying to make a dairy farm thrive would make any strong person buckle, but the couple’s patience and perseverance permeate the film, giving hope to even the bleakest situations.
Paul says the couple didn’t get into farming to make money, but it’s sad to think that this courageous couple and their children are simply breaking even. “And every farm you see, they’re doing just that, breaking even or worse,” Paul says.