Farms may be dwindling, but a closer look shows a determined few defying the trend.

"We're at the cusp of something great."

Ben and Taryn Marcus work on a small farm in Maine.

They farm a piece of land that had long been neglected but is protected by an agricultural easement, meaning it can't be sold off to developers.


It's taken them years (not to mention endless blood, sweat, and tears), but they've managed to revitalize the land into a "thriving community food hub."

The two have faced challenges, for sure, but what they've managed to do for the land and the community is very impressive.

"Growing Local," a Seedlight Pictures film directed by Bridget Besaw, tells their story — and two others about folks who have committed to local farming despite (or even because of) its challenges.

"We're at the cusp of something great."

Ben Slayton is the focus of another of the "Growing Local" stories. He's a butcher and an entrepreneur determined to give consumers direct access to healthy, sustainably raised meat.

"We're at the cusp of something great," explains Slayton. "The local food movement is taking off, and we are part of building that infrastructure and support to sustain it."

"The local food movement is taking off, and we are part of building that infrastructure and support to sustain it."

Slayton is pursuing his model at great risk because his success depends almost entirely on regular ol' consumers like you and me. He says, "It comes down to consumers believing that what they eat is a statement. It's more important than just filling their bellies."

Take a look at the numbers — you'll see just how important these stories are.

Hearing from folks like Slayton and the Marcuses kind of makes working on a small farm seem pretty glamorous, doesn't it? Well, farm life can be tough — and the statistics show just that.

The number of farms in the U.S. has been in a steady decline since it peaked 80 years ago. Just between 2007 and 2012, the farm count fell by 4.3%. At the same time, the average farmer is getting older, and new, younger farmers are having a hard time taking over.

Not to mention, in 2012, 75% of farms had sales of less than $50,000.

That's why people who are committed to local growing are so crucial to the changing agriculture landscape. These stories of folks defying the larger trends are the most important of all.

They're not the only ones taking a chance — and a stand.

Slayton and the Marcus couple are brave and determined. They've worked hard to create the change they want to see.

And despite what the agricultural census says, they're not the only ones committed to creating a local-based, sustainable food system. Stories of farmers like these can be found all over the country. "Growing Local" is the beautiful film that highlights three such stories — check out the trailer below.

The farming landscape is shifting. It's up to us to shift it in the right direction.

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

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Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

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Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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