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by Ben Swets
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Children of Decorah
Documentary Work in Progress
the McCargar Family in Decorah, Iowa, July 1996
"Ninety-eight percent of Iowa's energy is imported from out of state. Heidi and I wanted a home disconnected from nuclear power and utility grids. We built our house of sustainable, renewable materials and powered it with wind and sun. Maybe our kids will choose a different path. We just want them to understand an existence that is less threatening to the land, water, and air that we depend upon." --Steve McCargar
Heidi McCargar on Chester
Children of Decorah is an intimate look at idealism to save the world in a small American town, Decorah, Iowa. The McCargars left a big city to build their house with their hands and grow their own food. This small college town has a dozen other young families sharing ideals of ecological education, alternative power, and social justice. This documentary follows the McCargars and their neighbors on the campaign for good baseball teams, sustainable waste management, and clean, fair agricultural policy. Steve McCargar lectures against food irradiation on a tri-state circuit. Heidi leads the county recycling education program. Their daughters correspond globally with pen pals to adopt whales and increase wildlife protection.

Rural life is not entirely peaceful for the McCargars. They constantly petition and organize to defend their local community’s economy and neighboring family farms from displacement by giant retail outlets and polluting hog confinement facilities.

Some of the greatest struggles of these modern pioneers include reconciling the concerns of their urban parents. Chopping wood, designing photo-voltaic systems, and weeding giant gardens, in addition to working full time jobs and battling corporations were not the struggles of the older generation featured in Children of Decorah. The young farmers’ choices are revolutionary on a family level as well as on social, technological and agricultural levels. How we learn from our children as we learn to consider the well being of future generations is a key theme of this documentary.
"It is astonishing to me that there are farmers in Iowa who buy all their food in grocery stores. A lot of it comes from California. Iowans could grow food for themselves. Instead, they grow mostly corn and soybeans for livestock and for export." --Heidi McCargar
Heidi, Elsa and Steve with horse
Heidi, Elsa, and Steve McCargar
This documentary covers a 15 year period. Its subjects evolve. They thrive in their garden, their study of music, and their public high school after several years of primary home schooling. They adopt their own special kind of activism for a better world for all. In a country where the average child can name at most three plants but can recognize a hundred different corporate logos, the attitudes toward land, family, and community of these farm children imply much about ours.
HannahEbabies1b.jpg HannahElsa1A.jpg
"People do not have to use plastic and non renewable resources. They don't realize how much stuff they can make themselves." --Hannah McCargar is a ten year old violinist, ballet dancer, horse rider and raspberry grower in Decorah, IA. Elsa McCargar is a burgeoning orchardist and pianist.
Hannah and Elsa McCargar listen to their colt.
Thirty hours of tape have been accumulated for this documentary. Principle photography for Children of Decorah will be completed in the year 2005. Editing will commence soon thereafter.
Brian Betteridge helps Steve McCargar finish a chimney above the McCargars' wood burning stove.
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composed by B.A.S Last updated 4 May 2004 then updated 4 Dec 2018