Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

March 14, 2014

Local Lego movie about agriculture wins award

By Cristin Reece
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Do you know where your food comes from? Here're some hints – it's not the local burger joint, the freezer or a can.

Jacksonville High School senior and videographer Brackston McKnight can not only tell you-- he can show you. The 18-year-old won this year's Nation-al Ag Day video contest with his stop-motion video starring a pint-sized cast of Lego people.

The theme for this year's National Ag Day, and video contest, is "Agriculture: 365 Sunrises and 7 Billion Mouths to Feed."

McKnight had to illustrate within the content of his video "how today’s growers are overcoming challenges to provide a safe, stable food supply and sustain the significant role agriculture plays in everyday life," contest guidelines.

“I always played with Legos as a kid, and I still collect certain sets,” the JHS senior said with a laugh. “That sort of just inspired me to express (the contest’s theme) with Legos.”

Contest participants had the option to enter the via written essays or videos.

McKnight said he chose to enter a video because, “I thought this project was better served in video and I have some experience in video (editing) already. I do like writing, I just thought a video would convey the message the best.”

The teen wrote, designed, directed, narrated and produced every aspect of the two-minute video, which can be viewed at the website, http://www.agday.org.

He said while some of the props he used were pre-designed, a lot of pieces had to be custom designed and built.

The most time consuming part, McKnight said, was building the backgrounds and other set pieces, which he said he pieced together using various blocks from Lego's “starter kits,” collections of all different sized and shaped blocks the toy brand offers.

“Some pieces, like the tractor, I had to build myself," McKnight said. “The toughest part of the project, I’d have to say, was the opening sun-rise scene. I had to take it apart four or five times to do it, and the lighting effects (which he used a flashlight to produce) were tricky – I just wanted to get it perfect.

“Setting up the people took some time -- they kept falling over and stuff, and editingtiming the sound with the video was time-comsuming too.”

In all, McKnight said from conception to finished product, making his video took two weeks, working on parts of the project a couple hours each day. With his award-winning video, his FFA presidential duties, a horticulture project for the upcoming annual Youth Livestock Show and his FFA project – a greenhouse operation that sells bedding plants to farmers – it comes as no surprise the teen plans to major in agri-business management in college.

“I’ve always been interested in ag,” he said. “My dad’s a contractor but we’ve always had a garden at home.”

McKnight won a $1,000 prize and the opportunity to have his video screened during the Celebration of Ag dinner, held in Washington D.C. each year on National Ag Day.

 “I was so surprised when I learned I won,” he said with a laugh. “I mean, I was pretty confident. I like the video, but you know how it is – there's always someone who just did it better. Today I was that guy.”

According to the Agriculture Council of America's website, www.agday.org, this year is the 41st anniversary of Ag Day, which will be held this year on March 25 as part of National Ag Week, March 23-29.

“Each American farmer feeds more than 144 people… a dramatic increase from 25 people in the 1960s,” the Ag Day website states.

“Agriculture provides almost everything we eat, use and wear on a daily basis. But too few people truly understand this contribution. This is particularly the case in our schools, where students may only be exposed to agriculture if they enroll in related vocational training. By building awareness, the Agriculture Council of America is encouraging young people to consider career opportunities in agriculture.”

Which is growing in importance, as the results of a government census of American agriculture released earlier this month suggests.

According to the Associated Press, the number of U.S. farms is declining even as the value of their crops and livestock has increased.

The survey, taken every five years, reported a total of 2.1 million farms in the U.S. in 2012 – down just over 4 percent from 2007 – continuing a long-term trend of declining numbers of farms.

One possible cause of the drop in farms is today’s farmers are aging.

According to the census, a third of farmers were older than 65 in 2012.

“The reality is, over time those folks won’t be able to continue farming, and the question for all of us is, if they don't, who will?” Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the Associated Press after the report was released.



The Associated Press contributed to this story.