Filmed over a decade and set in the American West, Dryland traces a young man’s quest for victory in a rambunctious contest, while battling to preserve a threatened way of life. Josh Knodel and best friend Matt Miller strive to win the Lind Combine Demolition Derby, save their town, and preserve the legacy of their families’ Eastern Washington wheat farms.
The derby supports Lind through dry years and economic uncertainty. The tiny town of 500 swells to 5,000 for one day each year and, with barn-raising community spirit, funds critical local services. Paradoxically, as agricultural technology advances, promoting more efficient production, the need for labor decreases and fewer young farmers can stay on the land. Higher costs force farms to consolidate or grow, and many family farms and the rural towns depending on them simply disappear.
Galvanizing optimism, strategy, and elbow grease, Josh and Matt rebuild JAWS each year to vie for the derby title. They complete high school, then college, preparing to farm. But even as Josh leads JAWS to victory, he’s defeated in his lifelong passion to harvest the fields his great-grandfather first tilled, and he is forced to leave the farm to find a job.
Dryland is a meditation on the changing landscape of rural communities filling an important niche in the conversation around what Farm Aid calls the "Good food movement." With a worldwide groundswell in learning where our food comes from and an exciting trend in urban farming, Dryland offers an authentic story about living on the land.
In this visceral, cinematic duet of hard work and harder play, Josh, Matt, and their community unite to propel the legacy of the American family farm. Bittersweet and exuberant, Dryland ultimately champions hope, in a celebration of hard work and harder play, fueled by ingenuity, heart, and axle grease.