Cast & Crew

WES JARRELL AND LESLIE COOPERBAND – CO-OWNERS OF PRAIRIE FRUITS FARM & CREAMERY, LLC

Wes Jarrell and Leslie Cooperband are the proud owners of Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery, LLC. In 2003, they moved from an urban and academic life in Madison, Wisconsin to rural Champaign- Urbana Illinois. That first season, they began to transform their land from cash grain agriculture to perennial production with a lush cover crop of buckwheat. In 2004, they planted over 350 fruit trees and 600 berry plants AND purchased their first four Nubian goats (three does and one buck).

In August of 2005, they were licensed as a Grade A goat dairy and farmstead creamery. Since then, they have expanded their herd to 70+ milkers. They also have also expanded their working acreage to include an 8-acre pasture, a 5-acre hay field and a 2-acre restored prairie to the east of our original 7 acres. Little by little, they have transformed their landscape to diversified perennial crops and livestock.

Their farm embodies core principles of sustainability including environmental stewardship, economic viability and social responsibility. They strive to educate the community about organic and sustainable agriculture and the connections between food production and consumption. They also hope to serve as a model for others interested in small-scale diversified farming systems.

ALISA DEMARCO – CHEF AT PRAIRIE FRUITS FARM AND CREAMERY

Chef Alisa DeMarco leads the kitchen at Prairie Fruits Farm & Creamery where, over the past eight years, her farm dinners and breakfasts have earned her a reputation for outstanding local and seasonal cuisine. Alisa learned the pleasures of eating locally at an early age, helping her mom in the garden, fishing for dinner in the river behind her house, foraging for mushrooms with her grandmother, raising her own laying hens and eating beef raised by the neighbors across the road. Her formal training at the Culinary Institute of America in New York solidified her beliefs in seeking out the best ingredients and forming relationships with local farmers and artisans. Alisa lives in Champaign with her husband Jeff and their son Cole. She enjoys gardening, yoga, music and sitting down to the table with good food and wine after a hard day’s work

RICK BAYLESS – CHEF/OWNER OF FRONTERA GRILL, TOPOLOBAMPO, XOCO

Most people know Rick Bayless from winning the title of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, beating out the French and Italian with his authentic Mexican cuisine. His highly rated Public Television Series, Mexico–One Plate at a Time, is in its ninth season and is broadcast coast to coast. In 2012, Rick was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for Best Culinary Host.

Rick has eight cookbooks. His second book, Mexican Kitchen, won the Julia Child IACP cookbook of the year award in 1996, and his fourth book, Mexico–One Plate at a Time won James Beard Best International Cookbook of the Year award in 2001. Fiesta at Rick’s spent a number of weeks on the New York Times best seller list.

Rick’s side by side award-winning restaurants are in Chicago. The casual Frontera Grill was founded 12 in 1987 and received the James Beard Foundation’s highest award, Outstanding Restaurant, in 2007. The 4-star Toplobampo served its first meals in 1991. And the wildly popular, LEED GOLD- certified, fast-casual Xoco has been around since 2009, serving wood-oven tortas, steaming caldos, golden churros and bean-to-cup Mexican hot chocolate. Rick’s quick-service Tortas Frontera have changed the face of food service at O’Hare International Airport, while Frontera Fresco has brought Frontera flavors to several Macy’s stores and Northwestern University. His award-winning Frontera line of salsas, cooking sauces and organic chips can be found coast to coast.

Rick and his staff established the Frontera Farmer Foundation in 2003 to support small Midwestern farms. Each year, grants are awarded to farmers for capital improvements to their family farms, encouraging greater production and profitability. To date, the Foundation has awarded 128 grants totaling over $1.3 million. In 2007, Bayless and his team launched the Frontera Scholarship, a full tuition scholarship that sends a Mexican-American Chicago Public School student to Kendall College to study culinary arts. In 2007 Rick was awarded the Humanitarian of the Year by the International Association of Culinary Professionals for his many philanthropic endeavors.

Rick has received a great number of James Beard Award nominations in many categories, and he has won six: Midwest Chef of the Year, National Chef of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year, Who’s Who of American Food and Drink, plus two for his cookbooks.

The Government of Mexico has bestowed on Rick the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle–the highest decoration bestowed on foreigners whose work has benefitted Mexico and its people.

Recently, Rick finished up a sold-out 5-week run on stage at Lookingglass Theatre, where he created Cascabel–offering theater goers the story of a meal, told through flavor, memory, song, dance and amazing physical feats.

STEPHANIE IZARD – CHEF/OWNER OF GIRL & THE GOAT, LITTLE GOAT

Stephanie Izard was born in Chicago, Illinois. She growing up in Stamford, Connecticut, attended the University of Michigan followed by Scottsdale Culinary Institute in Arizona, then returned to Chicago in 2000 to pursue her culinary career.

After cooking at various Chicago restaurants for amazing chefs (Jean-Georges Vongerichten at Vong; Sean McClain at Spring; Dale Levitski at La Tache) she opened her first restaurant Scylla in Bucktown in 2004. A few years later she had the opportunity to compete on Bravo’s Top Chef, which she won along with being named fan favorite.

The idea for Girl & the Goat began to take shape after Stephanie met her business partners Rob and Kevin of BOKA Restaurant Group. After taking much time and care in choosing the location in the West Loop, the restaurant opened in Summer 2010. Across the street, Stephanie opened Little Goat Diner just a few years later. As the West Loop continues to be a happy home for the goat restaurants, Izard will launch her third restaurant with the BOKA group in the neighborhood in 2015.

Girl & the Goat was nominated best new restaurant by the James Beard Foundation in 2011 and Izard won the Beard award for Best Chef Great Lakes in 2013. She was also named one of Food & Wine Magazine’s “Best New Chefs” in 2010.

PAUL VIRANT – CHEF/OWNER OF PERENNIAL VIRANT, VIE

Paul Virant is the chef and owner of two restaurants, the celebrated Vie restaurant outside Chicago in Western Springs, Illinois and new restaurant Perennial Virant located across the street from Chicago’s Green City Market in partnership with the BOKA Restaurant Group. Chef Virant’s restaurants are built upon his guiding philosophy of making the ingredients – their origin, production and quality – the full focus of his culinary approach. Embracing the Midwestern seasons and utilizing methods of preservation allow guests to always expect a menu that showcases local flavors and ingredients in abundance.

Chef Virant founded his restaurants on the principle that food is a symbol of the good life and conviviality including all of the joys that are experienced around the table – a sense of community, relationships and the connection that we feel with our land, all laying the foundation for a full and abundant life.

“I wanted to create an extension of my home, where people come together and enjoy high quality food and drink in the company of others. My goal is to be a small part of my guests’ enjoyment of every morsel and drop of life.”

BEN SPANNER – ASSOCIATE PRODUCER

Ben Spanner is a runner, comic book collector, and all around nerd. His contribution to A Farmer’s Road included helping with production audio, writing for and managing the Indiegogo campaign, advocacy, and providing a feedback loop for the director. Ben currently spends his time in psychology textbooks while in grad school, and playing basketball every Tuesday night on the third floor of a church gym.

STEVEN BERGER – ASSISTANT PRODUCER

Steven, a graduate of the American Film Institute, is the founder of Provenance Pictures, a Los Angeles based development and production company. He began working in the industry in postproduction, and has worked on over two dozen films and television shows over ten years, including Spiderman 2, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Incredibles. Steven most recently produced Echoes of War, starring James Badge Dale (Iron Man 3, World War Z, Flight), William Forsythe (Boardwalk Empire), and Maika Monroe (It Follows), which was the Grand Jury Prize winner at the 2015 Dallas International Film Festival, and was released theatrically and on VOD in May 2015. Steven also produced The Pretty One, a Black List script starring Zoe Kazan, Jake Johnson, and Ron Livingston, (purchased by Sony Pictures at the 2013 Tribeca Film Festival) and Spoonful, an official selection of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. Steven’s first feature film Vinyl, a UK production directed by Sara Sugarman, starring Phil Daniels, Perry Benson, and Keith Allen, was released theatrically throughout Europe, and is currently in talks for an American remake.

PAULA FROEHLE – ASSISTANT PRODUCER

Paula has been a director and producer, as well as a visual artist and educator, for over 30 years. Her film credits include The Show Must Go On, an intimate portrait of The Flying Wallendas documentary, which screened at numerous festivals in the US and received distribution through MVD Entertainment Group. Currently she is in production on a feature doc focused on exonerees and the Center on Wrongful Convictions in Chicago.

As a filmmaker and entrepreneur she has been involved in several successful Chicago startups, including as CEO of Opal Pictures, a design and film production company founded in 2004, and as co-founder of Atavistic, a production company and record label, from 1998-2004. She was the founding Academic Dean of Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy, a media arts college, from 2007-2014.

She produced over fourteen media projects as part of Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy’s unique curricular program, Production-in-Action, a curriculum she designed. And she has served as producer on nine independent films. As a director, her films have been funded by numerous arts organizations, including the Illinois Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, IFP Midwest, and The Experimental Sound Studio Chicago.

Chicago Media Project is a perfect marriage of her extensive media and educational background, and her deep commitment to bring about social change through the medium of film.

PETE BIAGI – DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY

Pete Biagi shoots narratives, commercials and documentaries. Recent projects include the feature films Thrill Ride (dir. Chris Parrish), The Drunk (dir. Paul Fleschner & William Tannoos), Leading Ladies (dir. Erika Randall & Dan Beahm), Under New Management (dir. Joe Otting) and I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With (dir. Jeff Garlin). Other features of note include Design (dir. Davidson Cole) and Stolen Summer (dir. Pete Jones) both of which were official Sundance Film Festival selections. Pete had the good fortune to operate camera on two Robert Altman films – The Company and A Prairie Home Companion.

KATE HACKETT – EDITOR

Kate Hackett is a feature film editor and filmmaker living in Los Angeles. She has edited four independent feature films, among them Sean Hackett’s award winning indie hit Homecoming starring Brea Grant, and David Martin-Porras’s crime drama Stealing Summers starring Wilson Bethel, James Jagger, and Sophie Auster. Her short format work includes several episodes of the Yahoo Screen Series Tiny Commando, featuring Ed Helms, Gillian Jacobs, and Nick Kroll, and the short film Got The Check for actress/director Shiri Appelby, featuring Colin Hanks and Alison Becker. In addition, she has edited multiple commercials for companies including Reebok, Walmart, and the anime streaming service Crunchyroll.

Kate is also known for her work as a multi-media director for live concerts, in venues such as the Hollywood Bowl, the Apollo Theater, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Most recently, she co-produced and directed films for the Philip Glass premiere Portals, featuring violinist Tim Fain. She has also been commissioned to direct films by the Los Angeles Opera, for Emmy winning composer Laura Karpman’s work in progress The One-Ten Project. She has been hosted as a resident artist at Kaneko Experimental Studios in Omaha, has guest lectured at the University of Lincoln, Nebraska, and was a 2014 Yaddo Fellow. She holds an MFA in Film Production from UCLA.

SCOTT WOJAHN – COMPOSER

Scott Wojahn is a composer, producer, arranger and singer-songwriter. He is one half of Wojahn Bros Music in Santa Monica, California, a boutique music production company specializing in commercials and television. Since 1990, WBM has created award winning original and branded music for some of the most recognizable national and global companies, from Ford to AT&T and American Idol, working with artists including Vince Gill, Buddy Guy and Shawn Colvin.

SHAUN HILDNER – INKING AND GRAPHICS

Shaun Hildner is a video producer in Chicago. He received a bachelors degree in film from Columbia College Chicago and has designed motion graphics for companies like Microsoft and Macy’s. He spends much of his time playing Dungeons & Dragons, reading comic books, and is learning to play the banjo.

MICHAEL DUNNE – COLORIST

Michael Dunne was hired out of film school as an Assistant Colorist at Filmworker’s Club in Chicago. He advanced to the position of Dailies Colorist and was responsible for transferring numerous studio productions filmed in Chicago including The Break Up, Barbershop 2: Back in Business, Roll Bounce, Derailed, and The Ice Harvest. In addition to his work in post, Michael has also lensed independent features, short films, docs, music videos, and corporate web videos. He currently resides in Champaign, IL with his family and freelances as a shooter/editor/colorist.

RIC PROBST – RECORDING ENGINEER

Ric Probst graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio with a degree in Radio, Television and Film. After graduation, he quickly got his first studio engineering job at QCA Recording Studio in Cincinnati. In QCA’s single room, 16 track facility, Ric began his life long obsession with recording. He spent his days and nights absorbing all he could from other staff engineers and moved beyond with his own experimentation.

Within his first few months at QCA, the opportunity to work with Blood, Sweat and Tears, recording a theme song for an NBC TV series, and he was off and running. During Ric’s tenure as staff engineer, QCA expanded to a dual 24 track room facility. He became known for his affinity for jazz, pop and classical music. Soon he was recording many records for jazz greats like Bobby Shew, The Blue Wisp Big Band, Tim Hagans, Cal Collins, Lynn Seaton and John von Ohlen. Currently, he continues jazz projects with artists like, Basie Band lead tenor, Doug Lawrence, the B3 Bombers, featuring organist Dan Trudell, Mark Davis and Johnny Padilla.

In 1983, Ric was hired to engineer Midnight Star’sNo Parking on the Dance Floor” which earned an RIAA certified gold record. “No Parking” went on to be awarded double platinum status. This began a run of R&B hits that Ric was called to engineer. Through his work with famed producers like Reggie Calloway, Ric engineered records for, Midnight Star, Bootsy Colllins, DaytonThe Ohio Players, The Deele (introducing the world to LA Reid and Babyface), Klymaxx, The Whispers, Carrie Lucas, and many others. It was these great recordings material that earned Ric his 5 gold, and 1 double platinum record for record/mix engineer.

His work also includes projects for Little Feat guitarist, Paul Barrere, Pure Prairie League, Psychodots, Michelle Anthony, Willy Porter, The Wooldridge Brothers, Rob Fetters, Peter Mulvey, Redbird, Greg Koch, Paul Oakenfold, and BoDean’s co-founder, Sam Llanas. Mr. Probst has also maintained a respected reputation among those in the classical arena. He has recorded projects for famed French bassist Francois Rabath, Frank Proto, and Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra principal clarinetist, Todd Levy. Ric has recorded two highly acclaimed projects for violinist, and Milwaukee Symphony Concertmaster, Frank Almond. Via his company Remote Planet Recording , Mr. Probst has worked with some of the finest classical musicians in the world, including soprano Suzanna Phillips and pianists Christopher Taylor and William Wolfram.