• When the crops dry up and the neighbors move away, rural schools struggle to stay open.

    When the crops dry up and the neighbors move away, rural schools struggle to stay open.
  • Still from Next Year Country

    Still from Next Year Country

The Film

Say the word “rainmaker” to most Americans and you’re bound to conjure images of a medicine show huckster who makes his living defrauding desperate farmers from the back of a hitched wagon. But what about the rainmaker stories which appear from time to time in farm journals and rural newspapers across the American farm belt — personal accounts from farmers who claim success with rainmakers?

Ninety-three-year-old rancher Viola Hill was “tired of praying for rain that didn’t come,” so when she heard about a rainmaker working on a farm in northeastern Montana she launched a county-wide campaign to raise the money to hire him. “The response was not good,” she lamented. But ignoring ridicule and cries of witchcraft, even threats of excommunication from her church, Viola and her husband Floyd personally guaranteed the $10,000 the rainmaker charged for a visit. “We did get a few showers that spring, and Floyd thought it was because of the rainmaker — I don’t know.”

“We kept reading about Phyllis Fuhrman up in Glasgow,” recalls Gary Gollehon, a wheat farmer from Brady, Montana. “They had an abundance of rain and everybody else was drying up.” Despite his skepticism, Gary decided to hire the rainmaker, and he did see a change in the weather.

Set against the backdrop of a growing regional water crisis, and a changing climate which has U.N. climate scientists calling for a new understanding of what constitutes “normal weather” in the American West, Next Year Country is the heartfelt story of three families and their desperate struggle to hold on to a vanishing way of life.

The Filmmakers

  1. Joseph AguirreProducer/Director
  2. Jennie BedusaProducer