This is the kind of project that is right up my alley: A historical documentary about people who make the world a better place! But as a project, I did face some interesting challenges to produce it...
First, I walked into this project with only a bare minimum of knowledge of Soil & Water Conservation districts and their formation.
But that's the part about doc film-making which I really love: the education I get on topics. Thankfully the WMSWCD was very helpful plus Portland has the incredible Oregon Historical Society and the Multnomah Library for sources of research. Seriously, if you live in Portland, donate to the OHS ( http://www.ohs.org/ ).
The second challenge in this project was that photo references of the main characters were very hard to find.
The locale where the Petersons live is outside of Portland, OR on Sauvie Island, one of the largest river islands in the U.S.. This island faces large floods every 20 or so years from the raging Columbia and the Willamette rivers. This meant that family homes would get flooded and precious family relics, such as photos, would be lost in the floods. The Peterson weren't immune to these floods so they had very few photos of Elmer and his wife Lydia who both passed away more than 10 years ago.
This meant I had to scour the local historical society and local papers (again, great resources!) to find any articles on the family or Elmer's involvement in conservation. Thankfully, Elmer was very involved in the community and organizations, so images could be found. As for his wife Lydia, I had only two photos: one being a very bad microfiche image from a 1948 wedding announcement and an image of Lydia almost 50 years later, which was provided by, Kim, who is still around and going strong. A huge thanks to Kim!
Another challenge was getting interviews with people who knew Elmer and the family. Thankfully, the Vetsch family, who were long time dairy farmers that lived on Sauvie Island and were friends with the Petersons, were gracious enough to allow me an interview. A big thanks to Sherri, Bob and Dick Vetsch!
I'd also like to thank the WMSWCD for their amazing help, and for allowing me to explore such a great place in Oregon like Sauvie Island, plus the National Association of Conservation Districts for their help.