Farmers accustomed to dusty fields and clattering combines have chosen the concert hall to tell their way of life to city folk.
Over the next year, they will snap photos around their western Ohio farms for a slide show next fall at a concert by the Springfield Symphony Orchestra.
"To us it's important when a lot of the folks from the city are coming out to live in the country that they understand what it's all about," organizer Karen Neer said of the project, funded by a $104,500 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Since 1950, Ohio has lost about a third of its farmland -- from 21 million acres to 14 million -- as cities grew and suburbs sprang up. Former city dwellers sometimes complain about the smell, the noise and slow-moving tractors on roads.
Neer, whose family farms 2,500 acres near South Vienna in central Ohio, hopes to submit photos of her children napping on the tractor seat, herself using a computer to do the books, and her family picnicking in the fields of corn, soybeans and wheat.
"I'm hoping those kinds of things show what our life entails," she said. "I am not a photographer. But my daughter does have a new digital camera. I'm going to see what I can do with that."
"We're not trying to do some cookie-cutter agriculture propaganda thing. We want this to be a genuine expression of local farm families," said Denny Hall, special assistant to the dean at Ohio State University's College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Services, who helped write the grant proposal.
Photo-choreographer James Westwater will use 350 to 450 photos at November's "Our Fields, Farms and Families" concert in Springfield, about 40 miles west of Columbus.
The photos will be projected above the orchestra on a giant screen in coordination with the music.
Songs will include Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring" and "Symphony to the Prairie Farm," written by Minneapolis composer Steve Heitzeg, who grew up on a dairy farm.
"We're dealing with two endangered species -- the symphony orchestra and the individual family farm," Westwater said. "By joining forces, they can help each other."
Westwater produced a similar show in October 2002 with the Des Moines Symphony using farm photos from around Iowa taken by members of 4-H clubs. Farm equipment was used as percussion instruments.
The concert will be a chance for the symphony to draw a wider audience, said David Deitrich, the orchestra's executive director.
"It's two communities, in terms of agriculture and the arts, you don't normally think of together," Deitrich said. "There is an opportunity to reach out to people who might not normally consider coming to a symphony concert."
Music professor Trudy Faber regularly attends Springfield symphony concerts and said she was surprised when she heard about the project.
"Then I thought, 'Well, why not?' It could make everybody realize how music and everyday life are all interconnected," said Faber, who teaches at Wittenberg University. "Many in the audience, they may be teachers, they may be nurses, they may be working in offices. How is that really different in a sense of a person working on the farm? I think people will react positively to it."