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The Real Dirt on Farmer John (2005) Online

The Real Dirt on Farmer John (2005) Online
Original Title :
The Real Dirt on Farmer John
Genre :
Movie / Documentary
Year :
2005
Directror :
Taggart Siegel
Cast :
John Peterson,Anna Nielsen,John Edwards
Type :
Movie
Time :
1h 22min
Rating :
7.5/10

The epic tale of a maverick Midwestern farmer. Castigated as a pariah in his community, Farmer John bravely transforms his farm amidst a failing economy, vicious rumors, and arson. He ... See full summary

The Real Dirt on Farmer John (2005) Online

The epic tale of a maverick Midwestern farmer. Castigated as a pariah in his community, Farmer John bravely transforms his farm amidst a failing economy, vicious rumors, and arson. He succeeds in creating a bastion of free expression and a revolutionary form of agriculture in rural America. {locallinks-homepage}
Credited cast:
John Peterson John Peterson - Himself
Anna Nielsen Anna Nielsen - Herself, mother of John Peterson
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
John Edwards John Edwards - Himself
Lester Peterson Lester Peterson - Himself, father of John Peterson (archive footage)


User reviews

Trash Obsession

Trash Obsession

What a wonderful little film! This is much more than the old story about the American farmer's attempt to save the family farm. It is an historical document, of sorts, on the life of one Illinois man, John Peterson, his family, friends, and community. It took a little while for the film to get started for me. I had to get use to John's low-key personality, but as the film progresses, it reveals a complex, intelligent, and determined man, who's story is a unique one. Director Taggart Siegel, a friend of John's, sifted through hundreds of hours of footage, shot by himself, John, and home movies from John's own family. It is simply amazing to see such an interesting life story unfold before your eyes in less than two hours time. Compelling, educational, and deeply moving, it is a film you will hold dear to your heart.
Perongafa

Perongafa

I knew I would love this movie and the character of Farmer John from the opening scene where he tastes the soil in his fields and says it's tasting good today.

Having myself been steeped in west coast Burning Man culture, I immediately recognized and honored John Petersen as a true Burner - even if he's never been to the desert festival himself. He's an artist, a entrepreneur, a dreamer and a builder. But what's more, he's a real person. His story is really our own story. He's a regular joe with a real heart, real fears and real stumbling blocks. His repeated failures... and then eventual success, through perseverance and love, is inspiring to every one of us because that's how it really happens!! This story isn't full of cinematic glorification!

I loved this movie because it isn't a fantasy about creating intentional community or CSAs or going back to the land or any of that. It's about the hard, slow, steady and arduous process of the development of a human being who wants to make something good in this life. It's about years of trying and failing and trying again. It's about working through that feeling of failure to finding out what successes lie on the other side of failure. We've all been there. Disillusioned by our current lives and world situations. Can we really do what we envision? Can we really make a difference and make our ancestors proud? Do we really have what it takes to be the caring stewards of this land we were given? Do we have what it takes to provide for our future generations?

I felt this movie is a story about how to *really* be successful, find happiness and make a difference. We can't control what the world may do around us, but we can chose our own paths. This movie reminded me that it's okay no matter where we're at along our path, so long as its focus comes from a true place within. If we do that, we, like Farmer John, may realize one day that we've finally worked our way into the idealized vision we always had of our lives - we may find success and happiness.

Plus, you just can't beat that bug song music video where they're in the bee costumes!!!

I LOVED it.

See it. Rent it. Buy it. Give it as a gift to loved ones.
Arryar

Arryar

A strange story for sure, but one that made me cry in public, which doesn't happen. Farmer John is a very unique soul, but a good one. Even if you don't dig the cross-dressing or the purity of his vegetables, the tales of farmers, the land, and the love of the good earth is incredible and one we should not forget. When the old farmer explains how once good farmland has been covered up by asphalt and subdivisions, if your eyes don't at least water then there's something wrong with you. I am a computer science professor who can't go without email for more than eight hours, but this film reminded me that my father was a farmer in the 1930's and made me remember how much I loved having a little garden on my parents' 5 acre garden when I was a little kid.

This is a work of a man's lifetime, and the lifetime of a man who has done good work all his life. I'm a bit biased because I'm fortunate enough to know Farmer John a little, but I only came to know him after I saw this film and realized what a good guy he is. If it helps just one person or (more importantly) one farm, I'm sure he'll be happy.

This film made me want to be a good guy again. I highly recommend it to anyone who eats food or longs for a reason to continue doing so.
Kabei

Kabei

What I loved about The Real Dirt on Farmer John was that it is history, but is also a personal story that stirs the heart and soul. It is not just a movie of the small farmer in America, it is about someone's passions and the trials of one's life. This film will be a surprise for who ever watches it. It can be transformational. I watched it in a room with 200 other people and everyone was touched and moved by this documentary film. What a gift to all who view this one! I cried, I laughed, I applauded, I hooted! Not one moment of boredom or drag... awesome! I know everyone felt the same way because there was a standing ovation at the end too! Wow!
Nanecele

Nanecele

This movie is absolutely delicious! As someone who is not a farmer, I found the film rather hilarious and very interesting to watch. Even so, many of the people at the screening I went to were farmers, and each one I spoke with said that this film portrayed exactly what farming is like, while mixing in art and humour. The movie discusses some historical aspects of farming and the state of farming today. There is also a very good portrayal of community supported agriculture (CSA). Overall, the film had a very positive outlook, and it gave the feel that it is necessary to change the way we grow and buy food, but that change can certainly be done. The movie stresses the importance of buying produce locally. I recommend this movie to everyone.
Alsardin

Alsardin

This film was just shown at the Beloit Film Festival and was lauded for its charm and heartfelt presentation. I have a friend who works on that farm, and I live only 15 minutes from that farm in Beloit, WI. Yes, it may be a collaboration between John and the filmmaker, but I can assure you that everything in that film is entirely factual and real. It is upsetting to see that, after seeing this great film, somebody would slander it like this. Go see the documentary if you have the chance, it is quite spectacular. It has a great story, it is humorous, tragic, and wonderful. Good commentary on urban sprawl, crisis in the farming industry, and Midwestern society.
Malakelv

Malakelv

I saw this film at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and was blown away. The Real Dirt on Farmer John excels on both a technical and an emotional level. So many films, particularly documentaries, struggle to achieve three clearly defined acts that maintain a narrative arch, but this film succeeds... and then some. While 'Real Dirt' was one of the highlights at Hot Springs, what really provoked me into writing this brief review was an idiotic post at this same site that claimed the 'Real Dirt' was fake and manufactured by the director and his subject. Yes, they've had a long standing relationship, but I think the film makes that clear. And the many articles I've since read about Farmer John and the film backs up the documentaries validity. This same review claims Farmer John is 'acting'. Well, anyone who sees the film will instantly realize that John is at the very least a theatrical person in his everyday life - but I'd hardly call what he does at any point in the film acting (except for the segments that depict him acting in his own play as captured in a CNN clip from the 80's). The events of Farmer John's life are laid bare on the screen for all to see. That he wrote and reads the films narration is a bit unconventional, but in the end only adds to the unique experience of the exceptional film.
Alsanadar

Alsanadar

I didn't see it as a literal documentary, obviously certain liberties were taken to tell the story on a limited budget. It was both touching and true to its time. I'm hoping that it will get into distribution and certain that it will create a buzz. The story of the family farm still needs recounting even though it was a media darling twenty years ago. His struggle to succeed and to keep the family business going is universal...The underlying "hippie" mentality was also keeping with the times, having been a student in Wisconsin in the early 70's. When you laugh and cry and root for the underdog, it becomes personal. What else can you ask for from a movie?
Qudanilyr

Qudanilyr

Some movies are so full of heart and soul, are so much a reflection of their times, they feel like they were, in some strange way, destined to be made, and to make a mark, not only in the world of cinema, but in the American social fabric, as well. The Real Dirt on Farmer John is such a movie. At this time, many of us are yearning for a more truly compassionate and caring nation, for a more inclusive and understanding society, for a return to deeper, more spiritual values, and a sense of personal (rather than corporate) empowerment. Now along comes the maverick, All-American, Farmer John Peterson, a real third-generation Illinois farmer, and his true story of soil-based soul, devastation during the farm debt crisis of the 1980s, and resurrection in the 90s as a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm now serving 1200 families in the Chicago area. Filmmaker Taggart Siegel has effectively woven together Peterson's home movies from the 1950s, with footage from the 70s (when the farm was a hippie art commune), the 80s (when Peterson lost almost everything), from Mexico (where he sought solace and healing from his failure), the 90s (when Peterson experienced his resurrection) and recent years, as the farm now brims with organic produce, student farmers, families and children. The film reflects the struggles of American family farmers over the last fifty years and, more importantly, the universal Hero's Journey through life, death and rebirth. The scenes of Peterson with his mother overflow with love. But love and deep caring are the essence of the film. And at a time when we are bombarded with darkly cynical fare, The Real Dirt on Farmer John is the deep, fresh, lively flavor that will most satisfy our hunger for goodness and meaning. To be savored, like a fine meal ….
Hidden Winter

Hidden Winter

My family and I saw this movie at the Chicago premiere, where Farmer John held a Q&A session afterward. I was afraid my son would be bored (he's an antsy fourth-grader), but because we've been members of a CSA farm for he past three years, I thought he would do well to sit and learn. By the end of the movie, he was asking me whether we could sign up for a share at Angelic Organics! Even if you're not into CSA farming, though, this story is an inspiration... for anyone who's loved and lost, or who's failed at something that meant everything to them, this movie will touch your heart. Bring tissues because unless you're a stone or just not paying attention, you'll be teary-eyed at least once. I thought Taggart also did an excellent job filming this movie and culling years of videos toward the end result: a moving, inspirational film. The only negative I saw about this movie, and it's probably a result of the directors and writers wanting to have a positive, uplifting message, is that I don't think there was much exposition on why the family farmer has become largely extinct. I would have liked to see more about corporate agriculture and the dangers is poses -- thus making CSA farms all the more important.

That being said, many movies that seek to provoke social change have an air of guilt about them; you feel bad that you don't do more, or you get the sense that things are so bad that it's not even worth trying. This movie did the opposite; I left feeling like the world was worth saving after all. I believe seeing this movie made me a better person.
Moronydit

Moronydit

I had the good fortune of previewing this remarkable documentary while visiting Farmer John with my son this past summer. Having spent my sophomore year in high school living and working on the Peterson farm, I was able to cultivate a unique friendship and level of respect for John that has lasted for the past 35 or so years. John tells his story in a way that captivates the pure essence of mans relationship with the earth. The transformation of the farm from its roots to what it is today is nothing short of incredible. He has brought together two completely different worlds and instilled in them a love of mother earth and how we all must change in order to survive as a generation.
Bukus

Bukus

If you grew up on a farm in the 50s or 60s, you were "hippy-like" in the 70s or you are opposed to corporate industrialized agriculture you will relate very closely to this film. An amazingly complete filmed life-story of an inspiring character from preschool days through today when he is in his 50's. Two minor characters, John's mother and his dairy farmer neighbor add tremendously to the richness and 'human' qualities of the story. Emotion, humor, and inspiration for anybody who refuses to "go with the flow".

On my way to the film I warned my wife: "This may not be as good as some of the documentaries we've seen lately." My first comment when the film ended: "I was wrong!" I hope people without a farm background will enjoy the story of Farmer Brown as much as I did.
virus

virus

What a great film, really touching and amazing. Watched it up in the hills in Tulare County with some folks who could really relate to the issues of small town rural living and being different.

Amazing that Farmer John's mother did all that filming when they were kids, it really makes the film possible.

I especially loved the farmer who spoke of the pain he felt when he saw the concrete! I grew up in a beach L.A. suburb watching the wetlands turn to condos and mini-malls, it was sad.

Thanks so much for this film!

It really will do well I think!
lacki

lacki

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. I had only a vague idea of what it was about beforehand. After an interesting beginning it seemed to lose some steam in the middle, but by the end it coalesced into a wonderful story. John's life is inspiring on many levels and I left the theater with more energy and determination. If you have any interest in individuality, community or farming, this movie is for you.

On a side note, I saw this film at the Wisconsin International Film Festival and was seated in the theater behind John, the filmmaker, and John's girlfriend. It added an extra element to watch a man's life story while the back of his head was right in front of my face!
Adorardana

Adorardana

This film will blow you away, that's a promise. Best Documentary I have ever seen. Did you like Hoop Dreams? how about Sherman's March? The Real Dirt is better. Nuff said.

Now, what I like about this movie review site is that somebody there in movieland thought that if you liked Farmer John there is a strong chance that you'll feel similarly about The Outlaw Josey Wales starring Clint Eastwood! No kidding, that is the film they think most resembles the feeling you get from watching The Real Dirt. Isn't that the coolest?! At the bottom of the page on The Real Dirt they say:

"If you like this title, we also recommend The Outlaw Josey Wales."

And damn! if they weren't spot on! At first glance you wouldn't think John with his soft spoken Midwestern charm, that understated classy delivery of the plains maverick was channeling Josey Wales - and then you start to see all the similarities. Yea, John's got that same steely-eyed resolve, that can't-be-broken spirit that shines from within. John Peterson and Josey Wales both suffered horribly at the hands of fate, withstood more pain and degradation that most men could stand. And yet... and yet, they stood tall and proud and could not be stopped when faced with the impossible task of reclaiming their life, their manhood, their proud American farmer spirit...

Yes, The Real Dirt has all the necessary elements to make a classic as does Josey Wales... A magical combination of farmland fact and underdog fantasy...

The fantasy, this time, 30 years after Eastwood as Josey Wales... is Farmer John who switches from a simple peasant farmer to stone-cold Bio-Dynamic CSA Genius...

His planting and networking becomes as precise as his cigar sucking... Whether he is merely taking a split second to rig some machinery on a tractor or appearing out of the sun as an 'army of one'... it is Farmer John's screen presence as something unique, direct and strong, the essential Peterson persona that is a powerful attraction to the public...

Josey Wales, oops, I mean John Peterson, has no desire to become the most successful bio- dynamic and CSA farmer in the universe... At the beginning of the film he is a peaceable Illinois farmer whose farm is lost in the small farm failures of the 80s.... and this story is the unbelievable journey back to wholeness, you will witness John rising from the literal flames of disaster, like a phoenix, to claim his place in history!

The film opens with what is arguably one of the coolest movie quotes of all time.... We see John's boots squishing through the mud as he surveys his fields, kneeling down upon the ground, he reaches down for a handful of earth and pensively tastes it...

"The soil tastes good today..."

and you begin to enter Farmer John's world as director Taggart Siegel guides your journey with passion and deep insight...
Kazigrel

Kazigrel

Besides being a well done documentary with good technical aspects, and good informational content, this was as entertaining as it could be. AND, after seeing this at the Nashville Film Festival, I have been motivated to find a farmer like this, to support and to get food.

The biodymamic farming principles explained in the documentary are used at a local farm here. They have improved the soil and the output of this local organic farm and will improve my life!

We were lucky enough to see this at the Nashville festival and get to meet John Peterson and the director as well, and it was great! Rent this or see it if you can. And find somewhere to get Community Supported Agriculture food.
Jusari

Jusari

Bittersweet documentary account of John Peterson's roller coaster ride of failures and successes in attempting to sustain a farm in northern Illinois that his grandfather had created and he subsequently inherited. By turns nostalgic in its backward gazes and cutting edge about the way forward, Peterson's story also is emblematic of such broadly important issues as our contemporary culture wars and the fate of small family farming in the United States.

In school Peterson was a bit dreamy perhaps, but otherwise an ordinary farm kid. The full responsibility of running a 250 acre farm fell to him as a late teenager, when his father died prematurely of complications from diabetes. John chose a college closest to the farm, Beloit, where he found himself drawn toward a counterculture crowd.

His friends soon began coming to the farm, some choosing to live there, creating the ambiance of a commune, and they dubbed the farm the "Midwest Coast." The surrounding conservative community was not happy with the hippie-style cavorting of John and his friends. This was the beginning of a protracted, painful period of alienation between John and his erstwhile friends, neighbors, and even some of his relatives.

Folks in the vicinity, including people he had gone to school with, like the town Sheriff, whispered that drug sprees and possibly a Satanic cult were hosted on John's farm. Rumors of children's bodies buried on the farm were spread around. Harassment followed, later the burning of an outbuilding. Meanwhile, John was one of the first to confront the economic Catch-22 that has decimated most small family farms over the past 30 years or more.

Debts mounted, and eventually John had to sell all but 22 acres of the place to satisfy his creditors. He was deeply depressed and left Wisconsin, living and writing stories in Mexico for a couple of years. But the call of the farm beckoned him to try again. Once more he failed financially despite putting in 90 hour weeks to try to keep the farm afloat. Once again he went into exile in Mexico, but not for long this time.

After his second return, he was approached by a group of Chicago families who wanted to work with him to establish a CSA – a Community Supported Agricultural program: a coop to raise and guarantee sales of organic vegetables. The CSA caught on and grew. Young people (interns) came to help at little cost. For the first time John had the wherewithal - the money and crew - to sustain the smaller farm.

In fact there wasn't enough land to rotate crop production, a crucial flexibility required when one no longer adds chemical soil enricheners. Most recently an expanding customer base (1,200 families now are served) took the next step and put up money to purchase an adjacent parcel of farmland to increase productivity and permit crop rotation. John actually tastes the soil to help him determine how good things are going.

In terms of cinematic values, there is nothing special about this production. It blends old home movie footage with newly shot scenes and interviews in a conventional manner. Along with the farm story we also are privileged to observe the tender ties between John and his most ardent supporter, his mother; his series of romantic relationships; and, most recently, his efforts to repair his relations with his neighbors. John, after all, did do his bit to provoke suspicion and alienation over the years.

How DO you expect old timey farmer types to react when you wear a feather boa while driving your tractor, or dress up with your girlfriend as bumblebees and dance down the cauliflower rows? John Peterson is a delightful if sometimes bewildering mix of straight arrow, plain talking Scandinavian farm boy and over-the-top zany eccentric. But he does seem to be gradually pulling his farm and his neighbors into the 21st century. He'd be the first to tell you that the job is mighty hard. My grade: B 6/10.
Agrainel

Agrainel

Both sides of my family were midwest farmers, and watching this movie was like reliving my life, and reliving the lives of every ancestor I ever met. I feel like I knew the people in the movie all my life. I lived the period in which John grew up. I understand the good ole boys that lived around John and tried to make him conform to their standards. I moved away from the midwest before I was 30 because I was stifled by their repetitive boring unforgiving culture. I had an aunt that took movies of our family that looked just like those in this movie. Fortunately John had access to all this old footage to use in telling his story. I guess getting my hands in the dirt is in my blood, because I've always wanted to be a farmer like John, but not like the commercial farmers that own all the land now. I feel like I've known John in another life. Makes me want to move back to Illinois and work for John for FREE. This movie was incredible !!! WOW
Faezahn

Faezahn

A few days after the New Year I caught this film on TV while I was lying on the couch lazily. What kept my attention was how Farmer John ate the soil at the beginning. This I thought was weird, and Farmer John is a very unconventional character. His story, which spans his whole life from childhood to today, is incredible. It was interesting to watch how paranoid some of John's neighbor and the community became because John is very unconventional. The disappointing behavior of these people contrasts to the CSA shareholders from Chicago who are willing to take time off from their presumably urban lives and get dirty in a farm. John believes there is a character or a soul to his farm, that it is more than just dirt, plants, and buildings. Although I don't find this idea particularly sensible, I appreciated his enthusiasm and optimism, and it's good to see the city folks giving him a hand.

What I would like to know about this film is why many farms in America were closing. I'm guessing it was because of tariff reductions.
Zulkigis

Zulkigis

This may not be the most polished documentary you'll see. It may be only one person's side of his story. It covers all the emotions. The telling is not sentimentalized (that I can tell), it is clear, concise, and the ending is a fascinating example of what can be accomplished.

The film speaks for itself, and the down-to-earth style of the telling may not be everyone's cup of tea -- It seems to reflect both the tale and the people in the story. Some aspects would have to be re-enacted. There are some examples of 'historic' material such as a tape recorder that seemingly was used to record a conversation during an auction. I would have liked to see more input from the family and friends and less just shots of the farm or scenery. BUT, that is probably not the world "John" lives in.
Windbearer

Windbearer

I watched this entire "documentary" at the Nashville Film Festival. First, I think the film is staged and I felt dirty after leaving the screening. Certain scenes in the film are obviously orchestrated between filmmaker and filmmee/subject. Second, farmer John acted during the entire film! How can this film be classified as a documentary for this simple reason? There was too much collaboration between farmer John and the director, and these conspirators' agreements magnified through the entire film. The film presents everything on the farm through rose colored glasses, and presents Mexico as the "exotic other" where farmer John travels to find "relief" in a "mysterious" world filled with superstition. What a load of dirt! One sentence summary: bring soap with you to watch this film; through careful observation, you'll feel soiled after you leave the theater due to deception, trickery, and artificial "documentary" film-making!
Vinainl

Vinainl

saw this at a film festival. real fascinating subject matter. the director really got lucky that Farmer John shot so much film of himself as he was growing up, because that footage is excellent. overall, it's hard not to like Farmer John and the film. both are non-offensive and entertaining.

i have to say, though, i'm not a big fan of the style in this movie. too many talking heads. i liked the more observational stuff, and as i said the stock footage. but that's just me. others will probably have no problem with this. but for me, it's what separated this from being great, instead of what it is: just very enjoyable.