BY PATRICIA DRAZNIN
John Peterson finally saved the family farm by starting AngelicOrganics,a CSA that sells shares of the season’s produce each year.
John Peterson is not your ordinary Midwestern food grower. And his quirky documentary, The Real Dirt on Farmer John, delivers no lack of surprises as he demonstrates the rising and falling cycles of a farmer’s life guaranteed to draw laughter and tears. With a powerful fusion of wit and observation, Peterson traces the real-life history of his Illinois family farm though archival home footage dating back to the 1930s. His well-crafted narration demonstrates his life struggle to maintain the family legacy against hopeless economics and a dangerously hostile community, eventually leading him to an unexpected and welcome direction. Today, Peterson’s Angelic Organics supplies Chicago residents with biodynamic, pesticide-free produce that serves as a national model for Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).
Partnering with friend and veteran filmmaker Taggart Siegel in an unconventional docu-drama boasting 18 independent film awards, the unconventional Peterson serves up a playful narrative of growing up on the farm, attending college during the hippie ’60s with friends who opened up his imagination, and being raised by his amazing mother Anna, a constant source of inspiration. What is most extraordinary is Peterson’s version of Americana laced with comedy and angst as he tries to maintain the oversized farm alone, and the creative outlets that feed his soul and help him deal with life’s endless challenges.
A couple of vital tweaks would have pushed this film over the top, but I resist elaborating in case you haven’t seen the film. Even so, this original presentation blazes its own uncharted trail and is pretty darn near perfect.
Today John Peterson is a farmer and, against all odds, a successful one. He is also a teacher—not just of agriculture but an almost superhuman model of persistence. Farmer John is a true American hero who will educate you, entertain you, win your heart, and make you proud.