The epic tale of a maverick Midwestern farmer. An outcast in his community, Farmer John bravely stands amidst a failing economy, vicious rumors, and violence. By melding the traditions of family farming with the power of art and free expression, this story of transformation and renewal heralds a resurrection of farming in America. The film is a haunting odyssey, capturing what it means to be different in rural America.
Director Taggart Siegel of Collective Eye made the film in a most unusual way – shooting farmer John Peterson over 25-years of their evolving friendship, and using multiple media, from 8 mm home movies shot on the farm in the 50’s and 60’s to modern video — allowing him to capture his alternately humorous, heartbreaking and spirited life with raw drama and intimacy.
With the death of his father during the late 60s, a teenaged John takes over the traditional family farm, slowly turning it into an experiment of art and agriculture, making it a haven for hippies, radicals and artists. The Real Dirt on Farmer John charts the end of this idealistic era as the farm debt crisis of the 80’s brings about the tragic collapse of the farm.
As the intricate weave of rural America unravels, vicious local rumors turn John into a scapegoat, condemning him as a Satan-worshipping drug-dealer. Threatened with murder, his home burned to the ground, John forsakes his farm and wanders through Mexico, where he is transformed by the soulfulness and pageantry of this ancient land. Mysteriously, his quest leads him back to his hostile homeland.
Defying all odds, he gradually transforms his land into a revolutionary farming community, a cultural mecca, where people work and flourish providing fresh vegetables and herbs to thousands of people every week.
The Peterson family farm has become Angelic Organics, one of the largest Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms in the United States, a beacon of today’s booming organic farming movement.
Admission is Free. This film is part of the Food and Farms Film Festival, sponsored by Focus on Agriculture in Rural Maine Schools (FARMS). Films will show weekly until June 6 and will pick up again in the Fall. For more information, go to mefarms.org, Community Kitchen, Food and Farm Film Festival.