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The Real Dirt on Farmer John (2005) – Review

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Reinventing the Family Farm.

I came across this movie quite by accident.  It was a classic Sonoma County, California wine country weekend and my husband and I stopped in to Preston Vineyards on West Dry Creek Road outside of Healdsburg.  It was our first visit and we soon became aware that the winery was branching out and including farm fresh produce along with their wines.  As I browsed the gift shop a stack of DVD movies caught my attention. I recognized the Gaiam trademark on the back and picked up a copy.

This movie captures the essence of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) movement, where a farm is supported by local subscribers who receive regular shipments of fresh produce delivered to their neighborhood.  It is a win-win situation.  The farm is guaranteed a price for its products and the subscriber has a direct connection and commitment to the farm.  The film itself is a documentary chronicling 25 years in the life of John Peterson.  John grew up on the farm and we follow him through his childhood, the tumultuous 60’s and into the present day.  He is considered an eccentric by his neighbors and vicious local rumors label John as a Satan-worshipping drug-dealer.  John perseveres and even after losing most of his acreage at the farm auctions of the 80’s, he reinvents himself with remarkable success.   He gradually turns his farm into a CSA farm which now thrives and supports the greater Chicago area with weekly deliveries of biodynamic vegetables.

What makes this film special is that it captures the essence of the farming spirit and love of the land that continues to keep farmers farming in spite of the constant economical challenges unique to their industry.  They simply cannot do anything else.  The beauty of this movement toward community farming is that once again society is beginning to appreciate farmers, their knowledge, their commitment and their love of the land. 

Directed by Taggart Siegel; written and narrated by John Peterson; produced by Mr. Siege; and Teri Lang; release by Cavu Pictures. Running time: 82 minutes.  This film is not rated.

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