Release Date: June 22nd, 2007 (Quad Cinema and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas) by CAVU Pictures.
Directed by Taggart Siegel.
BASIC PREMISE: A documentary about John Peterson, a Midwest farmer who struggles to earn a living with his 250-acre farm.
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: The Real Dirt on Farmer John feels irresistibly entertaining thanks to the charisma and liveliness of John Peterson, a Illinois farmer who faced many challenges while trying to save his beloved family farm. When his father died, Peterson took over most of work on the farm while being aided by Mexican workers. He clearly relies on the farm as his livelihood and, in one scene, even claims that he considers it to be his wife, in a way. Throughout the 70’s, he turned the farm into a gathering place for hippies, where he met his girlfriend. The 80’s had the most drama and challenges in store for Peterson, especially during a tough drought season and a period when townspeople claimed that he’s a murderer and a devil worshiper, which ruined his reputation. He was even accused of being gay because of some gay mannerisms and occasionally dressing in drag, but just for fun—essentially, he’s an unconventional farmer. At that point, he goes through an important decision about whether or not to put his career at stake by continuing to work on his farm, which would help support his elderly mother. It’s quite suspenseful to watch how he gradually turns his privately-owned, failing farm into Angelic Organics, a successful, organic CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm which allows for families to purchase “shares” of the harvest and to receive the fruits and vegetables directly from the farm without having to go to the store. Director Taggart Siegel includes many interviews with Peterson, a good friend of his since college, and wisely incorporates footage of his daily activities on the farm. He does a terrific job of bringing out the warmth, charisma and eccentricity of John Peterson while providing enough background information so that you care about him and his precious farm. For more information about Angelic Organics, click here.
SPIRITUAL VALUE: The basic, inspirational message is that you should never give up doing what you truly love. With plenty of diligence, there’s always a solution to one’s financial problems, even though some of them might be challenging and discouraging—everything has its ups and downs in life. John Peterson learned that by sharing his passion for farming with other people and by letting them participate in the experience of farming, he has gone from failure to success simply by turning lemons into lemonade (pardon the cliché).
INSULT TO YOUR INTELLIGENCE: None.
NUMBER OF TIMES I CHECKED MY WATCH: 0
IN A NUTSHELL: An irresistibly entertaining, suspenseful and inspiring documentary with plenty of charisma.
RECOMMENDED WAY TO WATCH: Movie Theater
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