The Real Dirt on Farmer John is a personal documentary about John Peterson, a farmer, artist, and eccentric/innovative thinker cast in rural Illinois. Filmmaker Taggart Siegel has documented John's struggle to redefine his family farm for over twenty years, witnessing the colourful drama of John's life.
After the death of his father during the late 1960s, John turns his traditional family farm into an experiment of art and culture, 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 1980s brings about the tragic collapse of the farm. Against the backdrop of rural America in crisis, Farmer John's long-time neighbours spread vicious rumours turning him into a scapegoat. He is wrongly accused of being a Satan-worshipping drug dealer. Threatened with murder, his home burned to the ground, John defies all odds to transform his land into a revolutionary farming community. At the film's close, the Peterson family farm is one of the largest Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farms in the United States. Out of the ruins of single-crop agriculture, John creates an extended farm village where people and art can thrive alongside agriculture.
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