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The Real Dirt on Farmer John (2005)
An award-winning true story of third-generation farmer John Peterson's heroic journey of success, tribulation, failure and rebirth. Get up close and personal with John and his forthright colorful life that parallels the marginalization of the 20th-Century American family farm and the struggle with pesticides, overuse and urbanization. Educated and unpretentious, Peterson is a true original, and a target for those with narrower views. What makes this documentary so appealing is his maverick streak – exemplifying the heart and soul we all feel towards preserving the Earth ... and ourselves in the process. Peterson's lifelong love affair with his family's farm in Caledonia, Illinois – population unknown, located about 75 miles west of Chicago and not even on the AAA map – is an engaging and effective seat from which to view the wider goings on of the era. The film simultaneously speaks to many ethical and cultural divides as it chronicles the shift in America's agriculture. Home movies showing actual auctions as many American farmers lost their livelihood to real estate developers are a meaningful addition. Both the personal and wider issues are entirely accessible in this fun and informative, rich and life-affirming film directed by Taggart Siegel.