The Real Dirt on Farmer John (2005)Director: Taggart Siegel
Tagline: Tractors and feather boas, a strange, but beautiful combination
This film tells the story of John Peterson, a farmer in Illinois who took after the family farm after his father died and almost lost it. The film was written and narrated by John himself so he is able to tell his own story in full.
I have never lived on a farm, but I grew up on the outskirts of a country town on a road named after a prominent local farmer and saw how the town started swallowing up the good farming land around it and all the local butter factories in each town closed. My parents no longer live in that house as the paddocks behind and in front of the house now have houses on it and the only thing that remains of the farm across the road is the row of trees that once was the driveway to the farmer's house.
As with any life there are a lot of ups and downs in this story. The farm began as a family affair was the hub of the community. Once John's father died and John went off to college started introducing his friends to the farm, much to his neighbour's chagrin and the community started to turn on him as they didn't like his methods. During the 1970s John built up debts to the point that he eventually had to sell most of the land in the 1980s like many other farmers and he almost gave up. After almost a decade he decided to start again as an organic farmer, which eventually led the revitalisation of the farm to the successfully cooperative farm of today that has many shareholders and people actively working on the farm.
I expect this film would do very well with the audience of Landline (an Australian farming affairs show) and also Compass (religious programme) as they face a lot of the same issues, except with more drought and worries about selling their products overseas.
I really enjoyed all the old footage of the farm and the traditional farming methods used back in the 1950s. There were also some great shots of tractors, especially in the closing titles where they kept trundling through the scene without a driver. I would like to see some of the short films John has been involved in, but I am sure they will be included on the eventual DVD release of the film.
There was some great music on the film with Dirty Three featuring prominently, I also liked the film clip for the Bug Song near the end as it was funny.
I would recommend seeing this movie even if you don't live on a farm as it is an inspiring story and it is also well worth having a look at if you have even a passing interest in organic farming.
This site is definitely not affilated with the Melbourne International Film Festival (DUH!) or the Melbourne Underground Film Festival.