The Real Dirt On Farmer John is Cream of the Crop

By Matt Carey

Ebertfest attendees received a Midwestern flavor on Friday night, as the film The Real Dirt On Farmer John was shown at the Virginia Theatre.

The documentary follows the life of John Peterson, an Illinois farmer who’s spent his whole life attempting to keep his family’s farm from being sold off. Through fifty years of film footage, we are shown John’s life as he contemplates quitting farming to his rise to fame in his community.

Movie critic David Poland, who spoke about his adoration for John Peterson, introduced the film saying, “Once you’ve seen The Real Dirt On Farmer John, you will never forget farmer John.”

After the credits and a standing ovation for the movie, John Peterson and the film’s director Taggart Siegel came out for a question and answer session. The two men came from New Zealand to come to Ebertfest.

Peterson told the story of how he initially said no to coming to Ebertfest due to the difficulty of the travel, but was written a letter from Roger Ebert’s wife Chaz urging him to appear.

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“Chaz wrote and said there’s always one Midwesterner showing a film and I got to be that Midwesterner.”

“It’s a film showing in the heartland about the heartland.”

While John is excited that the film is getting rotation, he’s more thrilled that his film is helping get family farmers more recognition.

“To go out with a story that helps others start farming, it’s an exciting thing.”

All in all, the audience was very enthusiastic about the film and John Peterson’s story, applauding several times during the question and answer with many questioners complimenting the men on their film. Taggart Siegel was particularly moved about the event saying, “This is the most emotional screening I’ve ever been apart of.”