Questions Frequently Asked after Screenings


Hmm, fluffy...tastes like licorice...
How did they get all that footage of Johnís whole life?
Johnís mom shot a lot when he was growing up, and John shot quite a bit in the 70ís and the 80ís. Taggart (the film's director) and John have been friends for 25 years, and Taggart often filmed John when they were traveling, as well as making a few short films starring John.

How do John and Taggart, the director, know each other?
John and Taggart met at an art opening at Beloit College in 1979. John invited Taggart to the farm and Taggart was so amazed with the commune-like situation that he moved there for the summer. "Art and Agriculture" was the farmís theme back then. In 1981, as John and Taggart became good friends, the farm started to cave in.

Are John and the director still friends?
After 25 years of friendship, Siegel and Peterson have managed to stay friends. The friendship was often tested during the making of the film, but miraculously their friendship withstood this challenge.

 

Why did John and Taggart decide to make this film?
Having made a documentary about the demise of Johnís farm in the early 80ís, Taggart and John found themselves amazed in the mid-90ís to see the farm actually coming back to life. They both realized the miracle of a re-born farm, and they recognized the story of hope and possibility that this could offer the world.

How has this film affected Johnís life?
The film has kept him mostly on tour and away from his farm since winter of 2004. Touring has its highlights, but John misses farming. However, he feels called to support the message of the film through personal appearances.

Does Farmer John farm in those funny costumes?
Mostly in his imagination.

Whatís Johnís relationship with Mrs. BumbleBee [Lesley Littlefield Freeman] today?
Their romance ended three years ago. Since then, they have been enthusiastically immersed in each otherís creative projects. Lesley is Johnís book editor, biographer, and co-creator. John is co-producer of Lesleyís music videos.

How long did it take to make the film?
It took 9 years to make (but note that Taggart had been filming John intermittently since 1979.) Taggartís approach to filmmaking is often to see how things unfold over time, to witness the drama of events through time. He often has one or two other projects being filmed simultaneously. The Real Dirt on Farmer John is a very personal film for Taggart because so much history passed through the lens of his camera over those 25 years they have been friends. It took about 2 years to edit. Farmer John got very involved in the writing and narrating of the story. A lot of the story was based on his autobiography that will be coming out soon, I Didnít Kill Anyone Up Here.

Whatís it like for John in his local community now?
Heís kind of an isolationist. When Taggart was interviewing people in the community the last few years, it was clear that there are still people who donít like John and who still believe the dark rumors about him. One neighbor told the producer that if she knew the truth about John, they would pack up their cameras and go home. The film screened in Johnís community a few times in 2005, and this is changing the communityís perception of John and the farm. However, John would rather be celebrated as a man who resurrected his farm than a man who stars in a film.

Why didnít John just leave and not come back?
He still might.

How did Farmer John go from being an average farm boy to the eccentric free-thinker he is today?
There were many influences that converged during Johnís late teens, but the one that he feels was most powerful in affecting his life was falling in love with a very artistic, theatrical girl who used to come and dance and sing in his barn while he milked. John was 19. She soon lost interest in Farmer John, but for many years after that experience he pondered the feelings that he had for her, exploring them, and turning them into creative expression in theater, design, events, etc. (Of course, there were many other strong influences in Johnís life during those days of hippiedom.) The question remains as to why Farmer John was so thoroughly receptive to these influences.

Why did John lose all his land? Why was he so in debt? Did he just party too much?
John prefers to think of the festive years of his youth as celebrations of life and of farming, even though his neighbors simply called it partying. His creative lifestyle contributed a bit to the debt, but the bulk of it was caused by too much optimism at the wrong time. When commodities and land values collapsed in the early 80ís he was over-extended and vulnerable, like so many other farmers. (This is a period often referred to as the Farm Crisis; it took down many farms and made a lasting, devastating impact on rural communities.)

How does John want his farm to develop and progress in the future?
He wants to have a full time CSA community-builder, as the farm has so many shareholders, and he wants to deepen their relationship to the farm through more personal contact and on farm visits. He is developing Angelic Organics more according to the Biodynamic model, and plans to dimensionalize the farm by adding grains and livestock. Of course, he is always striving to make the farm more financially viable, through increasing its efficiency, while crafting its development so that it sustains the people who work there.

Does Angelic Organics plan to have a lot more shareholders?
No. Angelic Organics has half its land fallow every year, and it is currently at maximum production. John is interested in making the operation more efficient. He feels there is a lot more opportunity in refining the internals of the operation than in expansion.

Does Angelic Organics still have a lot of interns?
They now get most of their field workers and managers from the local community. It works out a lot better for the farm to have the year-to-year continuity. The farm still takes a couple novice interns every year, and welcomes occasional short term traveling guests to the operation.

How many people work at Angelic Organics?
Up to 18 during the busy season. There are 4 or 5 year-round peopleómanagers and office workers.

How do I find a CSA farm?
www.LocalHarvest.org

How does Farmer John feel about the film?
He likes the film, and feels it does a good job of conveying the drama and sweep of his life. However, he feels his upcoming autobiography will fill in many gaps in the film story and will illuminate aspects of his life story that the film did not have time to thoroughly develop.

 
 


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