Angelic Organics Evolution Into Biodynamic Farming

In this interview, "Farmer John" Peterson talks about how Angelic Organics turned to biodynamic farming and became a successful community supported farm.

| January/February 2007

A struggling Depression-era family farm in the Midwest turns to biodynamic farming and becomes a thriving community-supported farm.

John Peterson has spent more than 40 years working the same piece of land in northern Illinois that his grandfather bought during the Depression. The farm, originally 350 acres, is much smaller now. Peterson, who took it over at age 19 following the death of his father, lost most of the farm to foreclosure in 1982. But after years of struggle, he has transformed the remaining 22 acres into a thriving Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) using biodynamic farming and called the farm Angelic Organics. This interview focuses on the evolution of the land Peterson managed to keep — and his own evolution as a farmer.

His story is also told in Farmer John's Cookbook, The Real Dirt on Vegetables, Seasonal Recipes and Stories from a Community Supported Farm and in a documentary film, The Real Dirt on Farmer John, which has reaped awards at film festivals throughout the United States. 

The cookbook offers recipes for fresh vegetables, stories about the farm, tips on long-term vegetable storage and preservation methods, and "food for thought" from nutrition experts, shareholders, farm workers and Farmer John. The film — a fascinating and moving exploration of 50 years on the farm, with archival footage taken by Peterson's mother — has been shown on the Emmy award winning PBS series Independent Lens.

Peterson continues to live on the property in a restored schoolhouse that his father attended and in which, later, his mother was the grade-school teacher. He is also a writer, performance artist and producer. 

What were the origins of the family farm? What was it like being a farmer's son?

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