“You think you know, but you have no idea...” Tony Stone’s Peter and the Farm —or as I like to think of it: Portrait of The Artist as an Old Farmer—continues its run through November 17 at Metrograph. The film is a slice-of-life documentary that chronicles 68-year old Peter Dunning on his daily routine as the sole owner and operator of a 187-acre organic sheep and pig farm in Vermont, over the course of one year. As someone who’s spent a significant amount of time on farms with farmers, I like to think I know a thing or two about the world in which Dunning lives. However, after watching this film, it becomes apparent that we can never fully know what it means to be a farmer—that is, to dedicate one’s life to tending the earth and all its creatures—not unless we do it ourselves.
Moreover, what it means to DIY is completely turned on its head in this thorny examination of the relationships—or lackthereof—between Dunning and his family, his animals, his neighbors, his land. This is a man who is truly Doing It Himself, and the resultant film is more a meditation on solace and solitude than the usual sanguine themes of rebirth and renewal one might expect from an ostensibly romantic story set in a bucolic landscape. Essential viewing for anyone interested in food, farming, or animals—which is probably just about everyone.