One day in 1953, Nebraska farmer Donald Vetter had an epiphany while spraying his cornfield. He’d wondered for a while about the wartime chemicals–now approved for agricultural use–he was spraying on his crops. Disappointed with the results, he’d also noticed these chemicals stripped the goodness from the soil and killed wildlife. And what were they doing to the food itself? He decided right then and there that he wasn’t going spray anymore. So he quit.

Donald Vetter–and his son, David–then went on to become organic farming pioneers.


Dreaming of a Vetter World comes at a time when interest in farming organically and regenerating soil has exploded worldwide. Others are realizing what the Vetters have known for decades: eating food grown with pesticides is bad for us; and soil is key to our very survival. That’s why, on the Vetter farm, their most important “crop” is the soil.

With camera and camper in tow, Director Bonnie Hawthorne leaves her urban comforts in the rearview mirror to learn from the Vetters about what’s really going on in our food system. Her debut feature-length documentary shares the struggles the Vetters face as “Big Ag”–chemical agriculture–encroaches. Informative yet entertaining, the film features the self-sustaining, self-renewing farm-management experiment Donald and David Vetter created back in the 1970s. As the Vetters try to stay one step ahead of changing weather patterns, market fluctuations and the ever-increasing pesticide use around them, their experiment to regenerate soil through organic methods continues. With both historical context and an eye to the future, Dreaming of a Vetter World shows it’s possible to jump off the pesticide treadmill. It’s also a story about love, hope, family, and place; an inspiring example of perseverance and doing what you know is right–against all odds.

77 minutes. USA. English.

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This film was supported in part by grants from Dr. Bronner’s and Patagonia
with additional support from MegaFood and Harrison’s Bird Food. 

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