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 putting 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.

Donald Vetter—and his son, David—then went on to become regenerative 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 California comforts in the rearview mirror to learn from the Vetters—and others in their Nebraska region—about what’s really going on in the Corn Belt. 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.

“Dreaming of a Vetter World is the movie to watch if you dream of a better food and farming system. We need to replace the industrial-chemical driven monopoly of modern agribusiness. Regenerative organic farmer David Vetter shows how we can farm in nature’s image without unhealthy pesticides and fertilizers that destroy the soil, which Bonnie Hawthorne captures beautifully in her epic documentary.” David Bronner, CEO Dr. Bronner’s

“Here is what happens when vision triumphs over industrial agriculture and industrial movie production. Bravo on both counts.“Alan Lewis, Food and Agriculture Policy, Natural Grocers

“An insightful and moving portrait of one of the keystone farms in the organic food movement, this film digs deep into the life of a midwestern farm community, revealing just how much is at stake in one family’s courageous campaign to replace chemical farming with a more ecological alternative.” Liz Carlisle, author of The Lentil Underground: Renegade Farmers and the Future of Food in America

“It’s a story of exploitation, a story of injustice, and a story about a solution to a multitude of what ails us. I truly want to help audiences SEE the far reaching benefits of what Dave is doing, and the policy solutions to what prevents many more farmers from following in his footsteps.” Melinda Hemmelgarn, M.S., R.D. Host, Food Sleuth Radio

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

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