This film is rated PG. In cinemas January 16. 92 mins.
Documentarian John Chester and his wife Molly work to develop a sustainable farm on 200 acres outside of Los Angeles.
A testament to the immense complexity of nature, THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM follows two dreamers and a dog on an odyssey to bring harmony to both their lives and the land. When the barking of their beloved dog leads to an eviction notice from their tiny LA apartment, John and Molly Chester naively make the choice to move to the country to build a sustainable farm. The land they’ve chosen, however, is utterly depleted of nutrients and suffering from a brutal drought. THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM chronicles eight years of daunting work and outsized idealism as they attempt to create a utopia of 10,000 orchard trees, over 200 different crops and animals of every kind – including an unforgettable pig named Emma and her best friend, Greasy the rooster. As their plan to create perfect harmony takes a series of wild turns, they realise that to survive they will have to reach a far greater understanding of the intricacies and wisdom of nature, and of life itself. Beautifully capturing the remarkable scale of the journey and featuring unforgettable characters of both the two and four-legged variety, THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM is an inspiring and educational story for the whole family.
Originally published in The Guardian, 28th November 2019.
A lovingly made documentary about a couple who move out of LA to farm the land using traditional, environmentally friendly methods.
Those interested in farming, adorable animals and environmentally friendly lifestyles will swoon over this lovingly made documentary made by John and Molly Chester, a pair of Los Angeles-based workers from the media salt mines who upped sticks and bought a farm.
John is a director-cinematographer specialising in wildlife photography, and Molly a chef and food blogger interested in rediscovering traditional farming methods as opposed to the large-scale, pesticide-intensive agriculture that’s highly profitable but ravishes the land. With advice and guidance from biodynamic farming guru Alan York, they bring a large plot with mostly avocado and lemon trees on a dusty sod of exhausted soil back to life, farming a wide variety of fruits and flocks of chickens and ducks whose eggs go down a storm with foodies.
Over the nearly 10 years covered in the film they expand into sheep, cows, and an endearing sow who becomes best buddies with a greasy-looking rooster, all of which John films with great skill and empathy. But it’s to the film’s credit that it doesn’t just become a self-congratulatory, highly professional home movie; Chester responsibly explores the downside and many challenges inherent in their agrarian methods. The couple have to decide whether they should go to war with the coyotes when their fowl flocks are decimated; meanwhile, their pro-diversity approach duly stimulates the bird and mammal population but that also means damaged fruit crops. Then there’s the growing threat from wildfires.
Ultimately, the film opts to accentuate the positive to an almost annoying extent, with sappy backing music and TV-doc-style production values; and some might wonder how exactly, for instance, they managed to raise enough to move out of a Santa Monica apartment and then suddenly buy what looks like a sizeable chunk of real estate. But, like Isabella Tree’s inspiring memoir Wilding, about the rehabilitation of the West Sussex Knepp estate, this might just inspire some to go full on Tom and Barbara Good and get back to nature.
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