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The Biggest Little Farm - Movie Review

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The Biggest Little Farm (2019)

The only thing more difficult than making a feature documentary film may be running a farm. But farmer/filmmaker John Chester does both in his new film, The Biggest Little Farm, a sweet little documentary that chronicles the near-decade-long struggle of he and wife Molly’s plan to leave the city life behind and make a run at turning 200 acres of barren California land into an environmentally sustainable farm that exists in harmony with nature.

While the difficulties of farming is certainly one of the less important take-aways from this enchanting documentary, there’s a much bigger message at play here. One of the film’s grandest lessons is that as farmers AND consumers, it is essential that we humans pay close attention to nature and try to understand the interconnectedness of everything.

"it is the enjoyment of the journey in addition to the earnestness of the message that prove the film’s biggest success"


Though that all may sound a bit cheesy and obnoxiously idealistic, once you watch the film and see the process of nature taking care of itself, you’ll understand. For instance, what happens when gophers invade your farm? Snakes and owls move in to take care of the problem. What do you do when snails and slugs invade your fruit crops? Nothing. Snails are a delicacy to ducks. Both the film, and the concept it is pushing, are true things of beauty as the artistry and allure of Chester’s cinematography makes it all one beautiful sight to behold. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll most certainly cover your eyes as the realities of life and death on the farm play out on the screen. But most of all, you’ll sit in awe at the miracle of the healing power of nature.

As the film opens, we meet John Chester, a nature cinematographer and Molly Chester, a chef and food blogger. Beneath playful shots of their urban life in a cramped apartment, John blames his rescue dog Todd as the impetus for the family’s hair-brained venture. Though John and Molly had most certainly been planning the move beforehand, the dog’s incessant barking proves too much for city life. Well, that and a promise to the rescue that this family would be his last.

So, the family loads up and heads to California where they purchase a 200-acre once-thriving farm where they enlist the design talents of hippie agriculturalist Alan York to devise a plan to bring the depleted land back to life.

We are along for the ride as the team creates irrigation ditches, agricultural ponds, worm composting bins, and otherwise begin the process of land rejuvenation and crop diversification, which Alan maintains will prove successful in the long run as a naturally sustainable farm. The long run… as in seven or eight years!

Sure, it isn’t lost on me that this all sounds quite the bore, but the footage is just so darn beautiful with sweeping drone shots that give us the lay of the land, while cutesy close-ups of baby sheep, chickens, and piglets tickle our feels. There are likely better documentaries out there that get into the dirty details of sustainable farming – see Food Inc. or Netflix’s Rotten, for instance, but in The Biggest Little Farm’s case, it is the enjoyment of the journey in addition to the earnestness of the message that prove the film’s biggest success. The Biggest Little Farm (2019)

The trials and tribulations of farm life nearly prove too much for the ambitious endeavor, as floods, drought, pests, and even fire threaten to end the dream early. After all, this is California where pestilence has sadly become a regular occurrence. However, despite the struggles, Chester is rightfully more interested in putting the film’s focus on the hope and humanity of the experience than he is in making a statement about how hard farming is. And though the film might have had a bit more bite were it to explore those hardships in more illustrative detail – namely, how much money did the mission take and where did the money come from, but as it is, the film’s message is a much-welcomed bit of positivity in a world and an industry that can use it right about now.

The Biggest Little Farm is a crowd-pleasing film that leaves us with the notion that if we all work together, and do the right thing, perhaps we can make a difference in this world. How’s that for reaping the fruits of your labor?

Also, stay tuned for the film’s closing credits as it features an exclusive new song from the Avett Brothers, appropriately called Sun, Flood, or Drought. You’ll be glad you did.

4/5 stars

The Biggest Little Farm (2019)


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The Biggest Little Farm (2019)

MPAA Rating: PG for mild thematic elements.
91 mins
: John Chester
John Chester, Mark Monroe
John Chester, Molly Chester
: Documentary

Memorable Movie Quote: "This all started with a promise that we'd leave the big city and build a life in harmony with nature."
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Release Date:
May 17, 2019
DVD/Blu-ray Release Date:
No details available.
Synopsis: THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM chronicles the eight- year quest of John and Molly Chester as they trade city living for 200 acres of barren farmland and a dream to harvest in harmony with nature.

Through dogged perseverance and embracing the opportunity provided by nature's conflicts, the Chesters unlock and uncover a biodiverse design for living that exists far beyond their farm, its seasons, and our wildest imagination.

The Biggest Little Farm (2019)

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