I personally would have called this film ‘We Bought a Farm.’
Last Thursday, DOC NYC premiered a new documentary film from John Chester, titled ‘The Biggest Little Farm.’ The film chronicles the journey of John, and his wife, Molly who have evicted from their apartment due to the noise being made by their beloved dog, Todd. Despite this being a problematic issue, they instead see this an opportunity to buy a farm and live in harmony with nature, all of which they promise to Todd. After attracting some investors, they settle on a large piece of land in Moorpark, California that is so devoid of life, that dirt mounds don’t even break apart upon impact.
As one would expect, this experience turns out to be anything but easy for the couple, not just in monetary expenses, but also in maintaining their environment. Coyotes are killing their chickens, birds are pecking at the fruit making them inedible, and snails are latching onto their plants, and these problems are only the appetizers! Fortunately for them, they bring in a close friend of theirs, Alan, who turns out to be an expert on farming and gives them some unforgettable advice. And over the course of seven years, they will not only to bring this farm back to life but help it become self-sustainable.
Something I appreciated about the film is the story that Chester decided to tell. One of the many helpful things that the couple learned from Alan was to solve their issues by fully observing their environment and applying creativity. As a result, they not only fixed their problems, but the results ended attracting new animals to their farm, creating diversity. Because they dealt with their issues in a more harmonious and less violent approach, the “community” they created flourished. There is something profound to this kind of story, in that everyone and everything has a role in a community, even if it starts out looking like a problem
The coyote, for instance, pops up as a consistent issue to the farm, and anyone on the outside would label the coyote as merely a nuisance. By the seventh year working the farm, however, John managed to even find a place for the coyote on their farm. It feels like anyone who feels unsure of their lives can take a pointer or two away from this. My personal favorite, which turned out to be a delightful surprise, was how the Chester’s figured out to take care of the snails. Seeing their learning process and how they keep both the farm and their own family life in harmony is worth the price of admission.
If the film does have any faults worth speaking of, it’s that tone is maybe a bit too uplifting and saccharine. This is not a major issue, but with this type of story, a few more scenes depicting their struggle would have made the outcome of the film much stronger. There is also a moment in the beginning where the farm is seen in danger of being destroyed by a wildfire. It is, in a way, an intense way to start off the doc, and the suspense builds over time as you see the Chesters gradually succeeding. For the audience’s sake, I won’t spoil what the outcome of that scene, but it does feel a bit underwhelming. In addition, there were so many points toward the end that the film could have concluded, but it decided to keep going. It’s about as many fake endings as The Lord of the Rings series.
Despite these small issues, though, The Biggest Little Farm is a delightful watch for anyone who loves farming. The Chesters’ quest to become farmers is entertaining to watch, and the story itself is especially inspiring to anyone who may unsure of where they fit in life.
The Biggest Little Farm will be widely released on April 5th, 2019.