There’s a charm to watching crazy, ambitious people put it all out there for some crazy dream. For me, it’s the idea of someone attempting to reach some lofty goal and either crashing hard or succeeding beyond your wildest imagination. Succeed or fail, someone in this world is chasing some higher calling, and in the end, you wish that person was you.
In John Chester’s The Biggest Little Farm, he is joined by his wife Molly as the film’s ambitious crazies. After getting evicted from their apartment because of their dog, the Chesters made the ultimate big decision in life and bought a farm—about 200 acres in Moorpark, just at the foothills of Ventura County, California.
Almost instantly, the dream turned into stark reality with dirt as hard as rock, land stripped of its nutrients, and very little experience in farming. Wisely, they decide to get help in the form of Alan York, who quite frankly seemed more like a New-Age hippie, than an expert in farming. He dispenses a great deal of Circle-of-Life wisdom and the Chesters blindly follow his advice.
“…the Chesters made the ultimate big decision in life and bought a farm…”
Surrounded by other experienced farmers, York convinces the Chesters to plant everything and raise every kind of farm animal. He tells them not to focus on one crop like the farmers around them. Their philosophy is to be as biodiverse and organic as possible. With patience, nature will lead a path to success.
At the start, the farm experiences a modicum of success. Their produce and fresh eggs sell quickly at farmers markets, but with success comes seemingly overwhelming challenges. As the egg business grows, the chicken coops are regularly raided by coyotes. As their crops grew, they’d be faced with infestations of snails, aphids, birds, and gophers as if the farm existed only to feed the indigenous wildlife. As the attacks on their farm increased, the Chesters stood firm on not fixing the problems with pesticides and animal traps. But how?
The joy of watching The Biggest Little Farm is the Chesters’ eight-year journey of uncompromising success and the faith that the Earth had a grander scheme in the art and science of farming that the rest of the world forgot.
“…banked everything on the simple belief of how the world and nature work together around them…”
You have to admire a film that takes a gamble. Quite frankly, the Chesters by faith just started filming on a dream. Over eight years, there was no guarantee of success, and I’m sure the Vegas-odds leaned toward failure. But to say The Biggest Little Farm is an inspiration is a major understatement. The Chester’s basically took a major mid-life crisis in their life and banked everything on the simple belief of how the world and nature work together around them. The real inspiration comes in the fact that in only one instance did they compromise their convictions on running the farm.
Firmly ensconced in my own mid-life crisis writing film reviews all day, I couldn’t help but feel jealous with the Chesters. As the film started, I kept thinking, “I could do that.” Soon, my thinking changed to “there’s no way, I could ever do that.” These people are warriors.
As a film, The Biggest Little Farm not only has by-the-minute drama and an ever-present tension between success and failure, but as an accomplished cinematographer, the film’s images of the farm is breathtaking. Whether they won or lost the fight, this is a beautiful film to watch with a fantastic score behind it.
While the world debates over Global Warming/Ice Ages/Climate Change, the Chesters show on a relatively small plot of land, how plants, animals, and people work together and gives hope that small changes can make a huge impact on the environment. It’s impossible to walk away from The Biggest Little Farm and not think we, as the shepherds of the Earth, could be doing this a whole lot better.
The Biggest Little Farm (2019) Directed by John Chester. Featuring John Chester, Molly Chester.
8.5 out of 10 stars