5 Good Reasons to Watch Biggest Little Farm on Netflix
Biggest Little Farm, a documentary following the true story of John and Molly Chester, opens with destruction, a wildfire that could possibly destroy all they have worked for at Apricot Lane Farms. Their chickens, cows, fruit trees, and wildlife habitats all returned to a lush farm that was once arid, dead, and lifeless. In their 8 years of farming, they have faced problems both big and small: dead soil, wind, coyotes, drought, and the death of their beloved mentor Alan York, the biodynamic pioneer they brought in to help turn their dream of a biodiverse farm into a reality.
At times heart-wrenching and silly, both defeated and triumphant, this film brings the viewer along for the ride without being overwhelmingly heavy. Will the land flourish from the dry caked soil that it is now? Will intense rain and wind blow the topsoil away into the ocean?
This expertly produced documentary strikes a balance in tone and feel. Home footage is intermixed with professional footage and animation making this film more personal and relatable. The soundtrack bridges the gap between screen and viewer, helping the viewer feel what the on-screen people are feeling.
Reason 1: The Animals
Emma is one picky pig, who will only eat her greens if they are soaked in apple cider vinegar, and yet she will still nose around them. The chickens are continually pecking at John. Molly and John’s dog, Todd, inspired them to fulfill their dream of life on a farm. They wanted to give Todd a better life than the one he had. We watch guard dogs grow from floppy puppies to full-grown protectors of the farm and hunters of gophers and coyotes. We see little piglets with floppy ears and curly tails snort around in the mud and eventually sold to the butcher.
Reason 2: The People
Molly Chester, a private chef in Los Angeles, had a dream to own a natural farm. Alan York, a pioneer in biodynamic farming, later became a friend. John Chester, a cameraman and wildlife filmmaker, grapples with the reality of farm life: killing wild animals hunting his livestock or birds that eat 70% of fruit produced by their trees, originally meant for sale. Their first hired hands, Flavio and Raul, are the backbone of the beginning operation. Raul has worked the farm at Apricot Lane through the past five owners.
Reason 3: The Themes
Biggest Little Farm elucidates on relatable themes that many of us face: the desire to live a purposeful life and the desire for fresh, real, vegetables, fruits, and meat. What does harmony mean within the larger context of a farm and, by extension, the earth? Can there be harmony between all beings in nature without discord? Is a coyote really a pest or does it help the ecosystem? The Chesters were seeking a deeper purpose in life, much like many of us. They left the city to try their hand at the old idea — seemingly revolutionary in these times of monoculture — of modern farming. What happens when you lead a purposeful life? Their lives, the lives of those around them and, by extension our lives, are impacted after watching this film.
Reason 4: The Idea
This documentary doesn’t try to desperately, annoyingly convince the viewer that biodynamic farming is the way forward, but it makes a good case. In the beginning, the viewer is given a few examples of monoculture farms in the area around Los Angeles. Swathes of farmland with one crop – shielded from view, animals, people, soil. It feels impersonal and sterile. A farm simply devoted to producing eggs or mushrooms with the highest possible yield. Monoculture is the process of farming vast expanses of a single type of crop like cattle, mushrooms, strawberries, or eggs. Biodynamic farming typically has multiple forms of farming (animals, crops, and soil) that are treated as a single, interrelated system.
Reason 5: The Growth
The most beautiful aspect of this film is the growth we see over eight years on the farm: the growth of the soil, puppies, and piglets, the growth of the fruit trees, and the growth in the people who run it. John, the primary narrator in the story, moves through a cycle of naivety, disillusionment, and acceptance. The viewers are living the dichotomy between the ideal of farm life and reality with him, processing it as he does. What does it mean to lose an animal you are raising to use for food later? What does it mean to lose 70% of your planned market fruit? What does it mean to kill a coyote after years of trying not to? How do you reconcile the ideal of a biodiverse farm with the reality of a business?
Biggest Little Farm isn’t a deadly serious environmental film. The Chester family has an unnamed investor who makes this farm feasible and possible, especially in the beginning. There is no talk of climate change and how it is affecting their farm. But what this film lacks in adding to the conversation on the role of climate change in modern farming, it makes up for in its feel-good gentle introduction to possibilities in the world of biodiverse farming. This documentary is a beautiful introduction to a complicated and often inaccessible topic. I recommend you take the time to watch Biggest Little Farm.
Did you watch Biggest Little Farm? Do you have a movie to recommend on the subjects of biodiversity, farming, and organic produce? Drop it in the comments below!