Movie review: The Biggest Little Farm

the farmers are not alone?

biggest little farmMy wife and I had been seeing the trailer for The Biggest Little Farm at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany for months. It is an “environmental advocacy documentary with a satisfying side dish of hope for the future.”

The premise is that, in part as a promise to their dog Todd (seriously), John and Molly Chester left their city lives. They found themselves owning a fairly arid piece of land about 200 miles from Los Angeles that they were going to farm, despite an enormous dearth of experience.

In the beginning, they did have an agricultural guru to help them figure out how to start to create a diverse ecosystem. Each year was a series of successes – fruit trees! – and frustrations – birds eating the fruit on the trees?!

There are a lot of interesting characters, most of them non-human: the various birds and the snakes and the coyotes, Emma the pig and her BFF Greasy the rooster, to name a few? Do we need ALL of them or are some of them merely predators?

Slowly, after a number of years, it appeared that perhaps the promise that the farmers are not alone in cultivating the land was kicking in. Will the farm withstand the notorious southern California droughts, flooding and fires?

Some of the critics (90% positive on Rotten Tomatoes) thought that the filmmakers, John Chester and Mark Monroe – kept back some of facts from the narrative. Surely, the more grisly aspects were explained rather than shown. If it’s a little infomercially at the end, it was earned.

I suppose I left the theater a bit annoyed, but not at the film. Much of the concepts the Chesters were using I remember reading about it elementary school, MANY years ago. How did we end up with farm after farm with a single crop, year after year?

This, of course, eventually meant that unnatural, expensive and patentable fertilizers were developed to “fix” the land when all one really needed was biodiversity and and a bit of faith.