For a business that ultimately would struggle with countless setbacks, Apricot Lane had a very serendipitous start. This is the story of farming and The Biggest Little Farm follows that arc. In The Biggest Little Farm, filmmaker-entrepreneur John Chester captures the … While advocacy documentaries have never needed strong visual sense to make their point heard (see: An Inconvenient Truth) it’s frustrating that so many don’t use the medium more effectively. Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed. "Every step we take to improve our land is creating the perfect habitat for the next pest," John says in the film. Their orchard reached protifability, and in 2017, Apricot Lane sold more than 500,000 pounds of food. Though John might best have utilized his folksy-preacher voiceover to explain specific farming processes, he mostly employs it to jab the audience in the ribs with faux-profound insights or to telegraph obvious plot beats. The largest part of the Resnick family fortune, estimated at $ 4.2 billion comes from the pistachios and almonds grown on their 64,000 acres farm in California. They committed to working in harmony with nature, as opposed to intervening against it, to create a self-perpetuating environmental network. A single investor came in around the five-year mark to finance “The Biggest Little Farm,” which came in for under $1 million. Vikram Murthi is a freelance writer and critic currently based out of Brooklyn. While Apricot Lane Farm’s origin story is plenty compelling, there’s an often insurmountable gap between the film’s form and content. But none of it has much impact because it’s so narratively streamlined: The imagery is little more than a visual aid to the Chesters’ story. In 2011, the Chesters bought 200 acres of neglected land in Moorpark, California and, with the help of mentor and guru Alan York, spent the past eight years building it up from scratch. “The Biggest Little Farm” opens this Friday, May 10, in Los Angeles and New York, and nationwide May 17. The planet lost one if its greatest allies. Posted in: Food and Agriculture Tags: beginning farmers, Biggest Little Farm, diversified farming, healthy soil, John Chester, Laurie David, movie review, soil, sustainable agriculture. By the end of its second year, Apricot Lane Farms was home to 10,000 orchard trees, more than 200 different crops and a wide variety of animals. New cameras allowed Chester to create more hi … Molly was a personal chef with a passion for good ingredients – and a belief that good food comes from good farming. After his incessant barking forced them to move out of their small Santa Monica apartment, the couple decided to fulfill their dream of starting a “traditional farm,” one driven by regenerative agricultural practices that emulate how natural, bio-diverse ecosystems function. Unless that message is simply We Bought A Farm! "The pastures that [the chickens] are eating off are fortified with a more complex, higher density nutrient that now is being transferred to that egg," he tells Inc. Shooting a documentary about the process at the same time takes audacity. The saccharine score all but spells out how the audience is supposed to feel every single step of the way, and the less said about the precious animated sequences in the first act the better. Take a broken-down 200-acre property that has been transformed into an incredibly lush and diverse biodynamic farm over eight years and capture it all on film and you get The Biggest Little Farm. Jessica Zack May 15, 2019 Updated: May 17, 2019, 10:35 am. Even Emma makes a full recovery, and gets a boyfriend to boot. Our team has been charged with the mission of creating a well-balanced ecosystem and rich soils that produce nutrient-dense foods while treating the environment and the animals with respect. Many of the film's most endearing moments depict different species interacting in unexpected ways. Apricot Lane Farms, they called it. But given the subject matter, it’s disingenuous not to confront the issue at all. They learn about the threats that endanger their farm’s survival, from typical pests—coyotes, gophers, snails, etc.—to unpredictable weather patterns, like a “wind season” and, more pertinently, California’s historic drought this past decade. While Apricot Lane Farm’s origin story is plenty compelling, there’s an often insurmountable gap between the film’s form and content. In 2010, shortly after drawing up their business plan, the Chesters attracted an investor that had not only invested in farms before but was so interested in regenerative farming that the individual agreed to finance the entire operation. Though unleashing nature was necessary for Apricot Lane to thrive, it also opened something of a Pandora's Box, introducing a variety of pests, bacteria, and fungal diseases. The Biggest Little Farm brushes aside the financial burden of starting and sustaining a small biodynamic farm with the quick mention of mystery investors “who saw this old way of farming as the future.” Little attention is paid to Apricot Lane’s business realities, especially during the period when pests were decimating 70% of their fruit yield, or how the Chesters’ ideological experiment fares in a competitive marketplace. It’s the same narrative found in any great story, that is, in spite of many hardships, our heroes persevere and succeed. Even during his long battle with cancer he was advising us to the very end. Wesley, a Scottish Highland bull, was introduced to Apricot Lane Farms last year. One of the farm's first products, eggs, eventually became so popular that 50 dozen packages would sell out at farmer's markets in less than an hour. In case you couldn’t guess, the film closes with a URL where “the story continues.”. John and Molly Chester’s entire life changed when they adopted Todd, their beloved rescue dog. And “The Biggest Little Farm” is most invested in capturing not the Chesters’ renewal, but the rehabilitation of their land, from dried-out hillside to lush, recycling idyll. "Honestly, I think we were right.". It’s possible that including such dry elements would distract from the “inspirational” story. A Norfolk farm shop is investing £250,000 in a major new building – an ambitious expansion which was only made possible thanks to a massive lockdown sales surge. And it’s not like those disinterested in learning that language don’t have other avenues—books, articles, blogs—for exploring a topic in depth. At one point, birds ate 70 percent of the farm's ripest fruit while snails ravaged plant crops and coyotes preyed on chickens. And "The Biggest Little Farm" is most invested in capturing not the Chesters' renewal, but the rehabilitation of their land, from dried-out hillside to lush, recycling idyll. A fascinating case study in regenerative agriculture--a type of organic farming that continuously enriches soil and can help reduce climate change by sequestering carbon--the story of Apricot Lane Farms is also an inside look at the highs and extreme lows of putting everything on the line to chase after an ambitious entrepreneurial dream. "Everyone told us we were crazy.". After six months, the Chesters had spent their first year's budget without planting a single crop. Chester bookends his film with menacing footage of the 2018 California wildfires, which were right on the cusp of affecting Apricot Lanes. The Biggest Little Farm has many valuable points to make about the connection between how our food is grown and eco-friendly living, but style betrays substance so often here that the message gets lost in the shuffle. His background as a wildlife cinematographer is evident in the farm footage, which ranges from home-movie vérité to slickly traditional nature doc (complete with time-lapse sequences). When the Chesters finally introduce animals and crops to their farm is when the documentary hits its stride, capturing everything from the tiny movements of insects in stunning detail to the unlikely friendship between a chicken named Greasy and the farm's 320-pound pig, Emma. John and Molly Chester’s work to develop a farm on 200 acres of outside of Las Angeles is the subject of the documentary, The Biggest Little Farm, playing the … A Traditional Foods Farm. The land they settle on is Apricot Lane Farms, a patch of land located in Moorpark, California that is anything but fertile when they arrive. While the vivid natural imagery resembles the TV programs John previously shot for cable network Animal Planet, the film amounts to much more than a wildlife movie by chronicling the Chesters's multi-year struggle to keep their business alive. Owls killed 15,000 gofers that were ravaging fruit trees. The Biggest Little Farm explores the 8-year struggle to revive a fallow family farm. Alan York, one of the world’s most well respected soil, plant and biodynamic consultants passed on in February 2014. Thus the story of the new documentary The Biggest Little Farm co-written and directed by John Chester begins. The Biggest Little Farm is a gorgeous documentary on par with the raw beauty of Planet Earth or any other nature documentary. ‘Biggest Little Farm’ wasn’t built on idealism, but desire to dive into nature. Parents need to know that The Biggest Little Farm is a poignant, multi-year-spanning documentary about Southern California filmmaker John Chester (an Emmy-winning documentarian) and his wife, personal chef Molly Chester, who embark on a journey to go back to the land and run a traditional farm. Shooting a documentary about the process at the same time takes audacity. John attributes the quality of the product to Apricot Lane's increasingly rich soil. There’s a more potentially complicated and fascinating film in the material the Chesters choose to elide. Starting a farm from scratch without any farming experience takes real courage. Apricot Lane Farm eventually becomes a beautiful place of abundance. Though the Chesters’ idealism is quickly complicated by fickle nature, their perseverance never falters. Chester declined to share financial data, but did state that he expects to sell 650,000 pounds of food in 2019. Additionally, they contend with the practical difficulties of living alongside many animals, including Emma the pregnant pig and Greasy the rooster, each with their own specific needs. A broadly crowd-pleasing documentary, The Biggest Little Farm chronicles the Chesters’ journey from city-dwellers to farming professionals, capturing the myriad obstacles they faced along the way. It didn't take long for the couple to learn that building a farm literally from the ground up--and on dead soil--was even harder than they had anticipated. When the barking of their beloved dog Todd leads to an eviction notice from their tiny LA apartment, John and Molly Chester make a choice that takes them out of the city and onto 200 acres in the foothills of Ventura County, naively endeavoring to build one of the most diverse farms of its kind in complete coexistence with nature. The Biggest Little Farm champions bio-diversity and restorative practices, but for all of its talk about the complexity of nature, it seems entirely disinterested in the tempestuous machinations of the surrounding climate. Molly Chester is also producing Apricot Lane Farms Avocado Oil ($50) and Apricot Lane Farms Bourbon Lemon Marmalade ($21), and has a “Biggest … In short, John Chester, who directed The Biggest Little Farm himself, doesn’t trust the audience to become invested in his story. With help from an expert mentor and a team of both experienced and new-to-farming … They knew nothing about farming. Plants that were classified as weeds began cycling nutrients back into the soil. A scene from the documentary “The Biggest Little Farm.” Neon If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you know two things: Contempt is alive and well in America. Where it separates itself is the personal story and just how invested the viewer becomes in their success. John was an award-winning filmmaker, specialising in wildlife documentary. Again, somber talk of the climate apocalypse might divert attention from the shots of cute animals, or upset the publicity dimension, or run counter to the film’s solutions-first agenda. It would also likely soften The Biggest Little Farm’s potential as a marketing campaign for Apricot Lane Farms—a function the Chesters dance around and then lean into heavily by the end. John quit his job as a cameraman and wildlife filmmaker, Molly gave up her position as a chef, and the couple moved out of their tiny Los Angeles apartment to live on a giant plot of mostly infertile land just north of L.A. "It sounded like a meaningful life," John says in the film. Most egregious is the Chesters’ choice to entirely ignore the specter of climate change and how it would impact their farm’s long-term sustainability. While The Biggest Little Farm is certainly a compelling story of two determined entrepreneurs harnessing nature in inspiring ways, it's difficult to gauge the success of the Chesters's venture. By at least one measure, however, the Chesters have succeeded in realizing an ambitious dream. John Chester (pictured) and wife Molly made the eco-documentary, The Biggest Little Farm. Five years after founding Apricot Lane, however, wildlife and insects that served as predators helped rebalance the pest infestations that had been plaguing the Chesters. If you're looking for a nitty-gritty, transparent look at exactly what it costs to finance this entrepreneurial dream, you're not going to find it here, as the film never discloses the amount of their unnamed benefactor's investment, or how much revenue Apricot Lane generated during any of the eight years that the documentary covers. In The Biggest Little Farm, filmmaker-entrepreneur John Chester captures the improbable story of how he and his wife Molly built a 200-acre farm with a singular goal: achieving the highest level of biodiversity possible. "Just reawakening the soil and building a soil system that actually regenerates itself is a feat unto itself," John Chester tells Inc. "To try to make the crops and the livestock interact in a way that is healthy for all is a level of complexity that, had I known in the beginning, I probably would have steered clear of.". This documentary tells the story of two newbie farmers and their rescue dog as they leave Los Angeles behind to build a farm that will work in harmony with nature in Moorpark, California. The movie screened at the Sundance Film Festival in January and hits theaters on Friday. "The way that we and our investor saw it was, this was long-term thinking--that in 10 years, people are going to start looking for farms that are growing stuff in a regenerative way," John says. A new documentary chronicles the eight-year journey of two entrepreneurs pursuing a type of organic farming that can help reduce climate change. It’s a must see that can only truly be appreciated in a … Chester is heavily invested in the ins and outs of manure, but he either can’t, or chooses not to, smell the stink coming off his own film. Non-fiction filmmaking isn’t merely a vehicle for narrative storytelling or stealth advertising; it’s an art form with its own language. The Biggest Little Farm Wildlife documentarian John Chester, his wife Molly and dog Todd up sticks from their Santa Monica apartment to grow an … Instead of even mentioning the root causes of such an event, the film shrugs it off with a grateful acknowledgment of the changing winds (“If we’ve learned anything, forward momentum and hope, that’s what nurtures luck…”). Their long term objective of emulating a natural ecosystem where plants and animals work together in harmony began to seem less and less plausible. A Missouri Farm Bureau insurance affiliate (that’s right, those family farmers at the Farm Bureau have a big hand in the insurance industry) was the carrier for one of the hog producer defendants. Apricot Lane Farms is located 40 miles north of Los Angeles and 20 miles east of Ventura in Moorpark, CA. They invested more than $ 100 million in sustainable technologies, to create drought resistant pistachios, to adapt to the ongoing drought in California during recent years. 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