The Biggest Little Farm Parent Guide
An environmental documentary that manages to be hopeful and joyful rather than dull and preachy.
Parent Movie Review
John and Molly Chester have a dream – “to build a life of purpose together.” And, thanks to a promise made to Todd, their rescue dog, and Molly’s desire to grow every kind of food she likes to cook, the idealistic young couple round up some investors and purchase 200 acres of farmland an hour north of Los Angeles.
The hopeful Chesters (and Todd) move into the newly christened Apricot Lane Farms in 2011, only to come face to face with harsh reality. The land is an ecological disaster: the soil is dry, compacted, and virtually dead; the irrigation pond has dried out; the beehives are filled with dead bees; and it seems unlikely that anything can grow there, let alone the vibrant, natural farm the duo envision. So, Molly calls in Alan York, a traditional farming guru, who becomes the couple’s mentor. “The objective,” Alan says, “is to emulate how natural ecosystems work. They regulate themselves through diversity.” With this goal in mind, the Chesters embrace diversity. They wind up raising 200 different crops and animals on their farm, including ducks, sheep, cows, a memorable pig named Emma, and Greasy, her rooster friend. They also plant cover crops and 75 different varieties of stoned fruit trees. The young farmers throw themselves into upgrading the nutrient starved soil, building a vermiculture operation to turn worm poop into compost and collecting the manure of their other animals. “Their poop is our gold,” says John. (I can’t tell you how glad I was that I could see the farm but not smell it.) The Chesters’ investment and hard work begin to pay off, but then the problems come: marauding coyotes, voracious snails, drought, wind, pesky gophers, fruit-eating birds…and finally, fire.
Parents looking for movies with positive messages will find them in abundance in this production. Its dominant theme is that of respecting the earth, learning to work with its rhythms, and not fighting against them to impose a manmade profit model of agriculture. But it has other messages, including those of tenacity, backbreaking hard work, and perseverance in the face of seemingly impossible challenges. As John says, quoting Alan: “It’s a simple way of farming. It’s just not easy.” John and Molly repeatedly come face to face with difficulties – as they say in exasperation, “Every step we take to improve our land crates the perfect habitat for the next pest.” But as they avoid jumping to obvious solutions, step back, analyze the problem, and research nature’s solutions, they nurture a richer biodiversity and a more productive farm. And, best of all, these positive messages come with virtually no content issues: there are two profanities and some scenes about the death of animals, which might upset sensitive little ones. That being said, this really isn’t a movie for little kids, although older elementary school age children will probably enjoy it, especially if they love animals.
The Biggest Little Farm is a beautiful movie, filled with breath-taking images of the farm coming back to life. There are moments of such beauty I gasped and others that brought me to tears. This is a film of hope, love, joy, and rebirth. It is a secular hymn to the earth – a visual poem, a cinematic psalm. And it’s a reminder to treasure the miraculous planet on which we live, and to seek out how we can heal, instead of harm, our only home.Directed by John Chester. Starring John Chester and Molly Chester. Running time: 91 minutes. Theatrical release May 10, 2019. Updated July 27, 2020
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The Biggest Little Farm
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Biggest Little Farm rated PG? The Biggest Little Farm is rated PG by the MPAA for mild thematic elements.
Violence: There are numerous pictures of dead chickens and dead ducks, killed by coyotes. Blood is shown on the wall of the chicken coop. A farmer is shown aiming his shotgun at a coyote. We hear the gunshot and later see the dead coyote. On another occasion, a farmer finds a paralyzed coyote and gets a handgun so he can shoot it. A farmer talks about euthanizing a lamb who is born with extruded intestines. A dog kills a rooster; blood is seen on the dog’s fur. A farmer drags a dead sheep’s body; talks about finding her missing lamb. Mention is made of a man’s death from cancer.
Sexual Content: A pig gives birth on two occasions. A cow gives birth and the farmer is shown pulling hard to help deliver the calf.
Profanity: A term of deity is used and one scatological term.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None noted.
Page last updated July 27, 2020
The Biggest Little Farm Parents' Guide
There are times when John and Molly are exhausted and disillusioned, feeling like they might not succeed against the non-stop challenges they face. Do you ever get discouraged and want to quit? What do you do to keep going?
Do you know where your food comes from? How do you find out?
John and Molly relied on unpaid volunteers who shared their commitment to natural farming. Their farm still uses unpaid farm and film interns. Do you think this provides young people with valuable experience? Or do you think it’s exploitative? Is it something you would be interested in doing?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
If you can’t resist Emma the pig and want to share the story with your little ones, you will be happy to know that John Chester and Jennifer L Meyer have written a picture book about her. Saving Emma the Pig is perfectly suited to children of any age.
Young readers can learn more about the wonders of nature from Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal’s Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt. This picture book shows plants growing aboveground, but also shows the exciting activity that happens beneath them.
And even the youngest readers will delight in Lois Ehlert’s beautiful picture book, Planting a Rainbow. If you want to get those readers to eat a greater variety of healthy foods, try Ms Ehlert’s Eating the Alphabet: Fruits & Vegetables from A to Z.
If you want to cook with natural ingredients, you can try the recipes in Molly Chester’s cookbook Back to Butter.
Kristin Kimball has recorded her own journey from the city to a natural farm, in The Dirty Life: A Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love.
Some farmers are devoted to bringing the benefits of natural food to people who aren’t sure where their next meal is coming from. Writer Natasha Bowens details their stories in The Color of Food: Stories of Race, Resilience, and Farming.
Historically, farming has been very difficult work. Laura Ingalls WIlder’s book, Farmer Boy, is a semi-biographical story about her husband, Almanzo Wilder’s childhood on a large New York farm.
And if you’re looking for a laugh, check out Dan Needles’ Wingfield’s World: The Complete Letters from Wingfield Farm. This novel-in-letters follow the humorous misadventures of Walt Wingfield, a stockbroker who trades in his corner office for a run-down farm in Ontario. Walt’s dream isn’t just natural farming – he plans to farm using only vintage equipment. Readers will laugh along with Walt’s neighbors as he struggles with recalcitrant horses, suicidal chickens, and violent goats.
The most recent home video release of The Biggest Little Farm movie is August 20, 2019. Here are some details…
Related home video titles:
John Chester is an experienced filmmaker as well as being a farmer. For information about his previous filming projects, click here.
More short films about Apricot Lane Farms can be found here.
Food Inc. is a documentary that stands in stark contrast to The Biggest Little Farm. Food Inc. looks into how most of our food is produced: grown on monoculture farms and processed industrially. Be careful – it may make you nervous about going to the grocery store.
On a lighter, kid-friendly note, Disney’s animated film Home on the Range tells the story of three determined cows who refuse to have their comfortable little farm be sold to an evil land-grabber.
Fans of Emma will likely enjoy Babe, one of the earliest movies to use CGI to make it look like animals could talk. Suitable for all ages.
Viewers who get a kick out of the friendship between Emma and Greasy will certainly enjoy the classic tale of barnyard friendship – Charlotte’s Web.