‘The Biggest Little Farm’ Review: The Pleasures of D.I.Y. Agriculture

Directed and narrated by John Chester, a longtime documentary cinematographer, “The Biggest Little Farm” opens with the then-seemingly unstoppable California wildfires of 2018 threatening to wipe out the small farm Chester founded with his wife, Molly, nearly 10 years before.

The sight of Molly, who had been a chef and blogger before she and John got serious about their farm-to-table ideas, gathering clothes as billowing smoke is seen out the window behind her, is immediately tension-inducing.

But here the movie flashes back to the cute reason the couple left Los Angeles to found a farm they would run in an old-school, anti-corporate-agriculture style. (It involves a promise made to a dog.) As depicted in the movie, the Chesters’ inexperience at the outset seems close to naïveté. It’s a little implausible, but it gives the movie a lot of narrative juice.

Nature both gives and takes away and gives again as the Chesters work the land. Advised by their farm guru Alan York to embrace biodiversity, the couple stock the farm with all form of animal life. There’s enough organic waste (it’s good for the soil) to fill a couple of Troma movies. And sufficient animal blood and guts for an Italian cannibal picture.

There are funny moments, too, as when York first shows up for his consulting gig, and John can’t get over the fact that the maestro is dressed in sandals and linen. If you’ve entertained “Green Acres”-inspired reveries on the joys of “farm living,” this documentary may rid you of them in short order. But it may also revive your wonder at the weird but ultimately awe-inspiring ways in which humans can help nature do its work.

The Biggest Little Farm

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Rated PG. Running time: 1 hour 31 minutes.

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