THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM – 200 Acres Of Pure Mother Nature

Well hello from the editor’s desk. Having been an avid Salty Popcorn writer since 2011 or so, JK has asked me to step in and help out with the editing and publishing of our Salty Popcorn movie reviews. With JK already calling dibs on the coveted “Salty” sign-off, we’re still brainstorming for the best name for my signature sign-offs. For now, just call me Salty Claire – Queen of the Cob: of the House Salty, First of Her Name, the Unscripted, Queen of the Celluloid and the DCP, Claireesi of the Great Silver Screen, Breaker of News, and Mother of the Popped Corn.

Over lunch one afternoon, King Kernel JK told me about a new screener he had received for a film called THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM. After watching the trailer, I knew I must be the one to review it. In these saddening times of bushfire, drought and destruction, this documentary is a pure little ray of sunshine. Gorgeous sweeping shots of lush green landscapes and the breathtaking beauty of differing species existing side by side. Narrated by the farmers themselves, this film feels like a much needed hug that tells you everything is going to be ok – if only for its 90min runtime.

THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM is rated PG and releases in Australia on 16th January from the good people at Madman Films. It will be a limited release title, so keep an eye out for screenings near you.

Biggest Little Farm - Todd
Todd The Dog

BY CLAIRE SMITH

THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM SYNOPSIS:  HOW A DOG, A PIG, AND A MARRIED COUPLE STEPPED ASIDE AND LET NATURE NURTURE THEM

THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM follows John and Molly Chester in their ambition to undertake in their lofty goals of Traditional Farming. That is – farming with little intervention. Not just organic farming where no pesticides are used, and things like nets and traps are used instead of poison bait. Traditional farming utilises different crops and animals on the one farm land in order to encourage Mother Nature to work with the farmer, not against them. One trees pest becomes another animals food. 

Biggest Little Farm - Greasy and Emma
Greasy and Emma

THE FLYWHEEL OF TRADITIONAL FARMING – THE MAGIC OF BIODIVERSITY AND PERMACULTURE

The story documents John and Molly’s life from acclaimed wildlife documentary film-maker (John) and traditional food chef (Molly) over eight years – from the dry and dusty rubble of a twice foreclosed farm lot to the green and thriving acres of Apricot Lane Farms. 

The story is told in a way that it not only follows John and Molly’s journey, but it also supports the story of the animals. They’re not overly anthropomorphised but they’re a major focus of the tale – and it works to humanise the story. The Chester’s decision to start the farm is attributed to the adoption of a cornflower-blue-eyed rescue dog called Todd. Todd is a constant barker when left alone and the newly married pair are soon evicted from their apartment because of noise complaints. From a promise to the pupper that their home will be his last, the idea to start their farming dreams was born. It was a goal they had spoken of previously, but doggo Todd is used as the story catalyst for them to make the move to look for investors and start searching for their little slice of harmony in nature. 

Biggest Little Farm - Snoozing Piglet
Snoozing Piglet

The acreage is a veritable dustbowl when they eventually acquire it and so John and Molly quickly enlist the assistance of traditional farming guru Alan York. York shows them the magic of biodiversity and permaculture and assists them with the design and set up of their project. It came at a cost – their first year’s budget was blown within six months and all they had to show for it was a state of the art worm-tea composter facility. 

WORK WITH NATURE AND YOU’LL NEVER FARM ALONE

Once the crops were eventually established and the farming flywheel started turning, John and Molly started to see the magic behind York’s design. The sheep trimmed the ground cover crops and turned the grass into fertiliser for the fruit trees. The flies laid eggs in the fertiliser which became food for the chickens. The fertile land attracted gophers which aerated the soil. But how to deal with that Wiley Coyote? And what about the birds that are destroying the fruit crops?

Just as the farm started to take stride and John and Molly had a host of questions needing answering, York reveals he’s suffering from terminal cancer and sadly passes away. The Chesters are on their own to figure this one out. 

Biggest Little Farm - Apricot Lane Farms
Apricot Lane Farms

MAKING FARMING ACCESSIBLE – HOW THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM SHARES THE WONDER OF MOTHER NATURE

Told with the motives of not only John and Molly, but of the animals as well, THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM captivates you in to the story of trust and triumph. The harmony of the farm comes with a level of disharmony – in the death of an abnormally born sheep, or repeated poultry slaughters from the coyote attacks, or the death of a well loved central character. Mother Nature is relentless and brutal, but somehow beautiful. The animal’s goals and needs drive the story as much as the needs of the farmers.

Narrated by John, the film is captivating and comforting. The beauty of the story and the setup is assisted by its simplicity. Sleepy still shots of snoozing piglets contrast breathtaking aerial drone shots of starlings nesting for the night. The slow dance of nature is highlighted in harmonic shots of animals coexisting and peacefully interacting. With the turmoil of recent events in the news at home and abroad, THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM is a reminder to step back and wonder at the magic of nature.

More than just a simple circle of life – the film highlights a delicate balance between all living things. Everything on Apricot Lane Farms has a purpose and when one element of the farm becomes overpopulated, the other elements and animals step up to play their part in keeping the balance. The problem of a coyote soon becomes the problem of not enough coyotes. 

Biggest Little Farm - John and Molly
John and Molly

CONCLUSION – BIGGEST LITTLE FARM IS EXACTLY THE FILM YOU DIDN’T KNOW YOU NEEDED RIGHT NOW.

Garnering Oscar buzz for best documentary, BIGGEST LITTLE FARM deserves all the accolades it receives. It will restore your sense of awe and wonder at the nature of living things and leave you feeling grateful for such a beautiful story. Start saving now for the airfare to Los Angeles, because you’ll want to visit Apricot Lane Farms after seeing this film. It’s brutally honest, heartbreaking but somehow heartwarming and hopeful. It’s a breath of fresh air from the recent news and it’s just the thing we need more of right now. Bring the kids, bring your parents, take someone you love and watch this film with them. It will transport you to a calm and simple belief that maybe, just maybe there’s still a glimmer of hope for us yet. 

KERNEL CLAIRE’S POP SCORE:

YOUR CRITIC:

Kernel Claire has been writing for Salty Popcorn since 2011 and has recently stepped in to the editor’s chair to help out with publishing the Kernel’s collective reviews. When not hand-modelling for Kernel Jason’s food-reviews, Claire can be found scootering through Sydney at a reasonable, defensive driving speed; or fussing far too much over her little black rescue cat Baxter.

Claire has worked in the Australian Cinema Industry for almost 20yrs and loves it the most when she can report “sometimes I get paid to watch movies”. She’ll pretty much attend any event that includes a lanyard.

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.