Monday, April 20, 2020

Hulu in Quarantine: The Biggest Little Farm

Usually it's my husband who's pumping the documentaries around here. He just finished Ken Burns' series on the Vietnam war and is currently binging through Street Food Asia, another series.  While I truly enjoy documentary films and series, they're not what I'm seeking out during these strange days (most recently it's been the escapism of LOST).

It was during one of my LOST-binges that I actually learned about this documentary, The Biggest Little Farm, through an Earth-positive ad on Hulu and I thought the scenes looked really interesting. The story turned out to be one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen; I cried at least thrice, and I'm highly considering watching it again this afternoon with the kids. You do not need to be a farmer or an environmentalist to enjoy this film, but chances are it will inspire you to consider (or at least appreciate) both.

The film tracks the progress of sustainable farm-building by the Chesters, John and Molly, with the help of biodynamic consultant and expert, Alan York. Apricot Lane Farm, the property the Chesters purchase and hope to develop, is a huge expanse of workable farmland in southern California which holds a lot of promise for the couple and their rescue dog, Todd, but has been seriously damaged by years of drought and neglect. From the humble beginnings of finding investors, to the composting and planting of the crops and orchards, to the ins and outs of poultry and livestock care, each segment of the film chronicles a new challenge and a new opportunity to problem-solve.

As John Chester is also the documentary filmmaker behind the film, many of the images of the farm are beautifully aesthetic, clearly the work of an accomplished artist. The before-and-after images shown later in the film carry the most impact, but just as impressive are the wide landscape and from-above drone shots where the sheep run by, the owls take flight, or the crew loads boxes of fruit into the back of a truck. The colors are impressive in every shot, but the greens are the most memorable to the audience as we are the knowers of just how much work went into obtaining them. Animal lovers will appreciate the care put into each coop, hutch, and pasture, but there are a few heartbreaks along the way, too (be warned, these may be too much for sensitive or very young children).

This carries a bigger message that farm life is not all harvests and happy births---there are also pests, illnesses, and plenty of other disasters. The film opens with John and Molly frantically trying to decide how to best protect their farm from the approaching wildfires, always a threat in dry weather, but this storyline takes its time getting resolved. I spent the film with this in the back of my mind, hoping that after all the work that went into breathing life into the farm the ending deserved to be a happy one (spoiler alert: it was).

It's a wholesome, inspiring story; give it a watch if you have the time. The Biggest Little Farm is rated PG (for mild thematic elements), runs 91 minutes, and is currently available on Hulu. Enjoy!