This powerful, deeply personal documentary is both a memoir and an exploration of the Chesters' quest to make their dream of living on a fully sustainable farm come true. John and Molly are fascinating subjects. Even though they don't seem to know much about farming (although she's an avid gardener), they somehow convince investors to loan them substantial amounts of money to finance their dream. (The specific hows and whys of their budget are never discussed, which is a tiny bit disappointing, considering how open they are about most aspects of their early days.) Daunted by the task of turning their dry, desolate property into a thriving farm, the couple receives nearly magical amounts of mentorship from the enigmatic York, who seems to have all the answers all the time about their vision for Apricot Lane Farms. He's a fantastic character, and it's very sad when tragedy strikes fairly early in his time with the Chesters.
It's difficult not to feel fully invested in John and Molly's vision, even though they make it clear that other, more established farmers think they're setting themselves up for failure. John's narration and cinematography are excellent, and audiences will keenly feel each of the couple's various setbacks, whether it's coyotes attacking their egg-laying hens, slugs rotting their trees, birds eating their fruit, or Emma the pig nearly dying after a furious case of mastitis. Viewers will also feel attached to some of the Chesters' animals, from dog Todd and sow Emma to two Great Pyrenees livestock guard dogs and the kooky rooster who's Emma's companion. Based on York's advice, the Chesters want everything from the microorganisms in the soil to the predators and prey on the land to be in harmony. But that balance takes them and their team -- which includes far more experienced foremen and a group of young adult volunteers -- several years to accomplish. One small quibble is that the film doesn't go into details about the WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) program that provides the Chesters with free live-in labor in exchange for room and board (that's why so much of their team looks under 30). Still, this is a wonderful, beautifully shot labor of love that should inspire viewers to commit to lives of purpose that serve the earth and others.