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The Biggest Little Farm

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Biggest Little Farm Movie Poster Image
Poignant, thought-provoking docu about sustainable living.
  • PG
  • 2019
  • 91 minutes

Parents say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 2 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Many positive messages, most about importance of being in sync with nature, being mindful of where your food is from, being aware of the way farming works (and has changed throughout the years), learning from failure, overcoming disappointments and setbacks, working on a team, taking a step back to see the bigger picture.

Positive Role Models & Representations

John, Molly, and their Apricot Lane Farms team are exceptionally dedicated to going back to the land, mastering traditional farming methods, making their land self-sustainable, growing all their food, learning from mentor how to keep their farm. They don't know much when they start, but they persevere, keep doing their best, listen to experts, accept and learn from failures, and grow Apricot Lane into a beautiful, successful farm.

Violence & Scariness

Several scenes of dead animals (e.g., chickens, ducks, lambs, gophers) -- many killed by predators like coyotes, hawks, owls, even dogs. Others die because of environmental reasons, like toxic algae that kills fish in pond. Mother animals die from childbirth. John has to shoot a coyote (he's shown loading gun, chasing coyote, but shooting is heard rather than seen). Another coyote is shown paralyzed after injury. Farmers discuss having to put down animals. John and Molly's beloved dog dies (after several years). John and Molly's good friend Alan is sick with cancer and dies (off-camera); his death is discussed. Wildfire-related panic/scares.

Sexy Stuff

A few animals (Emma the pig, a sheep, a cow) are shown during or right after delivering their young.

Language
Consumerism

Apricot Lane Farms is the main subject of the documentary.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Biggest Little Farm is a poignant, multi-year-spanning documentary about Southern California filmmaker John Chester (an Emmy-winning documentarian) and his wife, personal chef Molly Chester, who embark on a journey to go back to the land and run a traditional farm. With help from an expert mentor and a team of both experienced and new-to-farming staffers, the Chesters deal with the ups and downs of starting an organic, biodynamic farm just an hour north of Los Angeles on a 200-acre plot that was initially parched earth. While there's no sex, language, or substance use, you can expect several potentially upsetting scenes of dead animals, including some blood left on the predators. Animals also die due to environmental reasons and giving birth, and John is shown loading a gun and chasing a coyote. A beloved dog dies after several years, a human friend's death from cancer is discussed, and there's wildfire-related fear. Families will have lots to discuss after the film, from the importance of eating locally, supporting farmers, and understanding how farms work to character strengths like teamwork and perseverance.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byconnieg1 May 27, 2019

We loved it until we had to leave because of upset 10 yr old

Gorgeously shot movie!! My 10 yr old son seemed kind of vaguely offput throughout, and I thought maybe he was bored? But by the time the farmer pulled out a g... Continue reading
Parent of a 5 year old Written byJohn4444 April 27, 2019

A M A Z I N G !

Amazing family film. ages 5 and up. Super entertaining for adults and inspiring!
Teen, 16 years old Written byCooltiger37 August 25, 2019

Cute (and slightly tense at times), but ultimately boring

In response to Loranikas303's review, I would like to say that yes, there is one use of the word "s--t", but for God knows what reason, the filmm... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byLoranikas303 August 21, 2019

Really!

I pick this movie in common sense media and I went to see IMDB, there is one S-word and Common sense media forgot to add the S-word in Language. It is about 1/5... Continue reading

What's the story?

THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM is filmmaker John Chester's love letter to his wife Molly and their joint vision to live a life of purpose -- all thanks to a dog they rescued. John, a cameraman and documentarian, and Molly, a private chef, bring their rescue dog Todd to their tiny Santa Monica apartment. But because of his incessant barking, the landlord evicts them. This prompts the Chesters to fulfill a shared dream of living a rural life on a fully self-sustainable farm. So, after writing a business plan and sharing their vision far and wide, they find enough investors to embark on their journey. John and Molly enlist help from biodynamic farm expert/mentor/guru Alan York, who mentors and designs the entire farm for them, making sure they understand the importance of biodiversity -- from the animals they raise to the microorganisms in the soil to the 75 varieties of fruit trees they plant. John, who narrates the film, films over seven years; the documentary begins with the panic of the 2018 wildfire and then rewinds to share the year-by-year ups and downs of facing and overcoming challenge after challenge.

Is it any good?

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the messages in The Biggest Little Farm. Are the Chesters inspiring? Does the documentary make you want to be more mindful about food and farming?

  • How do the Chesters and their team exemplify perseverance and teamwork? Why are those important character strengths? How can families work on those traits?

  • How did it make you feel to see dead animals on the farm? Why are those scenes necessary to the story?

Movie details

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