John and Molly Chester are my new favorite real time, heroic, questing archetypes. I don’t assign hero status easily, but these wonderful folks, who relocated over eight years ago from Santa Monica, California to an hour north of Los Angeles, on 200 dusty, dried, and decayed acres, known as Apricot Lane Farms, have captured both my heart and my imagination. As I’ve written before, about choosing my own heaven one day, I now know that it will be something that resembles the Chester’s twenty-first century “garden of eden,” which passes biblical proportions, in my way of thinking. So, I’m taking some moments out from writing about Annie, Sarah, Julia, and the et al. of Nineteenth Century New England Regional Literati, to write about the magical documentary film, The Biggest Little Farm, and why I think we all need to view it not once, but twice. Maybe even again, and again.
Meet Emma. She’s my favorite character, from The Biggest Little Farm. I laughed, I cried, and I cheered on Emma, as her journey through life to overcome death, while remaining central to the theme of resurrection that is so important in the making of this documentary film, brought me to moments of revelation on a range of subjects that, The Biggest Little Farm, examines with a simplistic wisdom that speaks to all of humanity. Yes, Emma does all that for me, and more, as she manages a changing environment in which she must create her own sense of place. Emma is an enormous hog. She’s not a creature that I would consider lovable, but in, The Biggest Little Farm, she is a virtual goddess among the menagerie that thrive interdependently above, below, and upon the renewed soils of Apricot Lane Farms. And, for reasons which I cannot explain, at this writing, I dream of spending more time with her.
“We call them weeds and pass them by, but they are friend to bird, and bee, and butterfly.” So wrote Naturalist, Winston Abbot with Illustrator, Bette Eaton Bossen in their cherished twentieth century volumes such as, Come Walk Among the Stars, Sing with the Wind, and Come Climb My Hill, that took readers on brief sojourns into the depths of nature writing that spoke to the longing in all our souls, for an affinity with that, from which we all came. John and Molly used numerous varieties of such plants as ground covers for their acres and acres of fruit trees, which then called out to the hundreds of species that eventually returned to the revitalized land, which they lovingly tended. The Biggest Little Farm captivates, with many small interconnected and masterful storytelling narratives, and through what we might consider nothing more than useless and meaningless plant life, which feature as best supporting characters in a drama that helps us contemplate the circles of life.
There are sheep. So many of them, so constantly on the move, it seems, as they are herded from one area to another, usually grazing, always meandering, and without any real awareness that you might discern. But watch the sheep for a wee bit longer, and we see them as warriors on the loose, often rescuing Apricot Lane Farms from untold problematic occurrences that our unsuspecting heroes must continually face, as they race against time to save entire ecosystems, whose survival are dependent upon both careful reflection and quick thinking action. The sheep move in harmony across the land, guided by two dogs that might rather run with wolves, performing as we would expect, but not as we would know; the necessary tasks that make for the eventual rejuvenation of the soil across every acre in the renewed growth and development on Apricot Lane Farms. And then, of course, there is a featured lamb, who will steal our heart, in order to heal our own soul.
Every so often the camera draws back slowly to reveal the unfolding tale of, The Biggest Little Farm, from an aerial view of Apricot Lane Farms, so astonishing in its design and purpose, that I can’t help but wonder if the future of farming may now be in the hands of any one of us who might decide to throw it all in, for joining the quest that drives the themes in, The Biggest Little Farm. John and Molly were a Documentary Filmmaker, and a Chef, respectively, living in one of the more polluted of our American cities, before a series of events took them on their journey to educate themselves enough that they employed investors to plant deeply into their vision. And, with a mystical and lovable guru of farming, who teaches them everything they need to know about bringing Apricot Lane Farms back to life, they manage to complete enough ongoing rites of passage, that they go and grow beyond their mentor, carrying his teaching forward to another generation.
And it isn’t easy. It’s “wicked hard,” as we say in New England. And there’s always these guys, (see above), who need their attention. The Chesters simultaneously and harmoniously bring the health of the soil, the flora, and the fauna back to Apricot Lane Farms that naturally creates interdependent ecosystems, which then suddenly draw attention to fish and foul, alike. A variety of birds arrive, along with predators, and then, there are the bees. They all come home to Apricot Lane Farms, and they all need places to live. They disrupt their neighbors, worry their hosts, and sometimes leave havoc in their wake, as they assimilate and assume their rightful places during an adventure that is in the telling of, The Biggest Little Farm. After an hour of watching and listening to their story, about over eight years of farming, Molly and John know something that the viewing audience does not. But, if we’re patient to the end, we eventually learn what they know, too.
I’ve written about “My Little Back Porch Herb Garden,” for Wise Welsh Witch, and about its therapeutic value to me, but in light of the days of decline, through which our beautiful planet Earth suffers from the plague of commodification and consumerism that no one imagined would increase by degrees both literal and metaphorical; the story of Molly and John Chester and, The Biggest Little Farm, provided a ninety minute respite of wonder, contemplation, and hope that I badly needed, just now. Apricot Lane Farms has been transformed over eight years, by Molly and John, to become a thriving and vibrant cross pollination of natural habitats, all working together in a harmony, breathtaking to behold. I urge you, dear reader, to take some time out for hope. For the planet, for the nations, for the communities, and for the people who all need a vision of enchantment, from the faerie tale with a happy ending that is, The Biggest Little Farm.
Finding a Film: The Biggest Little Farm & A Happy Ending, by Robin Whitham McCrady, Copyright, 2020.