Review: 'Biggest Little Farm' grows inspiring story

But some convenient factual omissions hang like a cloud over the back-to-basics doc

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
A scene from "The Biggest Little Farm."

A couple takes a plunge into farming and doesn't look back in "The Biggest Little Farm," a heartwarming documentary that nevertheless keeps some key facts too close to its vest. 

John and Molly Chester are a couple living in a tiny apartment in Santa Monica, Calif. He's a wildlife videographer, she's a cook and a blogger. They adopt a rescue dog, Todd, and promise theirs will be the last home the pup ever knows. But every time they leave for work he barks incessantly, all day, and soon they're hit with an eviction notice. 

John and Molly see the setback as an opportunity to try out farming, a dream that had long lingered in the back of their minds. So they pool together some funds from friends — more on that in a bit — and buy a 200-acre farm an hour north of Los Angeles where Todd can run free and they can return to nature.

Farming, it turns out, is easier said than done. There are issues with the soil and the irrigation, and the bee farm long ago stopped buzzing. The Chesters hire a farming expert, Alan York, who turns out to be a land guru of sorts, and he teaches them a sustainable plan toward biodiversity and environmental harmony. When one problem arises — when, say, the farm is overrun by snails — a solution is presented. (Ducks eat snails!) 

"The Biggest Little Farm," directed by John Chester, unfolds over an eight-year period where the Chester's modest farm goes from depleted to thriving. The message is uplifting and shows what is possible with dedication, hard work and ingenuity.

But also, with seemingly unlimited cashflow: Chester never touches on budgeting specifics, a major hole in the storytelling, and when he says they blew through the first year's budget in a matter of months without ever planting a seed, he conveniently leaves out dollar figure specifics and any financial repercussions they faced as a result. The omission is glaring, and makes "The Biggest Little Farm" feel less like a doc and more like a PR piece for their company. 

'The Biggest Little Farm'


Rated PG: for mild thematic elements

Running time: 92 minutes