An upcoming documentary directed by John Chester gives viewers a peek into the trailblazing farm’s backstory.

By Bridget Hallinan
March 08, 2019
Robin Marchant/Getty Images

There’s a reason we’ve highlighted California’s Apricot Lane Farms, run by John and Molly Chester (pictured above, center and right), as one of the nine American farms changing the way we eat: it’s biodynamic, works in harmony with the nature around it, blends age-old farming techniques with modern technology, and produces an astonishing amount of produce—including over 75 different varieties of stone fruit, according to the website. You’ll find everything from ducks, to pigs, to chickens, to sheep, to a brown Swiss dairy cow named “Maggie”—all on over 200 acres in Moorpark, between Los Angeles and Ventura. It sounds, and looks, like Eden. But as you can imagine, starting a farm of that scale wasn’t an easy process. 

Earlier this week, we watched an advance screening of The Biggest Little Farm, a documentary starring the Chesters, directed by John himself, that tells the entire backstory of Apricot Lane Farms. We watched as the Chesters left their Los Angeles lives behind in 2011—Molly a private chef and blogger, and John a documentary filmmaker—to pursue this dream of farming in harmony with nature, and growing everything Molly could possibly cook with. (And to find a home they could comfortably live in with their rescue, dog, Todd.) They had no previous farming experience; but, with the help of an expert named Alan York and an ever-growing staff, Apricot Lane went from an old, defunct property with rock-hard soil to the blossoming farm it is today.

There were countless hurdles: an irrigation system that needed fixing, a coyote that kept preying on the ducks and chickens, and plenty of pests, from snails overtaking the fruit trees to gophers popping up from underneath. Often, the Chesters wondered how to balance the needs of the farm with the needs of wildlife. And when Alan died of cancer, they felt lost for a time. But eventually, each setback ended up being solved—by nature itself. They got owls and the coyotes to control the gopher population; the maggots in the fruit become food for chickens. Slowly but surely, an ecosystem was established, and Apricot Lane ends up reaching an “inharmonious harmony” near the end of the film—and, since John says that’s how the ecosystem of our planet works overall, it’s perfect. 

If you want to watch the film yourself, it releases in the U.S. in May. The farm also offers tours, and sells goods at several farmers’ markets around California, including ones in Calabasas, Santa Monica, and Thousand Oaks. Although, we'd recommend going in person if you can—the animals are pretty cute.

The Biggest Little Farm releases in the U.S. on May 10, 2019.

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