Every so often one stumbles across a movie that seems to have escaped general notice, but which proves to be a hidden gem. So it proved for me when attending the International Village movie house and seeing the poster advertising The Biggest Little Farm.
Having grown up next to a farm, seeing the poster’s claims made about the movie, and noting it was due to start right away, how could I resist the impulse to attend? I’m certainly glad I went.
The Biggest Little Farm starts off as if it were telling a children’s story with a rather romantic view of how a young couple decide to purchase a farm. It would be a pity to reveal just how this occurred, but let it suffice to say that through a series of rather unlikely events, lending further emphasis to the idea that one is watching a children’s fantasy, the couple, totally inexperienced in farming, purchase an abandoned and dried-up farm in California.
As if ambition can know no bounds, they determine that they will not only revive the farm but turn it into one which is a truly comprehensive operation with a range of livestock, an orchard with a variety of fruit trees, and above all a farm which is environmentally sound.
The film reveals the success that they eventually enjoy – though not without showing the hazards they have to deal with.
In all of this they are assisted by a farming enthusiast who shares their vision and a group of assistants who are determined to learn methods of responsible farming. In fact, my main concern with the film is that too many of the practical realities which made the dream possible are only hinted at.
Despite this, viewers of the film rapidly discover they are witnessing no children’s fantasy, though there are sufficient endearing and charming episodes to make the film highly suitable and entertaining for young people.
What is more important is the film carries an inspiring message for viewers of all ages as, along with the young farming couple, they learn how nature reacts with a balance which ultimately provides a satisfactory response to most challenges.
Coyotes are preying on your livestock? No problem – they also prey on gophers who otherwise destroy the roots of trees.
Snails are eating the leaves of your fruit trees, threatening the crop? No problem – turn the ducks loose and they eat the snails, while at the same time fertilizing the soil.
So it is that the farmers (and viewers) learn about the interconnectedness of life at all levels and the natural balance of the earth as it is meant to be.
This is, of course, more than a charming tale about a young couple’s experience over seven years. It is a reminder of how, thanks to “improvements” in modern farming, our demand for cheap, attractive food has resulted in an abandonment of methods which are ecologically responsible.
In a time of mono-cultures, the film offers a tactful reminder that if we, as Pope Francis has urged, are to be true stewards of the earth, we need to support efforts such as is illustrated in The Biggest Little Farm to return to a more responsible method of feeding the planet.
The fact that there is already a significant demand for organic food, raised without pesticides, hormones, and anti-bacterial injections, shows there is already much concern – and that in the face of such concern, the food industry will respond.
It is true that many will find the “solutions” offered in the film unrealistic and impractical, but practicality has not yet solved the world’s concerns. The fact that we use the term “food industry” tends to highlight that modern farming has taken a far too pragmatic approach to food production
Perhaps the answer really is to go back to nature. This film shows it is possible for farms to produce food which recognizes the harmony that nature thrives on
It also shows that it is not easy; it is not always pretty; it does offer challenges – but as humanity attempts to deal with an ever-increasing population, as governments attempt to deal with the dangers of climate change, it is to be hoped that the modest little film The Biggest Little Farm will attract the attention of others.
It not only offers a timely lesson, but it does so in a charming, entertaining, and ultimately optimistic manner.
If The Biggest Little Farm is available at your local theatre, go to see it. If it is not, keep an eye open for it on whichever movie channel you subscribe to. You will enjoy and learn from the experience.
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