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The Biggest Little Farm

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Todd, the splendid mastermind behind Apricot Lane Farms

Synopsis: A couple starts a traditional farm in California.

Molly and John Chester are two Los Angelenos with a dream: to create a thriving farm that exists in harmony with the local flora and fauna. Neither is a farmer; John is a documentary filmmaker and Molly is a personal chef.

Now depending on what kind of person you are, you will either shake your head at hippie notions of establishing a loving-the-land Arcadia or cheer on their efforts to honor Mother Nature. It turns out that they will need a lot of human ingenuity and

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Some of Todd’s prime California real estate

perseverance for their plan to come to fruition. As expected, we see a lot of shoveling, fence building, composting, planting, picking and middle-of-the-night animal midwifery.

I like my ancient grains and heritage fruits as much as the next person, but being a farmer would be too exhausting for me.  If only there were a way to have one’s organic cake and eat it too…

Enter Todd, the mastermind of the whole enterprise. Poor Todd had a rough, chaotic start in life. He was crammed into an unsanitary residence, never sure of his next meal. Then Todd met John. John was filming at an animal hoarder’s. Todd was a young border collie mix with long, inky fur and soulful eyes. John and Molly rescued Todd and promised him that they were his forever home and people.

Todd didn’t mean to be ungrateful, but he suffered from separation anxiety and whenever he was left alone in their Santa Monica apartment, he barked & barked & barked. The neighbors complained. The landlord issued warnings. His guardians tried many remedies including a device that would spray citronella (foul smelling to dogs) prompted by the barking noise. He kept barking. And the citronella spray was used up. So now Todd had an extra reason to be anxious when alone — the icky smell of citronella.

I believe that Todd had dreams of a bucolic, outdoorsy lifestyle with his people. What dog wouldn’t want to spend their days chasing squirrels and peeing on trees? But Todd actually made the dream real. He got himself and Molly and John evicted. (No spoilers, this happens very early in the film. Note the title is The Biggest Little Farm, not The Barkiest Dog in Santa Monica.)

The Chesters dive into the family dream and buy 200 acres about forty miles north of LA. Their mentor is Alan York, an expert in traditional farming methods. He teaches them how to add cover crops and compost to enrich the soil. They bring in chickens, ducks, cattle and sheep. We see the farm animals learning what’s what in their new home. Great Pyrenees puppies — like round and shaggy polar bear cubs– are ensconced with the

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Magnificent Todd observes his denizens

sheep to condition them to identify with the livestock they will be protecting. The hens produce eggs and the people put up fences to protect them from predators. A pig, christened Emma, is purchased and the Chesters work tirelessly to save her life when she falls ill. She’s a big cutie and no doubt it’s best she doesn’t know that she’s being kept to produce future ham 😦

Farm life is hard work and all of the animals and humans are expected to contribute. Except for Todd. Todd doesn’t lift a paw to help. While the Pyrenees dogs spend their days and nights guarding the sheep, Todd retires to the house each evening after having flounced around the pastures all day. When scores of birds devour fruit from the orchard, you can bet Todd doesn’t let it trouble him. Monitoring the acreage for wildfires? Someone else’s problem.

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While the pups are carried over to work with the sheep, Todd is back at the farmhouse, napping on the couch after watching the movie “Babe”

Todd sees there are dogs who work and people who work. But he has good self-awareness and knows that is not his path to happiness. He needs time to romp around, nap in the sunshine and relax in the Chesters’ farmhouse. But… in a way, Todd did his part. His humans needed the push to leave the city for greener pastures, and it was his barking that accomplished that. This clever dog let others do the work at Apricot Lane Farms, while he lived the dream.

PS At one point Todd does seem to be doing some babysitting, albeit while lazing on the couch.

PPS I think this is the only movie where ladybugs appear as heroes.

 

MovieLoon.Blog Movie Review at a Glance:

Grade:   A-

Cut to the Chase: Glorious nature & animal photography. Although the docu does show myriad benefits to the Chesters’ farming methods, it’s not a message movie, but an exploration of one couple’s dream project.

Humor Highlight: A rooster befriends and sets up house with a pig, Emma.

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