The Biggest Little Farm

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lancashire lass
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The Biggest Little Farm

Post by lancashire lass »

I wasn't sure whether to put this in Books, Tv & Media section or in the Environmental, Green & Ethical Issues as it seems to cover both. Sky Documentary are currently showing it and I started to watch during one of my home-working breaks and was really enjoying it. So I have recorded it to watch it properly later on.

The gist of it is about a young couple who purchase farmland in California but the soil is barren due to farming techniques at the time - monoculture (growing a single crop) and chemical fertilisers/pesticides - and in the middle of a drought. Under advisement to achieve a more sustainable farm, they opt to growing several different crops and adding farm and wild animals to increase biodiversity very much like Permaculture techniques.

What interested me is the sustainable farming idea - moving away from fertiliser and pesticides and feeding the soil with natural matter (worm and animal poo, plus composting) and using diversity to improve plant and soil health, as well as encourage different insects (pollinators as well as predator to fight against pests) The film does highlight the problems as well ...

More info on Wikipedia
The Biggest Little Farm is a 2018 American documentary film, directed by Emmy Award Winning director John Chester. The film profiles the life of Chester and his wife Molly as they acquire and establish themselves on Apricot Lane Farms in Moorpark, California.
and a trailer:

phpBB [video]
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lancashire lass
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Re: The Biggest Little Farm

Post by lancashire lass »

I watched the film from start to finish and thoroughly enjoyed it - I'd recommend seeing it if you have the chance. Although classed as a documentary, the film follows the lives of the couple and how the idea of a dream farm finally became a reality but it came with glitches along the way.

The sustainable traditional farming approach was encouraged by a biodiversity consultant Alan York who believed that if you let nature in, it would solve the problems encountered in modern day farming - in the natural world, a balance is achieved when there is biodiversity: when pest species move in, predators follow.

It was interesting to watch how each problem was tackled - first, resurrect a pond for water and allow natural reintroduction of wildlife. Dead compacted soil was improved with compost tea and animal waste (from the cows and sheep they got) The orchard of apricots was thinned out and planted up with other fruit tree species to increase diversity so that it discouraged single specie pests moving in as found with most monoculture farming, and mixed cover vegetation grown between to protect and improve the soil.

Their efforts however, only seem to encourage a population explosion of pests such as insects, snails, gofers and flocks of starlings that moved in which ruined the harvest or devastated the tree roots, coyotes ran amock in the chickens. But then they gradually realised the solutions were there using the sheep to crop the cover vegetation, ducks ate the snails, encouraging birds of prey like owls and hawks to move in to tackle the gofers and scare off starlings. They soon realised that although the coyotes had devastated their chickens, they naturally preyed on the gofers. Night vision cameras set up around the farm showed how other wild animals entered the farm - racoons, skunks, weasels (or something similar) and even a bobcat - all played their part in keeping pest and weeds down.

By taking the approach of improving the soil, even the drought, wildfire and floods that wrecked nearby farms was successfully weathered and increased their water supply in their aquafir (groundwater) which they could tap into if necessary. As an experiment in sustainable farming, it showed what could be done but it wasn't a quick and easy fix and took years. In a modern economy, I think this approach would probably not be seen as a way forward but from an ecological point of view, it did show what could be achieved with patience.
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Mo
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Re: The Biggest Little Farm

Post by Mo »

I wonder what the neighbours thought about all the 'pests' they were encouraging.
Sounds as if it might work better if a whole area adopted it, but there would always be someone who didn't agree.
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lancashire lass
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Re: The Biggest Little Farm

Post by lancashire lass »

Mo wrote: 02 Feb 2021, 11:32 I wonder what the neighbours thought about all the 'pests' they were encouraging.
Sounds as if it might work better if a whole area adopted it, but there would always be someone who didn't agree.
I think you'd have to watch the film to get an idea of the location - wide open, bare hills, scrubby (one neighbour originally had a battery hen farm but long ago collapsed and not in use) The farming community in that particular Californian area were so far apart and their land ownership vast that they would not be impacted that much unlike say, the UK farming - there just isn't any comparison. Even so, the pests were highest where there was lush vegetation so unlikely to spread out to areas where vegetation was lacking. One positive were the bees - when the couple arrived and found the bee hives, all the bees were dead but a year on and there were multiple swarms attracted to the farm.
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Spreckly
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Re: The Biggest Little Farm

Post by Spreckly »

Looks the sort of thing I would watch on You Tube, thanks for posting LL.
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Richard
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Re: The Biggest Little Farm

Post by Richard »

Yep, thanks for posting that, I also will look it up.

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