I loved this documentary for a number of reasons. Perhaps it’s the fact that I grew up on a small farm and can relate to so much of what they discovered along the way. Maybe it’s because it’s a gem of a story about a daring risk and hope amidst adversity. Or maybe it’s because it is beautifully filmed by a National Geographic photographer who just happens to be the farmer in the story. But perhaps the biggest reason is that ever since I’ve come into a revelation of God’s wonderful grace, I see it everywhere, even in movies that have little to do with spiritual things.
The Biggest Little Farm is a story about a couple and their dog who decide to start an organic farm. It’s a forward-thinking, problem-solving, heart-tugger that shows how human beings can respectfully and efficiently interact with nature.
John and Molly Chester begin with a virtually “dead” property. The soil was dry, hard and infertile. As the story progresses, we are taken on a beautiful journey as the farm, through the help of a friend who teaches them about biodiversity, slowly but surely comes gloriously alive.
“Oh God, you are my God; I shall seek you earnestly; my soul thirsts for you in a dry and weary land.” ~Psalm 63:1
As I watched, I couldn’t help but think of how we are without God’s life in us: dry, weary, barren. All of us are subject the cruel elements of a fallen world. We become hurt by people and circumstances that are often out of our control. In turn, we hurt others, becoming more and more depleted (like that infertile soil) until we are parched and unproductive. However, with God’s life in us, the trend towards the law of thermal dynamics (inevitable entropy) reverses and miraculously new life appears!
If you’ve ever experienced depression or hopelessness or discouragement, you know how much it means to experience God’s life-giving, unconditional love. It changes everything and when life seeps back in, you can’t help but happily revel in it. This is life, glorious life!God’s life.
In the beginning, the soil on the farm had to be tended to and revitalized before anything could be planted. The secret of the soil’s revitalization was poop: not only from the animals but from worms. As worms eat compost, their gut biology infuses it with more microorganism that super-fertilizes the soil. This microbe-rich concoction is added to the irrigation and the entire property is infused with it.
“But the gardener said, “Sir, we should leave it one more year. Let me fertilize and cultivate it, then let’s see if it will produce fruit.” ~Luke 13:8
Nothing is wasted in God’s Kingdom. Even things that seemed “wasteful” are used for our good. God works in concert with us to take what was meant for harm, even our own mistakes, and use them for our good and the good of others. These so-called failures are often the very things that cause us to stop, learn, and choose another direction. Many times, they set us on our life’s work.
On the farm, once the seeds were planted and animals brought in, nothing seemed to happen for some time. That is because it was happening under the surface. John and Molly had no way of knowing if this grand risk they’d taken was going to pan out.
“For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” ~ Proverbs 23:7
Often in our spiritual life, we are growing on the inside (or “underground”) before we ever see any outer results. Just as a seed grows underground before it manifests above ground, eventually the natural world will bend to the spiritual realm.
Our thoughts and our beliefs are at the core of what we experience in this world. One of the most amazing byproducts of becoming a new creation in Christ is that His Spirit teaches our spirit who we truly are. Not because of anything we do or are, but because of Him and His finished work on the Cross. A loving transformation has happened and we come alive by faith through love.
Challenges are inevitable on a farm and this couple had their share. They had a snail infestation on the fruit trees, wolves killing chickens at night, a pig that got very sick and so much more. However, as they faced and dealt with each challenge, they learned something so wonderful. Over time, they learned to wait, observe, and trust that a creative solution would come. And the solution was usually already within the farm.
Often it was a win-win solution: for example, the ducks were struggling in a pond that was drying up due to a drought, so they re-located them to the orchard where they enjoyed eating the snails that had been destroying the fruit trees. Solutions, like this one, were there even though they didn’t immediately see them.
“And He said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’” ~Mark 6:31
When we rest and trust God, the solutions to life’s inevitable challenges come. We don’t need to get stressed or anxious. In fact, when we do, we typically aren’t in the best frame of mind to see a fresh perspective.
The neighboring commercial farms were not operating organically and could not withstand the floods that came after the drought. Because their soil was stripped of its natural biodiversity, they had no recourse against the strong floodwaters and their soil was quickly stripped away. The organic farm, because they had invested in bringing the soil back to life, had a rich ground cover and thus was able to withstand the flood waters. The biodiversity and organic farming provided a strength the other farms simply did not have.
When the rains fell and the flood came, with fierce winds beating upon his house, it stood firm because of its strong foundation.” ~Matthew 7:25
This, of course, reminds me a bit of the house built on a solid foundation (Jesus) that could withstand the pressures of this world with its multiple “storms” that come. We are strong because of our connection with God. We are strong because we understand how much He loves and cares for us. If we listen, He teaches us how to weather these storms without them destroying us.
In time, “help” came to the big little farm. The snakes and lady bugs and hawks returned to the land once too dry and barren to sustain them. They returned and added to the natural harmony of life on the farm. Nature had been restored and was brimming with health and vitality here.
Overall, I saw a beautiful flow in the life of this farm. Just like when we are led by the Holy Spirit, there is a flow to our lives. We step in, and though we face challenges, and often there is hard work to do, we do it with a sense of peace and rest. Being in the flow seems to enable a beauty, a healthiness that cannot be obtained outside that flow.
“He who believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” ~John 7:38
I honestly was so touched by this story, I’ve wanted to share it with anyone and everyone who might appreciate it. It’s not for everyone and I hate setting expectations too high for a movie because then it tends to disappoint, but if it sounds like something you’d enjoy, the trailer is below.
This is a quote that I loved by the farmer/filmmaker: “Most documentary films about any farm or environment are fear-based. The enemy is a human corporation or greed. The victim is always the planet. And at the end the audience leaves feeling fear or despair or depression, their eyes are more tight, not more wide. I wanted to show there’s something different going on, there’s an incredible experience that awaits us if we fall in love with it. That will be the cure. We won’t let what we love die if we understand it in a deeper way that connects to us like a parent for a child with potential, who we won’t give up on. Fear does not get you through that; love does.”