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Life on the ‘Biggest Little Farm’: behind the scenes of a biodynamic blockbuster

By BONNIE MCCARTHY MAY 10, 2019

At 6:30 every Monday morning, the 60-member team at Apricot Lane Farms in Moorpark gathers around a campfire in the vegetable garden to discuss what happened over the weekend — maybe a lamb was born, or thousands upon thousands of ladybugs made their seasonal return to the rows of fennel — and what’s on the agenda for the week ahead.

It sure beats a conference room.

Located 40 miles north of Los Angeles in Ventura County, Apricot Lane Farmssymbolizes what so many of us daydream of doing: ditching city living, a monotonous desk job and commuter headaches for a back-to-basics lifestyle, say, on a farm. (It’s enough of a fantasy that ABC has a prime-time comedy with that very premise, called “Bless This Mess.”)

John and Molly Chester are living that dream: They left behind their day jobs in L.A. — as a docu-series director and a personal chef, respectively — and have spent the last eight years turning the dry, nutrient-depleted dirt of a former horse ranch into a self-sustaining, biodynamic 213-acre farm that produces fruit and vegetables for some of L.A.’s trendiest restaurants and freshly laid eggs that sell out in minutes at local farmers markets, and embraces topsoil practices that are said to help combat climate change.

“We endured the anxiety of whether it would work,” John Chester said. “You can very easily forget why it is so special when you are mired in the details and the monotony.

Few people would want to document one of the most stressful and humbling periods of their life, but over the last eight years, Chester and a crew of interns and professional movie makers, captured the journey in gorgeous, unflinching detail in “The Biggest Little Farm,” the award-winning documentary opening in theaters May 10.

Robert Washington makes his way past a field of sunchokes, while working at Apricot Lane Farms in Moorpark.
Robert Washington makes his way past a field of sunchokes, while working at Apricot Lane Farms in Moorpark. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times)

Life on a farm has always lived at the intersection of hard work and faith, and Molly Chester said there is a lot to be learned in that space. “It’s so good for surrender, for control personalities,” she said. “It’s a bit of a zen practice.”

To continue reading this article in the Los Angeles Times, click here.

 
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