Another name for this film could be “Biggest Little Entitlement” as that is the scent wafting off the screen. Throughout this epic, viewers watch as a dilapidated farm comes back to life under the loving and adoring gaze…of White people. Thanks to a man who is purportedly an expert in farming yet did not discuss pests and deterrents, a 200-acre farm is rejuvenated into being able to provide income for a quirky family, allowing them to save a dog. This is actually the foundation for this epic that took over eight years to bring to fruition. In light of the current international fires, this film review is in response to current accusations that anyone who has ever looked at a piece of meat might as well have gone into the woods with gasoline and matches. Quaint, kitschy farms are for White people, while everyone else gets to suffer food insecurity and be told that we need more variety in our diets and to beg for land to develop community gardens.
Size does matter, and when a filmmaker and a chef get angel investors to provide funding for a 200-acre farm to develop it into “something out of a children’s book,” it is a slap in the face to those who have been forced to forgo their dreams of gardens, and farms who can barely get enough income to bring their goods to farmers’ markets. For perspective, 0.92 acres of farmland, with no house or other infrastructure, sold for $5,990. The farm that was in this film could potentially be $1.3 million, and it had all the infrastructure, including housing. When they bought the property, the year was 2010, or right after the recession began; so many property owners were losing their homes but this couple was able to secure investment? Based on what? To blithely talk about how they were evicted because of a dog and that it sparked their desire to open a multimillion dollar moneypit is to be completely ignorant of the world around them. In short, this is what happens when privilege is exerted to “stay out of politics.”
Viewers are then taken on a journey of agriculture idealization: instead of having to have years of experience and a thorough knowledge of the soil and ecology of a region, this dewy-eyed White couple can plant whatever they want and magically produce acres of food. If they are confused about those pesky details, they can find a brilliant older White man, who can teach them how to reap abundantly despite their ignorance. This story is little more than White saviorism through agriculture, because not once is any person of color seen as an intellectual equal. Not once does the couple consult their staff and get a satisfactory answer, or go through a brainstorming session. Not once do these people ever see people of color as anything more than props and labor to achieve their dreams. It is stories like this that empower more White nonprofiteers to say that people of color, especially Black people, are ignorant about healthy diets and good food practices. Well, the Chesters are certainly unwilling to discover the truth of that mindset, if this film is any indication.
Finally, it is clear to see that these people are not interested in any activism and that they are all about keeping their heads buried in the sand about food insecurity, labor rights, and farming practices in general. Sure, there is some mention of corporate farming, but this family is all about getting theirs without any realization of what their success means for anyone else. This film seems to be little more than a venture designed to recoup money to repay investors and to congratulate themselves on “following their dreams.” Nothing about this farm shows any recognition of the current socioeconomic ecosystem, which is in some ways fitting, as neither of them had any agricultural experience beforehand.
If someone is interested in looking at pretty shots of animals and vegetation, this is the film. If someone is genuinely interested in what makes some farms successful more than others, almost any other film would be better.