The Biggest Surprises From 'The Biggest Little Farm'
By Andrew Amelinckx
Take a broken-down 200-acre property that has been transformed into an incredibly lush and diverse biodynamic farm over eight years and capture it all on film and you get The Biggest Little Farm. This documentary tells the story of two newbie farmers and their rescue dog as they leave Los Angeles behind to build a farm that will work in harmony with nature in Moorpark, California. John Chester, the Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker who directed the film, and Molly Chester, a private chef and blogger, discovered that nature isn't easily harnessed when there are coyotes, gophers, snails, windstorms and wildfires to contend with. Here are some of the biggest reasons to go and see this film, which is at times heartbreaking, funny, achingly beautiful, charming and full of surprises.
Both the farm and the film owe their existence to a dog named Todd. The Chesters rescued him from an animal hoarder and promised him that their home would be his last. But Todd was a prodigious barker when left alone, so when the inevitable notice to vacate arrived due to noise complaints, the Chesters decided to take a chance on their dream. "It changed the course of our future because we had blindly committed to an animal and weren't willing to break that promise," said Chester. "Our love for that dog gave us this incredibly epic and magical existence."
“We Went Crazy”
In less than a decade, Apricot Lane Farms went from a dilapidated monocrop operation to a thriving farm with 10,000 orchard trees encompassing 75 different kinds of stone fruit, lemons, and avocados; a cornucopia of vegetables; and a boatload of animals, from pigs and sheep to horses and highland cattle. "We piled too much on from the beginning and were growing way too many things," said Chester. "We wanted a biologically diverse ecosystem, but we went crazy."
An Untimely Parting
The reason for such diversity rests with the agricultural ethos of Alan York, a pioneer in biodynamic growing, an integrated system that builds soil fertility through composting, animals, cover crops and crop rotation. Chester enlisted the help of York early on, and he convinced the couple to bring in an incredibly diverse mix of crops and animals to help rebuild the soil. But an untimely parting with York, just when the system he had set up needed the most attention, left the Chesters feeling angry and frustrated. In the end, it forced them to become more creative and self-reliant to overcome their challenges. "I had to respect that there was something special about this farm, and I needed to look at in a different way," said Chester. "The problems were just things to be solved — they weren't going to kill us or our dream."
Working in Harmony
By year five, the system created by York had begun to show results. Nature and agriculture were working hand in hand, with a balance between predators and pests that kept both in check. Yet, even with this dynamic ecosystem chugging along, every season would see a new pest or problem crop up, said Chester. The only difference now is that the system responds faster, preventing infestations and epidemics. Beyond this, their farm remains resilient in the face of climate change, with less soil erosion, an ability to store more groundwater and higher levels of carbon in the soil than a typical farm. "I didn't want to make a film about climate change," said Chester. "I wanted to make a film about its consequences and living through them. It's about the potential to unlock these ways to integrate ourselves within a system that regenerates it rather than depletes it."
The film is was released on May 10 in the U.S. Here's the trailer.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
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Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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