The Sundance Film Festival premiere of the documentary The Biggest Little Farm follows Molly and John Chester who worked with, not against, a seemingly hostile landscape to create a harmonious ecosystem.

There’s a plot of land about an hour outside Los Angeles. It’s drought-riddled, barren, full of rocky soil and the ghostly remains of past farms. Banks have repossessed this land twice from previous farmers. Its neighbors are mono-culture factory farms. So why would a couple from the city think they could farm naturally, organically, with any success on this land? Because they made a promise to a dog.

Molly Chester, a chef, always dreamed of living on a sustainable farm. Her husband, John Chester worked in the industry as a director with a background in cinematography. So when they came to a crossroads in their life, they chased a dream to build a farm. From the ground up. With their dog.

With the help of biodiversity guru, they tackled problem after problem to successfully raise livestock and produce fruit, all organically. Coyotes, bug infestations, drought were all just part of the landscape they accepted as their new home and miraculously found ways to make those hardships into part of the life cycle of their farm.

Over the years of growing their farm from a barren wasteland into a successful enterprise, John directs video footage with stunning cinematography. We see countless intimate and non-apologetic looks into animal life cycles, from births to deaths. Like a nature doc, we have time lapse closeups of insects producing eggs alongside soaring birds of prey. Altogether, the story captures the battle the Chesters fight every day to prove that a sustainable, organic, bio-diverse farm can be a reality.

This premiere screening at Sundance ended with a standing ovation throughout the credits and once again as John and Molly took the stage for a Q&A. It’s safe to say that the entire audience left the theater with a sense of feeling connected to nature and optimism for more sustainable farming.