FilmScene Iowa City, IA


Shanti Sellz

Founder, Muddy Miss Farms; Co-founder, Green Share LLC; Partner, Walker Homestead


Jon Yagla

Founder, Millet Seed CSA


Chris Grebner

Partner, Walker Homestead; Owner, Provender catering

The Biggest Little Farm— In farm-ony with nature

A panel of local farmers and chefs discuss sustainable food systems that support small farms and connect farmers and eaters.

FilmScene Iowa City, IA

Film Synopsis

A couple are followed through their successes and failures as they work to develop a sustainable farm on 200 acres outside of Los Angeles.

A testament to the immense complexity of nature, The Biggest Little Farm follows two dreamers and a dog on an odyssey to bring harmony to both their lives and the land.

When the barking of their beloved dog Todd leads to an eviction notice from their tiny LA apartment, John and Molly Chester make a choice that takes them out of the city and onto 200 acres in the foothills of Ventura County, naively endeavoring to build one of the most diverse farms of its kind in complete coexistence with nature. The land they’ve chosen, however, is utterly depleted of nutrients and suffering from a brutal drought. The film chronicles eight years of daunting work and outsize idealism as they attempt to create the utopia they seek, planting 10,000 orchard trees and over 200 different crops, and bringing in animals of every kind—including an unforgettable pig named Emma and her best friend, Greasy the rooster. When the farm’s ecosystem finally begins to reawaken, so does the Chesters’ hope—but as their plan to create perfect harmony takes a series of wild turns, they realize that to survive they will have to reach a far greater understanding of the intricacies and wisdom of nature, and of life itself.

The Biggest Little Farm is directed by five-time Emmy-winner John Chester, with executive producer Laurie David (An Inconvenient Truth) and writer Mark Monroe (Icarus, The Cove, Chasing Ice).

About the Speaker

Shanti Sellz is an Iowa City native whose love for growing food began in her mother’s backyard garden digging potatoes, picking (and eating) cherry tomatoes, and trellising peas. With over 20 years of experience in mid-scale organic farming and agricultural education, Shanti has worked and taught on farms throughout the western United States as well as in Central and South America. Shanti has a degree in International Studies with a focus on Agriculture and Public Health from the University of Arizona and is certified in Permaculture Design.

Shanti returned to her fertile Iowa homeland in 2012 to create Muddy Miss Farms—a diverse, organic-method produce, herb, and flower operation. Shanti is a co-founder of Green Share LLC, a collective of regional organic farmers that aggregate their products to supply CSAs, restaurants, grocery stores and farmers’ markets within four eastern Iowa counties. Shanti is also a collaborator in Walker Homestead where she farms. Walker Homestead works to help people more closely connect to their food through hands-on education, community outreach, and celebration.

Shanti is passionate about working towards a more vibrant local food system—where small farms thrive—and fresh, beautiful, healthy food is affordable and accessible to everyone.

Jon Yagla has been growing organic fruits and vegetables on small-scale rural and urban farms for over ten years. The name “Jagla” is Polish for millet, which is one of the oldest human foods and believed to be the first domesticated grain. It seems fitting that he embrace this name as he strives to reconnect with subsistence agriculture as a way of life.

With volunteer help from family and friends, Jon is growing food for home use and the Millet Seed CSA in the Longfellow neighborhood, with the goal to actively reduce participation in an economy and culture that relies on exploitation and oppression for it’s subsistence. Jon hopes to encourage more mini farms and less lawns throughout our community. All of the farming is done with hand tools and Jon is always working on systems that will reduce the use of fossil fuels. Without owning an automobile, tractor, or tiller and distributing food to folks that live right in the neighborhood of Jon’s farm farm uses much less energy than most. His specialty is food production and he is always striving to learn more about sustainable energy, water catchment, and natural building.

Jon currently lives and gardens with the trillions of beings in my biocommunity just three houses down from where he grew up in Iowa City. Jon is so grateful to be part of a neighborhood where he knows many of his neighbors and has much support for the unconventional approach of organic farming in front yards. Jon hopes to encourage more neighbor-to-neighbor networking and skill sharing through his homesteading efforts and the CSA.

Chris Grebner, an Iowa native, grew up in the small, rural communities of central Iowa spending many of his summers on family farms. Leaving the midwest for the Pacific Northwest he graduated at the top of his class from Le Cordon Bleu Portland’s Culinary Arts program. After working in restaurants, homes and catering companies in Portland, Oregon, Chris found a new love for the beautiful products and the people growing them. He brought this love for food, local goods and community back to his native state of Iowa.

With a passion for sustainability and local foods, Chris’ goal is to narrow the gap between the farmer and eater. In the last 10 years he has introduced dozens of families to farmers through his seasonal dinner series, The Farmer's Table, in addition to using all the local product he can find for his catering company, Provender. In 2014 he started dreaming with his friends Bob & Kristy Walker on what it would look like to have a kitchen on a farm. In March 2019, along with the amazing team that is Bob & Kristy, Shanti Sellz and Andrew Roers, he is fulfilling that dream at Walker Homestead. Walker Homestead is many things, but most of all is a place for communities to connect, learn, and grow.