It all started with a dream…and a promise to a dog named Todd. Molly Chester was a private chef in Santa Monica who wanted to provide her clients with the most nutrient-dense foods possible. Meanwhile, Molly and husband/filmmaker John knew that Todd would be much happier in wide open spaces.
The Chesters initially planned to buy a small plot, but their investor encouraged them to purchase a 214-acre farm. Although the soil had been over-farmed for 50 years, Molly’s tireless work ethic brought life, nutrients, and biodiversity back to the land.
Apricot Lane Farms now raises hundreds of animals with care and respect and regeneratively grows over 200 fruit and vegetable varieties. Today, you can witness their trials, tribulations, and successes in John’s award-winning documentary, The Biggest Little Farm. You can also taste the fruits of their labor with an Apricot Lane Farms lemonade, thoughtfully crafted and cold-pressed for pure natural goodness.
Recently, we caught up with Molly to learn more about her journey and hear her advice for fellow entrepreneurs.
01 Why did you start Apricot Lane Farms?
After graduating from The Natural Gourmet Institute, I worked as a private chef in Los Angeles focusing on traditional foods. I quickly realized that the flavor and nutritional quality of our food is directly related to the health of the soil, starting with the choices farmers make.
I struggled to source the quality of ingredients I was seeking for my clients, particularly eggs. Between that and our barking rescue dog who yearned for open spaces, my husband and I decided to leave the city and our careers to pursue our dream of farming in harmony with nature. With that, Apricot Lane Farms was born.
02 What obstacles did you face along the way?
We started a biodynamic, regenerative organic farm with no prior farming experience. So, there was a lot to learn, including how to keep our ecosystem in balance, because everything is connected, and every action we take has a ripple effect. There are rarely any quick fixes to pest issues, so it took a lot of creativity and patience to find solutions. My husband John shares the struggles and triumphs from our early days beautifully in the documentary The Biggest Little Farm.
03 What lessons do you have for other entrepreneurs?
I believe the health of any attempted endeavor is a reflection of the spiritual, physical, emotional and mental health of the human who’s leading the charge. So, I would encourage others to take the time to develop themselves, their communication skills, and their understanding of their own triggers and limits, so that they are able to build health and sustainability into their dream.
04 What’s on the horizon for Apricot Lane Farms?
I’ve been making honey lemonade since our early days on the land with our Lisbon lemons. Now, we’re so happy to now be bottling and sharing our Orange Blossom Honey Lemonade with the world! This fall, we’re also launching a new Pomegranate flavor, made with our hand-picked, peak-season pomegranates. Additionally, our debut cookbook — The Apricot Lane Farms Cookbook: Recipes and Stories from The Biggest Little Farm — comes out at the end of October!
05 How do you keep work/life balance? What drives/inspires you?
My son has been my greatest teacher when it comes to work/life balance. The vitality of my connection to him is deeply important and inspires me to work efficiently and creatively, ensuring there is plenty of present time for both myself and our family.
The natural world is also a continuous source of inspiration for me. I am forever inspired by the creativity, colors, sounds, smells, and sights of planet Earth and the Cosmos around us.