The Roloff family captured the hearts of people in America and across the globe as they opened their home in TLC’s “Little People, Big World.” Amy and Matt along with their son Zach have dwarfism, while the rest of their children are average-sized. Viewers couldn’t help but be amazed by how this extraordinary family faced the challenges that life threw their way. After 23 seasons and with all that happened in their lives, some began to wonder if the network would renew the reality television series for another season, or cancel it.
“Little People Big World” gave an in-depth look at the lives of the Roloff family, and went a long way to educating the public about dwarfism. Matt Roloff was born in 1961 with diastrophic dysplasia, which affected bone and cartilage development. His wife, Amy, was born in 1962 with achondroplasia – both their conditions were characterized by having short stature. Fortunately for them, their parents who were average-sized didn’t coddle them, but raised them to become independent. They were married and had four children but only one of them had dwarfism; Zach had the same condition as his mother. His twin brother Jeremy, and Molly and Jacob are average-sized.
Not many people realized how difficult life was for those with dwarfism. The average height for an adult with this condition was around four feet, about 1.3m. With shorter limbs and deformities of the joints, doing ordinary tasks posed a challenge for them. While their houses might have been modified to make things convenient for them, establishments or offices where they conducted business were not. They had to find ingenious ways to accomplish almost anything which other people didn’t have to give a second thought to. On top of that, there were people who were insensitive or downright mean, and would laugh or stare at them for being different. The show helped change how the public perceived dwarfism, as well as how they approached and treated little people. It inspired and empowered families who were similar to them, and had a loved one with dwarfism or a disability.
The family lived on a farm in Helvetia, Oregon, and it had become a favorite destination since “Little People Big World” began airing in 2006. It was open during pumpkin patch season, but one could book private tours led by a family member the rest of the year, although it would cost more. Visitors could enjoy the various attractions including a castle, a western town with underground tunnels, and a pirate ship, but they were designed for little people. Matt built all this to create a playground for his children because he wanted them to experience the kind of childhood that he missed, as he was in and out of the hospital when he was a child for surgeries related to his dwarfism. He didn’t intend for this to become a commercial venture, but it just turned out that way.
When he bought the property in 1990 it was just 34 acres, and had an old dilapidated farmhouse, overgrown peach orchard, and run-down barn. Through hard work, the farm had grown to more than 100 acres, and more whimsical structures were built, including those already mentioned.
Renewed or canceled?
With no official statement released by the networks or producers, fans could only speculate on whether their favorite shows had been canceled or renewed for another season. Most of the time, a cancelation was due to poor viewership ratings, low advertising revenues, controversies involving the stars, or the show had simply run its course.
The hit TV series “Little People Big World” had been entertaining and inspiring viewers for 16 years, with the last episode of season 23 aired in July 2022. With the latest development in the relationship between Matt and his twin sons over the sale of the family farm, loyal viewers were left wondering if it was still possible for the show to continue. Some believed that it signaled the end, while others were still optimistic, considering that the series continued to air despite all that transpired in their lives.
— TLC Network (@TLC) October 26, 2022
Matt and Amy’s divorce
People were shocked by the news that Amy and Matt called it quits, after more than two decades of marriage. In 2014, the couple agreed on a trial separation with Matt living in their guesthouse at the farm, as they continued to work on their business and raise their kids together. The two met in 1987 at one of the Little People of America conventions, and hit it off despite being total opposites in terms of personality – he was a dreamer, and she was realistic. Back then, they tied the knot because they thought they would make a good pair as they balanced each other out, but as time passed, their differences made living together difficult.
Matt admitted, ‘Amy and I stuck it out for years when maybe we shouldn’t have,’ and continued. ‘I never quite felt at home in my home so something needed to change. We needed to try something different.’ It appeared that it was Matt who wanted out of the relationship, as Amy shared, ‘It’s not my choice for him to leave. I am saddened by it.’ They filed for divorce in 2015, and it was finalized the following year.
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The story didn’t end there as Matt revealed via his Instagram post in 2017 that he was dating Caryn Chandler, who happened to be the farm manager. Amy wasn’t sad that her ex-husband had found someone, but what bothered or upset her was the thought that he might have been seeing Caryn behind her back. She said, ‘I saw messages, pictures, and other things that should not have been shared between people who just worked together, and were still married to other people.’ Caryn had been working at the farm for a decade, but quit when she and Matt became an item; she’d been married for 20 years before she and her husband divorced in 2012. For the sake of the kids, all remained civil towards one another. Amy has moved on, and married Chris Marek in 2021.
“Little People Big World” was about their family, and when the couple divorced, some fans were worried that it would be canceled. However, since there didn’t seem to be any problem with them filming together, the show continued.
The reality show was scripted
Jacob left the show in 2016, and through social media, shared how he really felt about the series. He revealed that the production people were responsible for ‘stirring up family drama’ to create a great storyline and that they were doing everything they could for the ratings. He clarified that it didn’t mean they were not good people, but that they had their own agenda, which unfortunately didn’t sometimes jibe with what was best for his family, their health, and happiness. He further said that his family was nothing like what was seen on TV. Jacob was determined that he would leave the moment it was possible for him to do so, and so he did.
Reality shows are often suspected of being scripted or staged to make the content more interesting. It was one thing for fans to talk about this, but it was another matter when one of the stars said it. However, it seemed that most fans had learned to accept how reality TV was made, as long as it was still entertaining.
Jacob was molested by a producer
In December 2020, Jacob made a shocking revelation, and it was much worse than anything one could possibly imagine. He opened up about his traumatic experience in the past and said, ‘As a child, after what I realize now was a long grooming process, I was molested by an executive field producer for ‘Little People Big World,’ Chris Cardamone.’ He didn’t provide details but was hoping that in coming forward, the producer would no longer be allowed around children.
Chris worked on the TLC show with the Roloffs from 2007 to 2010 when Jacob was only 10 to 13 years old – it was reported that he was arrested and booked in 2008 for ‘felony lewd and lascivious acts with a minor’ in Santa Clara, California. In 2010, he accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to jail for 73 days and supervised probation for four years. However, this case had nothing to do with Jacob. In fact, he didn’t press charges against Chris as he said, ‘It’s extremely difficult to pursue any legal action because of a system built to make it that way. He won’t receive any repercussions except for perhaps socially from my post.’
The network issued a statement regarding the matter: ‘We are saddened and troubled by this very serious allegation, and TLC will work cooperatively with the authorities. Our main focus remains on supporting the Roloff family during this very difficult time.’ Jacob’s family didn’t know about the (alleged) abuse until two or three days before he posted on Instagram. It was a puzzle why the show wasn’t canceled after this, and fans speculated that perhaps there was some truth to a report that the molestation happened outside the farm, and after Chris was no longer a producer of the show.
Matt rejected his boys’ offer to buy the farm
Matt had said time and again that the farm would be his legacy to his children. Fast forward to May 2022, he put 16 acres of the 109-acre farm up for sale for $4 million, which shocked not just their fans but also his family.
The twins wanted to buy part of the farm that their mother Amy sold to Matt in June 2019 at $667,000, and then another area at $975,000 in August 2020. Zach thought that his growing family could live at the farmhouse, and perhaps take over running the farm. Jeremy was of the same mind, and his wife said that Jeremy was led to believe that this was possible because this was something he had already shown an interest in. However, neither could afford their father’s asking price. Amy didn’t know the details of the negotiations, but she knew that Matt was being unreasonable, as what he was asking for was too much. Zach even asked his father, ‘What is it worth to have your grandkids on this property?’ and added, ‘Do you want to make money off your own family, or is it, like, do you want this legacy that you’ve preached about for 10 years?’
Matt defended his decision, even claimimg that he gave them a family discount. ‘My twin boys decided not to consider working together toward a possible joint sale,’ he said. He was glad when they moved on to pursue other investments, because he believed that if either of his sons had bought the farm, he would still be the one maintaining it. He further said that selling them part of the property at an extreme discount would be unfair to Molly and Jacob, as it would cut into their inheritance, but in his mind it seemed that selling the land outside the family was OK.
Zach said that his dad was ‘manipulating the narrative’ so that he would come out in a positive light. He further shared that Matt, for most of his life, blamed others for his actions instead of taking responsibility for them.
The kids left the show
Many were curious how long it would be before TLC pulled the plug on the series, considering that Matt was at odds with Zach, who was the only one among his children who continued to film with them. One by one, the Roloff kids begged off from the show for one reason or another.
It was never explained why she preferred to live a normal life – she’s not estranged from her family. Her Instagram account was set to private, but she could still be seen spending time with her loved ones on special occasions through her family’s social media accounts. After she married her boyfriend Joel Silvius in 2017, they settled down in Spokane, Washington State, which was a five-hour drive from the farm. She worked full-time at an accounting firm there, and had clearly made a life for herself far from the spotlight.
After being in the TV series for 14 years and 17 seasons, Jeremy felt it was time to leave and pursue other interests; he was grateful for all the support his family received along the way. He made this announcement in 2018, and years would pass before he revealed his true sentiment toward the show. Jacob didn’t want to be associated with it anymore, and said that he and his wife had other things to do besides ‘fabricating drama on TV.’ In 2022, the couple purchased a $1.5 million two-story farmhouse and lot, just a seven-minute drive from the Roloff farm.
He opted out of the show, characterizing it as something that ‘tainted’ his childhood. He and his then-girlfriend now-wife, Isabel Rock, launched their own YouTube channel, Rock & Roloff, in January 2017, and posted videos of their trips and adventures. Some wondered why they chose to do this instead of filming for the reality series, but he said that this allowed them the freedom to do and say anything they wanted. At the moment, their channel only had one video on it, uploaded in April 2020, and the comment section was turned off.
He worked at the farm and helped out in preparing the place for the 2022 pumpkin season, just as in the previous year. It seemed that he was the only son left who was getting along with Matt, based on the latter’s Instagram posts. When a fan expressed hope that Jacob would be the one to take over the farm someday, Matt’s response was, ‘You just never know.’ When someone asked Isabel if they had plans to buy the farm, since they were there a lot, she replied, ‘I also go to the Thai place down the street a lot, but have no plans of purchasing it.’
Jacob’s Instagram posts showed his interest in growing marijuana. A fan left a comment saying how that seemed to be the direction in which the farm was going, and Jacob said, ‘The farm is 90-plus acres lol. The ‘directions’ it can go in are 90-plus.’ Some had doubts that he was growing organic cannabis at the Roloff farm, while others believed that he was but he could only use it for recreation and not make a profit out of it.
After his plans to buy a portion of the farm failed, Zach and his wife Tory bought a property in 2021 for around $1 million in Battleground, Washington State. As they moved away from the family farm and things weren’t great between father and son, many were worried if Zach would still be part of the show. When Matt visited Zach in his new home, many believed that he was making efforts to mend his relationship with his son. As for leaving the show, Tory once said, ‘I think for us, we enjoy sharing our lives, and for right now our kids get along great with the crew and it’s fun,’ and continued, ‘The minute it’s not fun anymore, then you got to come together and be like, all right, what’s our next step?’
Rumors of cancelation had hounded “Little People Big World” season after season, because of how the family had evolved through the years, but that added interest. Now, fans would have to wait and see what the next chapter would be in the lives of the Roloffs.