Market Gardening: How to Make a Living on 1.5 Acres

Learn from the experience of a seasoned farmer and you, too, will be able to grow a successful and fulfilling market gardening career on less acreage than you ever thought possible.

| December 2015/January 2016

Many people believe that a small-scale market garden can’t compete economically with larger industrial growers. For more than a decade, however, my wife and I have supported our four-person family solely by intensively farming 1.5 acres. We offer our experience here as a road map to help you start your own successful market farm.

We began our farming careers as “WWOOFers” (volunteers with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), and later worked as farm managers on someone else’s market farm. After we spent some time learning abroad, we came home to Quebec to pursue our own farming project. We started small by growing produce on one-fifth of an acre and by living simply — in a tipi! After a few years, we longed to put down roots in the community and expand our farm, but we needed to generate income. To make payments on a small plot, fund the construction of a modest home, and cover the expenses that surround a growing family and business, we made a decision that might sound contradictory to economic growth: we decided to stay small.

We wanted to continue relying on inexpensive hand tools and light power tools. We even named our farm Les Jardins de la Grelinette after la grelinette (“broadfork”), a tool that epitomizes efficient hand labor in organic gardening. We’ve always believed that it’s possible — even preferable — to intensify production through smart gardening techniques. Our motto became “Grow better instead of bigger.”

A Biologically Intensive Approach to Market Gardening

We began by investing in a large quantity of organic matter to create rich, living soil. We continue to add compost regularly, while restricting the tilling of the soil to the surface. This method keeps the soil’s structure as intact as possible. By improving the soil’s structure, we’ve been able to sow crops close together, resulting in higher yields and reduced weed growth.

We further maximized our growing space by planting as many succession crops as possible. To make a crop-rotation plan, we had to first determine the length of time each crop would spend in the garden, and then schedule our plantings so we could replace harvested crops with new plants or seeds as soon as possible. With our crop-rotation plan in hand, we succeeded in producing multiple harvests from the same permanent garden beds. 

Use a Walk-Behind Tractor for Maximum Production

We wanted to avoid the investment necessary for maintaining a large, four-wheeled tractor, so we rely on a small-but-mighty walk-behind tractor with multiple detachable implements. Learn about two-wheeled tractor options online

12/29/2015 5:43:57 PM

Loved this article, it was inspiring. We love to garden and do anything that we can to be more self-sufficient. Also, we would like to let you know, you can get a FREE copy of "Our Survival Essentials " during our FREE Promo days Dec 30, 31st 2015 and Jan 1st 2016, So remember to grab your free copy during the next three days

12/18/2015 12:18:06 PM

Great article. Very inspiring. Our little farm is in its fledgling stages, and it's great to know that it is possible to be both economically, as well as environmentally sustainable with a small market-garden farm (the economic part still escapes us, but in time we'll get there!). Thanks for sharing the story of your success.

12/2/2015 8:15:16 AM

Truly inspiring for want to be farmers/gardeners. However using a scientific, innovative and integrated approach as well as understanding the relevance of design you can build a self sustaining farm, garden or community that is ecologically sustainable, environmentally friendly while creating bio diversity and aiding the bio sphere, food security, sovereignty community health and well being. This is accomplished using less energy, water, land, time,labor and money to produce more healthy tasty,nutritious food and all without chemicals. For a more comprehensive in depth hypothesis confirmed by all the latest up to date research, empirical and unequivocal data confirmed by global case studies join me on LinkedIn Global Agro-Ecology/Permaculture Consultant On 1/6 of an acre you can grow most of your daily nutritional needs for a family of 6 through design.

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