For those wishing to create a livelihood from the land, yet perhaps scared of how to make the numbers work, this new book by Jean-Martin Fortier is a revelation: The Market Gardener: A Successful Growers Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming (New Society Publishers, 2014).
A step-by-step guide that lays out practical know-how, Fortier has done his due diligence to learn from those who have innovated in the past and compiled successful strategies into one small successful farm. In a time of “feel good stories” that may or may not be financially solvent, Fortier simply hands over to the reader the blueprints to confidently launch and run a small-scale market garden.
A Brief History of Bio-Intensive Farming
Fortier’s book builds upon the teachings of Rudolf Steiner in Europe. The “French Bio-Intensive Method” was brought to America by Alan Chadwick and showcased at U.C. Santa Cruz’s Chadwick Gardens. This venue provided the learning lab for numerous baby-boomer students of Chadwick.
Of this rich legacy of students, the bio-intensive method was most popularized by student and author John Jeavons in his book, How to Grow More Vegetables. As Jeavon’s luminary text laid out concise plant spacing charts to achieve maximum production per square foot, so too does this book lay out explicit plans for success.
Tools for Financial Success
Fortier’s farm in Quebec, Canada, produces $150,000 per year in merely 1.5 acres of intensive production.
From startup expense spreadsheets to in-depth planting charts and rotation planting plans, Fortier walks the reader through all phases of vegetable production for market. A young farmer still in his 30s, this no-nonsense approach appeals to readers wanting guidance in how to grow successfully, not reasons why it is important.
The abundant spreadsheets and charts help turn concepts into easily interpreted images. The fact that he makes $150,000/year (gross) on 1.5 acres has the calming effect of encouraging the reader to take a try in this rapidly growing industry of small-scale ecological farming.
This book walks the reader through crop profiles regarding season length, spacing, fertility (heavy versus light feeders) and profitability of each crop per square foot. In this way, the reader can follow the step-by-step guide and achieve an educated jump on how to orchestrate the many moving parts of a vegetable farm.
Further, Fortier provides multi-year rotation charts to ensure soil health and prevent pathogens from spreading between plants of the same botanical family.
Inspiration for Beginning Farmers
The human-scale success of the Fortier’s story and the infectious passion he conveys in his writing sparks an enthusiasm to get out there and try these organic cultivation concepts.
Written in 2014, this text gives a modern update to the bio-Intensive method of crop production in small acreage. By humbly presenting past mistakes as well as home-grown innovations, Fortier’s words are rooted in action, not rhetoric.
I had the pleasure of hearing him lecture at a local food conference this past winter, and surely his willingness to travel throughout his winter off-season to spark interest around the nation shows his passion to share and incite the grand experiment of producing a livelihood from humble acreage.
For all Acres USA readers with an inclination to attempt market gardening, this book is a tangible support structure to follow suit and turn that fallow paddock into a productive and profitable small-scale farm.
Through all phases of farming — planning, planting, cultivating, harvesting, processing, to sales and market research — this book is a how-to guide to instill in the reader a newly found confidence to begin production of market vegetables.
The Market Gardener is a no-frills support guide that empowers the reader to get involved in positive local change, and make a decent living while doing so.
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