In part 1, I shared some books that inspired me to take this organic farming journey, and some that have deepened my roots as I grow.
After inspiration comes work.
I love to daydream as much as anyone, but to really grow a life you love, and to grow an organic farm or garden, you need to physically plant the seed, tend the fields, and show up to do the work.
While it’s important to start before you’re ready (because if you wait until you’re 100% ready, you’ll never start), it’s also important to grow your foundational knowledge. And winter is the perfect time to study.
The best books for organic vegetable production:
The Soul of Soil, by Grace Gershuny
Before you plant a seed, get to know your soil. This book is a fantastic resource for understanding soil and why healthy soil is crucial for growing healthy organic plants.
The Gardener’s A-Z Guide to Organic Growing, by Tanya L.K. Denckla
This is a fantastic guide for gardeners who want details on specific crops.
Denckla goes alphabetically through vegetables, herbs, fruits & nuts, giving the reader temperature requirements, soil and water needs, seeding dates, potential pests and diseases, good companion plants, and recommended varieties for each crop.
With chapters on disease, insect and animal control, as well as companion planting, this book gives a strong foundation for organic gardeners.
The New Organic Grower: a master’s manual of tools and techniques for the home and market gardener, by Eliot Coleman
More than any other book, this has been the foundation for almost every new organic farmer I know.
Eliot Coleman is a pioneer in small-scale organic farming, and this book covers everything from choosing a site and scale to creating a crop rotation, green manures, soil fertility, seeding and transplanting, season extension and more.
The Winter Harvest Handbook, by Eliot Coleman
Year-round growing is a key to financial profitability for many farms, and something we’re working toward on Good Heart Farmstead. Each year we extend the season a little more on each end: producing earlier in the spring and later into the winter.
This book offers in-depth, practical advice on winter growing. It covers everything from greenhouse design to effective winter crops, sunlight, soil temperature, harvesting in winter, marketing and economics and more.
(Opening it up again right now just pulled me away from writing this blog for a good 10 minutes. It’s got SO MUCH information and Coleman’s writing style is easy to read).
In the 1980’s, American farmers were told to “get big or get out.” This book is a radical departure from that phrase. In fact, it’s guiding principle is “grow better, not bigger.”
J.M. Fortier and Maude-Héléne Desroches make a living—a good living—off of 1.5 acres in southern Quebec. In this book, Fortier shares the path to high-production and profitability on a micro-scale through the use of low-tech, high-yield production methods.
Edge and I had a chance to visit their farm in 2014. You can read the article I wrote about it on the High Mowing Organic Seeds blog.
The Lean Farm, by Ben Hartman
The Lean Farm is our current farm bible. It’s subtitle says it all: “how to minimize waste, increase efficiency, and maximize value and profits with less work.”
Based on principles originally developed by the Japanese automotive industry, Hartman applies “lean” to his 1-acre farm, which, like Fortier’s, is profitable on a micro-scale.
From how to get rid of waste (be it unsold crops, wasted energy, unused tools, etc), to identifying value, establishing sales that pull customers in rather than pushing them to buy, and creating an environment of continuous improvement, this book really lives up to its name.
There are many more books, of course.
What are your favorite organic gardening and farming books? Let me know in the comments below.