I have had this book on the shelf for almost a year, and finally opened it earlier this month. I quickly realized it is an essential book for anyone planning to own a profitable small farm or market garden.
The author, Ron Macher, is publisher of Small Farm Today, “the original how-to magazine of alternative and traditional crops and livestock, direct marketing, and rural living. His writing is practical and the information relevant, at any stage of farm planning.” It gave me plenty to consider, even years before owning or leasing farm land.
Macher takes the reader through some basic planning steps, beginning with evaluating your skills and resources. A significant portion of the book, he shares some very useful sustainable farming tips, including the use of crop rotation and livestock to increase soil fertility. He also shares some interesting recommendations for planning and marketing yourself and your products. The final chapters of the book deal specifically with farm management considerations.
I like the emphasis Macher places on not only environmental sustainability, but on economic sustainability as well. It is critical, in my opinion, that our small farms support our families, and our local communities, but that they leave something healthy and growing for the next generation. Something I have been worrying about lately is the tendency for “farm kids” to leave the farm after college and never return. We need educated, passionate people working our land, not just me and my generation, but our children as well. How can I encourage that level of commitment in my children? For one thing, I can work tirelessly to make sure the farm and farming are productive and enjoyable. I want to make sure they never feel a sense of useless drudgery or monotony but rather I want them to hold a true understanding of what is required to bring healthful, flavorful food out of the earth and onto our dinner table. Here’s a link to a talk Joel Salatin gave on this very subject. It’s on my must-have list:
So what is a small farm? From the Making Your Small Farm Profitable:
The confusion between small farms, family farms, and sustainable agriculture is somewhat understandable, because all three share similar characteristics.
- A small farm is any farm that comprises 179 acres or less, or that grosses $50,000 or less per year. Small farms are usually family farms but may or may not be sustainable.
- A family farm is any size farm – small, medium, or large – in which family members supply the majority of needed labor. A family farm is not necessarily sustainable.
- Sustainable agriculture is an economically viable, environmentally sound, and socially acceptable system of agriculture that may be used on any size farm.
Where do you fit in? Where would you like to?
Making Your Small Farm Profitable