[Market-farming] Tillage is Tillage
pbucciaglia at yahoo.com
Wed Feb 7 18:04:05 EST 2007
I have really, really tried not to get involved in this thread because I can sense fairly strong emotional vibes in some of the posts.
But I did want to point something out. I found Colemans book to be a marvelous book on gardening. It has also been highly inspirational to many first-time market gardeners, which is a laudable achievement. However, its utility as a model for forming a farm business is more open to debate. That was underscored by Coleman's recent revelation of his net income from the sale of produce (as distinguished from profits from the sales of books or product endorsements). I don't recall the numbers (I believe its in a back issue of Growing for Market), but as an 'east coaster' my sense was that it was something less than a 'middle class income' for say, a couple or a small family. If I am wrong, please let me know (in a sensitive, non-flame kind of way :-)
Should that matter? For some, it won't. But my goal when I started my farm was to earn something approaching a middle class income solely from farm sales. And so for me a far more useful manual was Vern Grubingers "Sustainable Vegetable Production" . Like Colemans book, it focuses on Northeast growing, with two major differences. First, it has REAL NUMBERS you can crunch. Second, it tends to concentrate on a scale of growing that is profitable, sustainable, and attainable (the capital startup costs are sizeable but not extreme). These farms tend to be from 5 to 40 acres, work quality soils, have mechanized tillage and cultivation, and effiecient growing and harvesting systems. I know many very successful farmers earning good livings while stewarding the land they farm on this scale.
Which is not to say you can't make a decent living off of smaller acreages. However, I do think at that scale you have to be more selective about what you grow: more cut flowers, tomatoes, and salad mix, and less cabbage and baking spuds. As others have pointed out in this thread, the beauty of market farming is that its a very creative endeavor with no one way to do things.
Fort Hill Farm, Western CT
14 acres of frozen veggies.
market-farming-request at lists.ibiblio.org wrote:
1. Re: Tillage is tillage (Tradingpost)
Date: Wed, 07 Feb 2007 10:13:29 -0700
Subject: Re: [Market-farming] Tillage is tillage
To: market-farming at lists.ibiblio.org
Message-ID: <200702071013290839.034001E5 at mail.lobo.net>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
I've relocated and have to start over at the age of 63, but what I'm doing
or not doing shouldn't convince anyone to risk time and capital with my
exact methods. We're in semi-arid central NM on land that's never been
farmed, so permanent no-till beds need to be preceded with digging down and
building up with frames to hold mulch in high winds. Starting over with
back trouble doesn't sound promising. And if and when I ever quit learning,
the only thing I'll be good for is pushing up daisies. Even if I could
claim to be an expert it wouldn't make any difference since experts are
notorious for disagreeing.
I mentioned Eliot Coleman because he's got 30 years of growing behind him
and succeeded financially, growing sustainably without power equipment or
chemicals, on a miniscule area of land in a harsh climate. That ought to be
an example worth investigating. I thought it very odd that no one here
asked how does he do it, how can he succeed on such small acreage, how can
he make any money without tractors and other equipment. Those would seem to
be the obvious questions, esp when a large percent of produce growers need
an outside job just to pay bills and support their growing operation. And
the common wisdom for decades has been "get big or get out" (as Earl Butz
I've come to the opinion that "Fresh-market organic produce, small scale"
is the ticket to sustainable and financially viable growing, and that
building healthy soil in permanent beds with intensive, optimum close
planting and interplanting can suppress weeds without herbicides or
excessive weeding (with mulch as needed), and get by far the best
production from available space while cutting costs per unit of production.
And proven season extension techniques without machinery expense improves
the bottom line even further. It appears these principles are widely
demonstrated as workable, but putting them into practice means a lot of
variations for different climates, soils, and markets.
It also appears to me that no one writer or researcher has all the answers,
that time and experience separate those who do from those who only teach
and write grant proposals. Many methods and names have come and gone or
been absorbed into the mainstream, Mittleider, Keyline, whatever. Our
conditions are very different from the French intensive growers described
in my 1913 book, Intensive Culture of Vegetables. Chadwick and Jeavons
proved they could get great production by improving useless land, but who
would want the worst soil to start with, and double dig it every year?
Coleman has good access to markets including restaurants, but not everyone
does. Many other writers and modern homesteaders have outlined complete
homesteads with crops, animals, outbuildings, and so forth, but there's a
serious learning curve there, and youngsters starting out today need the
capitalization and determination to go that route and survive to tell about
it. I think the greatest need right now is to learn better growing systems
that are more sustainable and more economical for homegrowers and market
growers alike. That's what I'm pursuing, along with many others. Too many
growing at home give up when they realize it's not worth the trouble or
expense. Too many growing for market are sustained only by their refusal to
give up sustainable, local produce.
paul tradingpost at lobo.net
Fort Hill Farm
Organic Vegetables, Herbs, and Flowers
18 Fort Hill Rd.
New Milford CT 06776
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