Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Organic Farming

Organic Farming: Everything You Need to Know. Peter V. Fossel. Recommended.

For anyone who has dreamed of quiting one's day job and retiring to an idyllic life in the country, perhaps the thought of starting an organic produce farm would be the way to sustain you and yours. This book provides a basic background for those contemplating such a move.

The first chapter examines the benefits of organic farming; both to the environment and consumer. The next chapter highlights the author's own experiences in starting his family's farm, as well as tips for selecting and setting up your own.

The majority of the book is dedicated to the lifeblood of your new farm: building the soil. Basic soil chemistry, green manure, compost and crop rotation all get fairly extensive coverage. Healthy, robust soil will not only provide good yields, but helps prevent disease and pests. Depending on the state of the soil on your farm, this process may take years of hard work. It is best to purchase the best land you can afford.

Next is a large section on greenhouses and hoophouses. Extending the growing season is very important for both self sufficiency and to maximize profitability. There are two chapters for pest control, for both weeds and insects.

Tractors and other implements are examined; depending on the size of the farm your tractor can be small or perhaps reduced to only a rototiller. Since profit margins will likely be rather thin, reducing overhead is key. Machinery is very capital intensive.

The next two chapters focus on what I consider to be very important concepts: becoming organically certified and marketing your wares. If you are going to have an organic farm, you must find a niche market for your goods. Since you will inevitably have higher costs per unit, you must find willing buyers at those higher costs to remain solvent. This will involve differentiating your organic products from conventional ones, searching out people who appreciate the difference and educating those who may not be aware of the benefits. This can be accomplished through farmer's markets, roadside stands, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

The final chapters highlight the wide variety of items you can grow on your new farm; fruits, vegetables, flowers and livestock. You may wish to have a wide variety or specialize in certain areas. Each approach has its own advantages and drawbacks.

While there would no doubt be many tangible benefits to pursuing this endeavor, I do not have any misconceptions about the difficulties that such a lifestyle change would bring. This book touches on them, but I don't believe it gives them due coverage. Such a change is probably not something that you would jump into, but rather slowly transition into after much research and practical experience.

This is the path the author recommends; starting small, gaining outside experience on a farm and not quitting your day job too quickly. I felt this should be emphasized a bit more, but I suppose there are few people foolhardy enough to read one book and jump in head first.

Pros: Good beginning overview of starting an organic farm. Easy to read, in an inviting style.

Cons: Several photos are blurry and amateurish. I doubt any book could include everything you need to know about farming, organic or otherwise; let alone one this thin (abt. 150 pgs.).


Survival Information said...

Looks like a good book I'll have to check it out.

Chief said...

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