Monday, April 20, 2015

The Best Books for Beginning Gardeners & Farmers

It only took me 30 years to figure out what I  really wanted to be when I grow up.  A farmer!  I had this initial discovery when I began taking the Small Farm Business Management class at the local community college.  We were given our list of books that would be required reading for the course, and the second I opened "You Can Farm" by Joel Salatin, all the pieces just began to fall in place.  This was the voice I needed to hear (or read) and it's what motivated me to study up and try my damnedest at farming.  You must know that while I have learned a lot over the last few years I'm still a long way from working my own farm, but I'm getting closer and closer.


Our garden on our 3/4 acre homestead (and our business, which is called Black Dog Homestead) continues to expand and get bigger with every coming year, and our first year at the farmers market went really great last season!  Not to mention, we'll be attending a second farmers market this year in addition to the previously mentioned one.  All that said, I think that Lindsay and I are well on our way to creating our farm and I'd like to mention some of the reading material that I feel has brought us here.  So, in no particular order here is my recommended reading for anyone who is interested or already involved in gardening or farming.  Since I've already mentioned him I'll just start off with...

Joel Salatin
You Can Farm
Folks, This Ain't Normal

As I mentioned before "You Can Farm" is really the whole reason that I had the idea to expand from just gardening as a hobby, to taking a shot at farming full-time.  Joel Salatin is really a charismatic person and I'd almost be willing to say that he is a far better speaker than a writer. (Just type his name into the youtube search and watch any of his videos and you'll see) But, he does have a way with words on paper just as much as he does speaking.  What more would you expect from someone that describes them self as a "Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist-lunatic-Farmer"?  "You Can Farm" is his most informative work and covers almost every different aspect of farming you may have questions concerning.  "Folks, This Ain't Normal" is quite different.  It's more humorous, but focuses on the philosophical ascpect of farming and where our food comes from.  Joel also has a great book on keeping chickens and earning an income from them, as well as a book on raising cattle.  Unfortunately, we have yet to get into the livestock territory, but a boy can dream!




Eliot Coleman
The New Organic Gardener
Four-Season Harvest
http://www.fourseasonfarm.com

"The New Organic Gardener" had to be the second book that got me super excited to grow different vegetables and take a chance at selling them at the market!  Eliot Coleman really takes organic gardening and makes it so easy.  This book covers several different topics and helps to get you prepared for selling your own produce at the market.  "Four-Season Harvest" is another excellent book that helps to show how you can grow a variety of vegetables throughout all of the seasons, even winter.  I feel that this is something that most gardeners don't even consider, I should know because it certainly hadn't ever crossed my mind until opening this book.  Funny side note, back when The Learning Channel was actually a channel with substance, Eliot and his wife had a great show called "Gardening Naturally".  My how the time's have changed.




Gene Logsdon
The Contrary Farmer
Two Acre Eden
The Contrary Farmer's Invitation to Gardening
Gardener's Guide to Better Soil
https://thecontraryfarmer.wordpress.com

Alright, I had to stop myself before I just listed the man's whole list of work!  Gene Logsdon is by far my favorite author when it comes to gardening and agriculture.  Hell, he's become one of my favorite authors in general.  Just read some of the posts on his blog and you'll quickly see how infectious his sense of humor and intelligence are.  It was hard to narrow down the list, he has nearly 30 books under his belt: some even fiction, one on life and death and even one titled "Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind".  C'mon!  If you were more interested in a book on farming I would highly suggest "The Contrary Farmer".  While "You Can Farm" got me started, I much more enjoyed "The Contrary Farmer" and it has that Gene sense of humor that is just too hard to beat.


Ellen Sandbeck
Eat More Dirt
http://greenbarbarians.blogspot.com

Libraries are under appreciated.  Mine works with several other libraries in the central Illinois area, so if one of the other libraries has a book you would like you can put a request in and they'll receive it for you.  I've used this several times, just like I've checked out some of the same books several times!  Ok, there are a handful I have broken down and purchased my own copies. (Salatin, Coleman, Logsdon...) Anyways, I was lucky enough to come across this book at the local library while I was just browsing.  It's a quick and easy read and has some great pointers regarding organic gardening.  I haven't read any of Ellen's other books, but she has written some and keeps a blog on living a 'green' lifestyle.


Rebecca Thistlewaite
Farms With a Future
http://rebeccathistlethwaite.com

Each chapter throughout this book focuses on a different farm the author visited.  Some being strictly vegetable farms, some livestock, some both.  The different chapters discuss some of the groundbreaking ideas the farms had as well as some of their failures and advice from mistakes that they made.


Niki Jabbour
The Year Round Vegetable Gardener
http://www.nikijabbour.com

This is another book I just happened to uncover while browsing the 'new' section at the library.  The idea behind this book is in the same vein as Eliot Coleman's "Four-Season Harvest".  It focuses on showing how to garden during the cold winter months.  Unlike Coleman's book, this is a larger hardback and has photographs rather than illustrations.  While the informational content may not be any better than Colemans, you may find the photographs to be more helpful and it really is a nice-looking book to browse through and get those taste buds salivating.

Edward Smith
The Vegetable Gardener's Bible

I've only listed this one because it is pretty massive and it's a good trouble shooting guide for the avid gardener.  If you can't find any answers from this book or any of the other massive Rodale gardening books you're probably S.O.L.

Helen and Scott Nearing
The Good Life

This isn't really a book to help you with gardening or farming, but it still has a great deal to with those two topics.  This book reflects on how Helen and Scott lived self sufficiently for sixty years and it makes a lot of good points on how we should try to live, and to think of where our food comes from and how it really matters to live our lives to the fullest while respecting the planet we live on.  I'd highly recommend any of the Nearing's books if you haven't already read any.


Well, that's it!  I know there's a massive amount of literature on the broad topics of gardening and farming so hopefully this little list was able to help narrow it down some for you.  If you check any of these books out (library pun!) I'd be interested to know what you thought of them, or if there's any other good books you know of that I missed don't hesitate to mention them in the comments.  Remember, you can farm!  You can garden!  You can be self sufficient!


Harvesting pumpkins with Keller after a hard day of slip & slide!


1 comment:

  1. Your blog is so lovely! I stumbled across it looking for diy laundry detergent (which I made this morning). I can't wait to read your recommended books! I've been on my farm for almost a year and hope to make a career out of it once my little munchkins are a bit older! To see that you're doing it is inspiring, I look forward to following your journey.
    "It only took me 30 years to figure out what I really wanted to be when I grow up. A farmer! " ME TOO! People think I'm crazy, I'm glad I'm not the only one!

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