Don't think you can make a living as a farmer on just an acre or two of land? Jean-Martin Fortier, author of "The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming," wants to prove that you can. In fact, he already has.
Fortier and his wife, Maude-Hélène Desroches, clear $140,000 in sales annually on their 1.5-acre farm, Les Jardins de la Grelinette. And, he says, anyone could do the same by applying some simple techniques.
“I felt that there was a need for [a book] like this. I have been involved with growing the food movement. My response was to tell people that they can grow and here is how,” Fortier told civileats.com.
At a time when most prospective farmers are shying away from small-scale agriculture due to financial concerns, Fortier is sure to draw an audience. His philosophy is "grow better, not bigger," and he trades expensive, mechanized farming contraptions like tractors for hands and light power tools.
Basically, the couple's approach to growing food is what they call "biologically intensive." It centers around permaculture methods like conservation tillage, building permanent beds, and crop rotation. The philosophy also details the utility of simple tools like the broadfork and the two-wheel tractor.
"The broadfork traces its origin back to the grelinette, a tool invented in France by André Grelin in the 1960s," explained Fortier. "We named our business, Les Jardins de la Grelinette, after the tool because it is so emblematic of our philosophy of efficient, environmentally sound, manual gardening."
The method, which is detailed in the book, is also focused on how to organize a small farm's different workspaces to make growing as efficient, practical and ergonomic as possible. The book also explains how to fertilize organically, start seeds, as well as how to manage weeds and insect pests.
Les Jardins de la Grelinette isn't designed to feed the world — it feeds just 200 families a week during the summer months with a diversified mix of crops including beets, broccoli, salad greens and carrots — but the point is that it doesn't have to. Small-scale farms can feed their communities with fresh, organic produce and make a handsome living doing so.
Fortier also believes his methods can be applied all over the world, in a variety of different climates. For instance, Les Jardins de la Grelinette is located in Canada, but Fortier and Desroches have spent time on farms in Cuba, Mexico and New Mexico too. In fact, many of their methods are common practice on small and large farms in places like South America and Africa, even though these methods seem to have been lost on North American farmers.
"My message is that if you want to get into farming — if you’re young and you don’t have access to land or capital, this is a pretty bright way to do it without a lot of input. And you can make a living," said Fortier.
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