[blockquote cite=”Jean-Martin Fortier” type=”center”]”The goal is to increase production and have more of a life every year. When we produce more, we want to work less.” [/blockquote]
Right now there is a romanticism around farming out there.
Working the land, boots on the ground carving a living out of a piece of earth. It harkens back to a time long ago when things were simpler. When small family farms were more of the norm. In 1900 there were almost 6 million farms in the US, now there are about 2 million. Yet today there is a huge growing demand for locally produced organic food.
There is a need and there is an opportunity there. And in today’s busy technology fueled world there are a lot of people out there that want to take Facebook from the cubicle to the field and get their hands into the soil and get into farming.
But if you are one of the ones that decide to go for it and head down that path of farming, then the one thing you are going to hear a lot of is – how the heck are you going to make a living doing that? You should look for a real job. Although there is some ignorant assumption underlying that warning, a lot of that is based in fact.
Most U.S. farms are small: 75 percent had sales of less than $50,000 in 2012. Sales. Sales. Not profit, sales. The truth hurts, and it is hard to make a living and support a family on $50k in sales. Just that stat diminishes hope and puts some tarnish on that shiny dream. The low income projection and then you add in the common reasons that come up in terms of why they someone can’t get into farming – I don’t have access to land, and I don’t have a lot of capital. And the road to your little family farm looks tough. And if you are going the traditional route it is, the odds and stats are against you.
So if you want to go into farming what should you do? Suck it up and try to get by on $50k in sales? Should you just give up on that dream?
My guest today, would say don’t give up, just adjust your model – farm better, not bigger. He is an advocate of farming small and farming smart. Aspiring farmers take note, it can be done, and it is being done. No tractor required.
Today I am talking to someone who killing it farming 1.5 acres. He is doing over $140k in sales on that 1.5 acres, supporting himself and his family in the process. Of that $140k 40% is profit. Compare that to corn and soybeans which net about $280 an acre. And he is grossing that $140k working 9 months a year and average length works days. We aren’t talking about burnout workload here. Think about that. $800 per acre versus $90000.
I am happy to welcome Jean Martin Fortier, the author of The Market Gardener to the show.
Jean Martin is a great example of someone who is out there maximizing efficiency and productivity on a small piece of land. His whole grow bigger, not better philosophy echoes this. Jean Martin focuses on growing biointensive and the use of appropriate technology to work with his permanent raised beds. And he designed the farm with the intent of keeping it manageable for the scale that he was at. He maximizes productivity and quality of life.
For anyone that wants to get into farming, but is having trouble getting the numbers to work, this is the episode for you. This is a model that works. This is a paradigm shift.
[blockquote cite=”Jean-Martin Fortier” type=”center”]”You need to grow your own pie. And not always hear that the pie isn’t big enough. You need to start your own pie.”[/blockquote]
- Realize the importance of taking good notes this year to help increase efficiency and productivity next year.
- Focus on making sure 100% of the harvest is prime stuff. When choosing between two otherwise identical products, customers will always choose the better looking one.
- Don’t try to do it all at once. Master some crops before moving to the next.
- Focus on building soil. It is really important for healthy crops to grow in soil with a good soil structure and healthy soil biology.
- Focus on being effective and efficient. Use the farm design to limit foot traffic. 15 minutes here and there adds up.
- Utilize hands-off processes that work with little to no input 24/7. For example the tarps controlling weeds and maintaining soil moisture.
- Don’t neglect your intention. What is your goal? What is your objective? Then plan for that.
- Work at least one full year at another farm first.
- Rented land allows you to get some experience and make mistakes without a lot of financial pressure.
- Buying land might not always make sense.
- How much can you actually manage? Plan according to that, not bigger. Dangers of farming too big include higher costs (labor), possible need for a tractor, and larger farms are often scaled for specific crops, not diversified production.
- “Grow better, not bigger.”
- “The goal is to increase production and have more of a life every year. When we produce more, we want to work less.”
- “One aspect of our farming success is keeping things small and manageable.”
- “You need to grow your own pie. And not always hear that the pie isn’t big enough. You need to start your own pie. “
- “If you want to have a small farm you need to be focusing on quality because that is how you beat the bigger farms.”
The beds are sized to the tools, and the tools are gentle on the soil.
- Power harrow.
- Permanent raised beds.
- UV Treated Sillage Tarps
- Drill Powered Salad Harvester
- A full list of Jean-Martin’s favorite tools are here..
Growing Intensive Benefits:
- Spend less time walking around.
- Less actual space to maintain.
- Crowds out weeds.
- Row covers, tarps, and netting can cover more crops with the same amount of area.
- What to grow, exactly.
- Where to grow it, exactly.
- When it is going to be ready.
- With what to replace it with. And when to start the replacement.
Take the summer heat and move it into the more idle winter.
Know what to do every week. During the busy summer season it helps to simplify things. They always know what to do. There is no guessing or scrambling.
[blockquote cite=”Jean-Martin Fortier” type=”center”]”One aspect of our farming success is keeping things small and manageable.”[/blockquote]
Bed Preparation for Precision Seeding
Jean-Martin Fortier on Starting a Farm
Curtis Stone interviews Jean-Martin Fortier
[blockquote cite=”Shannon Jones” type=”center”]How do we encourage a new generation of ecological, small scale farmers? By showing that farming can be a viable, stimulating, and respected career choice. This book offers the hope that a small scale diversified market garden can be both profitable and personally fulfilling and then goes on to give practical advice on just how to do it.[/blockquote]
Other Permaculture Voices episodes related to this episode..
More information on Jean-Martin Fortier
You can contact Jean-Martin HERE.