Book Review: Le Jardinier-Maraîcher

This is a book review I wrote for Canadian Organic Growers new website for their magazine  (http://magazine.cog.ca) and to help promote translate Le Jardinier-Maraîcher.

Last fall, Jean-Martin Fortier published Le Jardinier-Maraîcher (French for The Market Gardener) about growing organic vegetable profitably on a small acreage.

This is a thorough farming manual that lays out a human-scale farming system centered on good growing practices and appropriate technology. It is based on Jean-Martin and his wife Maude-Hélène’s farm experience at Les Jardins de La Grelinette. Le Jardinier-Maraîcher presents a similar growing philosophy to The New Organic Grower – Elliot Coleman’s seminal work that fueled a new generation of small vegetable farms (including Jean-Martin and Maude-Hélène). But Jean-Martin goes further. Le Jardinier-Maraîcher provides much more detailed information on crop yields, harvest periods, and pricing approaches. It brings more practical perspectives on a number of topics including crop rotation. This is a complete modern small-scale farming handbook.

For years, Jean-Martin had been telling me about this book he was writing to inspire and teach new farmers. I thought it was a fantastic ambition but for the longest time I doubted this book would see fruition. After all, though la Grelinette is a small farm in size, Jean-Martin and Maude-Helène do feed 140 families through their CSA, run two market stands, and supply their signature mesclun salad mix to a number of restaurants and stores; in addition to raising two kids and a dairy goat. Yeah, I didn’t think this book would be published. Yet, here it is.

That Jean-Martin wrote and published this book is a testament to the power of les Jardins de la Grelinette’s farming approach. Jean-Martin dedicated both a number of winters to this writing project and the large part of two growing seasons while Maude-Hélène managed the farm and maintained the same scale of operations. Not every farm can relieve half of its management force and thrive as effectively. But the farming system Jean-Martin and Maude-Hélène built has been able to provide both a profitable livelihood and a great quality of life.

Had I read this book when I was a starting farmer, I would now be farming with a BCS walking tractor on an acre and hailing Jean-Martin as my market gardening guru! This book is going to inspire new farmers to stay small and farm profitably. I encourage you all to go out and learn French to read this book, or you can go and support FarmStart’s campaign to get this book translated into English!

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