A couple seasons ago, some real great farmers, Dan and Emily from Tourne-Sol Cooperative Farm in Quebec were visiting and we were talking about ideas for conference speakers for the ACORN conference. Dan mentioned a farmer friend, Jean-Martin who was writing a book sharing secrets from the success on the farm he runs with his partner Maude-Helene (called Les Jardins de la Grelinette), whom I had never heard of. ACORN brought Jean-Martin in to speak at the 2012 conference and he definitely wowed the crowd (you can find notes from his presentations here).
And he wowed me too. I strongly believe that new farmers, young farmers, struggling farmers, unfulfilled farmers, etc. need to see examples of farms and farmers that are successful (however they have defined that success) and profitable. We need to see that our chosen career can fulfill the dreams and goals and (at least) many of our ideals.
So, it was great to see a small farm (both in terms of physical acreage and in terms of labour force) provide a very respectable livelihood for a family while retaining its core values of environmental and personal stewardship (I’m not sure that “personal stewardship” is a commonly used phrase but I think it makes sense).
Jean-Martin’s book, Le Jardinier Maraicher, came out last year. And folks were thrilled. Well, at least folks who can read French. And while I don’t want any of my French immersion teachers over the years to be offended, I did not learn that the word “grelinette” was French for “broadfork” during my school years, nor the French words for many other farming tools or activities. I was tempted to buy the book anyway and muddle through it with a dictionary but then I heard that FarmStart was trying to raise funds to have the book translated.
Well, the funds were raised and the book was translated. And it’s just come out (translated to The Market Gardener). I couldn’t wait to get my hands on in and, when I did, I couldn’t put it down. I read it within a couple days.
It’s not a hard book to read. Reading it, I felt inspired with actions I can actually do this coming season to improve our farm. One of those actions will be to try solarising some of our beds before planting with black silage plastic or tarps. This will prevent weeds from growing and allow earthworms and other soil organisms to come right up and digest the plant matter while minimizing tillage.
The Market Gardener goes through and nicely describes small-scale appropriate management techniques and tools for all the different jobs a market gardener gets up to over the year (like choosing a site and preparing it, soil fertility management, harvest and storage, and crop planning).
The goals Jean-Martin and Maude-Helene came into farming with are goals that Bryan and I share as well as many of the young farmers we know. I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve really resonated with this book. I know it will become a well-used book in our home and one that we will frequently recommend.
To read the first chapter of the book as well as the foreword and advance praise, here’s the link: First Chapter of The Market Gardener