The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener (Anglais) Broché – 1 janvier 1995
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Coleman writes, 'The premise of this book is that you can make a good living on 5 acres or less of intensive vegetable production. Thus it is those acres that concern us most.' (p16)
In a nutshell, Coleman's approach is to:
- plan and market effectively
- develop the healthiest soil
- grow the most valuable crops
- extend the growing season to the maximum
He show just how to do this in 334 pages with 28 chapters and four appendices. There isn't space here to offer a contents list, but here are some highlights:
Chapters addressing the question 'why do it?' - Agricultural craftsmanship', 'a final question'
Chapters on 'season extension', mobile greenhouses and 'the winter garden'.
'Plant-positive' solutions to pests.
Chapters on marketing strategy and marketing.
However, 'The New Organic Grower' covers far more than this - in fact everything you could need to start successful organic vegetable production! Readers living in cool/temperate climates may also want to check out Coleman's other popular book, 'Four Season Harvest'.
The advantage enjoyed by the small farmer is quality. If the product is first class and in demand and you are a dependable supplier at reasonable cost there is never a problem finding customers. But it needs hard work and intelligence. When starting in the era of 'get big or get out' there were almost no models of commercially successful organic small farmers to provide inspiration and ideas and where they existed it was exhausting and neither cost effective nor efficient. But by seeking out the best from different parts of the world Coleman found the optimum to be about 2.5 acres per grower - enough to produce quality vegetables for 100 people. Produce from the school farm now set the quality standards for the area. He learned much from Helen and Scott Nearing - they were the most practically organized country people he has met - especially their skills in observation and planning. Coleman sets out the year's work on paper during the winter and has a notebook with sections for each crop. He rotates crops until he finds the optimum - the single most important practice in a multi-cropping program. "The 8-year rotation presented below is a good one to conclude with because it is the one I have followed since 1982. It has been well tested. I have thought about modifying it countless times but never have. Its virtues always seem to outweigh its defects, although that isn't to say it can't be improved. I'm sure it can. But it has been a dependable producer and I offer it here as a tried-and-true example of a successful rotational sequence that incorporates many crop benefits. The goal of this particular rotation is to grow 32 vegetable crops in adequate quantities to feed for a year the community of 60-some people who eat daily in the Mountain School dining hall. Since we have found that we can feed 40 people per acre, the rotation below represents 1.5 acres of land. The salad crops not included here are grown in a separate small salad garden close to the kitchen." However, the author points out that tomatoes do better being grown in the same place each year fertilized by their own waste.
Factors that affect plant growth - light, moisture, temperature, soil fertility, mineral balance, biotic life, weeds, pests, seeds, labor, planning and skill - need to be arranged to the plant's liking with the grower coordinating and combining them into a harmonious whole much like the conductor of an orchestra. Successful farmers understand that their role is to help the seed do what it is already determined to do. Good farming practices such as crop rotation, animal manures, green manures, cover crops, mixed cropping, mixed stocking, legumes, crop residues, and season extension have been used for generations, but removing the limiting factors to plant growth and generating a balanced soil fertility are ultimately the secret of success.
There are 22 chapters, each one dealing with an important element of success such as green manures, tillage, direct seeding, transplanting, weeds, pests, harvest, marketing, season extension. In addition there are three appendices on tools, the major vegetable crops and a one-page schematic outline of biological agriculture. If you plan to buy just one book on organic growing, you will find it difficult to beat this book.
1: Irrigation. He mentions he built a pond at one point. No clue how irrigation fits his system, if it does.
2: Mulches. While mentioned several times, there is no chapter or sub-section devoted to this important topic.
3: Egg or dairy systems. Livestock mentioned in the book is for meat. There is no concession for non-meat animal uses. He mentions sheep that he buys at the beginning of the season, sets to graze with the chickens, and then sells for little profit just so his chickens get more protein (read: bigger breasts).
Coleman never gets tired of talking about his farm-based sources of nutrients, and yet he is completely dependent on outside inputs for his unbelievably intricate 10-year fertility regime. He casually mentions buying peat and clay by the ton, neglects any mention of animal husbandry, seed saving or permaculture of any sort.
At times this comes over as downright sanctimonious, particularly in the chapter "Pests?" In which Eliot explains how every pest problem you've ever had is your fault for not paying attention to the culture requirements of the plants. He calls all pest management practices "palliatives" meant to hide the problem rather than correct the source of the pest issue.
Overall a well written book with loads of useful information. You just have to get over Coleman's down-east arrogance to get to the juicy bits.
Looking at this book now, I realize how limited it really is. As I said, it's a great starting point, but I would discourage the reader from thinking of it is a blueprint for a farm. Coleman presents crop rotations and plans in a way that makes it seem as though if you follow his advice, you're bound to succeed! The text is even written in the imperative tense so it sounds like a recipe. Coleman rarely multiple perspectives on each topic, making it sound like the route described is the way to go. But, individual farms and regions differ so much that it is much more important for you to learn about your OWN situation and adapt as is best. The way in the book is very likely not the best way for many farms.
Also, as I've learned about Coleman and his actual farming operation, I've realized that the farm he describes in this book is completely hypothetical -- it is not the way that he actually operates his own farm. So, the descriptions present an illustratively useful little ideal market garden, but that farm is just a model -- not a reality.
I know people who have followed the guides in this book to a 'T' and really struggled to make sense out of them. Eventually they just start thinking for themselves using some of the principles as a base.
Also, conspicuously missing from this book: any information about irrigation for growers in the west!
But I must admit that as established farmers, my husband and I do refer back to this book with some regularity -- especially the appendix with specific vegetable growing information. Not all of it applies to our situation here in Oregon (which is a very different climate that Coleman's in Maine), but it's useful to see what another farmer has to say about cabbage or carrots.
I'd definitely recommend this book to a wanna-be farmer, but with the caveat that it is JUST a starting point and reference guide. It will NOT teach you everything you need to know to start a successful farm. I'm glad it's in our farming library, but I'm also glad we own many other books as well (and have years of experience under our belts, which is the MOST important resource we have).