You are super excited to be starting your market garden! Trust me, I know the feeling! But before you jump in feet first, it’s probably a good idea to gather as much information about market farming as possible, before you start.
My husband Jon and I have read and still read a ton of books about market farming. There is so much to learn before you start, as well as keeping up to date with all the latest information.
The list below is just a fraction of the books that we have read because, well, we keep reading more and more!
I am confident that if you read these 10 books BEFORE you start, you will know what you need to start a successful market farm.
As well, if you were on the fence as to whether you wanted to start a market garden or not, reading just one or two of these books will help you decide whether or not market farming is for you.
Without further ado, in no particular order, here are the top 10 books to read before starting a market garden.
Considered the quintessential small-scale farming handbook by countless market gardeners, The Market Gardener by J.M. Fortier is a must-have. No questions asked, get this book for your collection and refer to it often.
J.M. and his wife have been market gardeners for over 15 years and they are seen as the frontiers in this new small-scale farming realm.
They are considered the first few people to believe and achieve financial stability on a small-scale farm without the use of large machinery.
Their experience is invaluable to the new market gardener and this book is a great resource based on their own experiences on their own market farm as well as others.
The Market Gardener was the very first book that I read when considering market farming as a career choice.
It is well-written, simply illustrated, and just a great all-around manual for market gardeners to have in their arsenal.
Topics covered in The Market Gardener include:
- Introduction to small-scale farming
- No-till methods
- Sowing seeds
- Weed management
- Insects and pests
- Season extension
- Crop planning
The Market Gardener is an incredible resource and a must-have in your market garden book collection.
Eliot Coleman is an icon in the market gardener world. In fact, J.M Fortier based many of his techniques on the teachings from Eliot Coleman.
He really is the pioneer of market gardening. Like The Market Gardener, The New Organic Grower is a manual of techniques and tools used by the market farmer to improve crop productivity and subsequently profits.
Topics in The New Organic Grower include:
- Marketing strategy
- Crop rotation
This is a very comprehensive book that is very handy to have in your library to refer to when you need some guidance in any of these areas.
I always find it helpful to learn from someone who has been there and done that because nothing beats experience. That is exactly what you will get from this book. Knowledge from experience.
The Urban Farmer is all about well, urban farming. That’s right, we’re talking front yards, back yards, with houses all around.
Curtis Stone is the guy for learning how to enter the small-scale farming movement while living within the city limits.
He concentrates on maximizing profit by using intensive production techniques to grow high-yield, high-value crops in your own backyard.
Even if you have an acre or two to cultivate, The Urban Farmer brings valuable techniques and know-how to any size operation.
Topics included in the Urban Farmer are:
- Farming in the city
- Farming on ½ acre or less
- Business side of urban farming
- Production systems
- Crop planning
Curtis Stone is an expert in urban farming and you will surely pull some information out of this book that will help you on your own market farm.
He really concentrates on profitable crops, so at the very least you will get some more ideas on what to grow on your land.
Compact Farms by Josh Volk is a great book to read and learn from before you dig up that first shovel full of dirt on your land.
Efficiency is essential on a small-scale farm and that starts with planning out your farm design first.
In Compact Farms, Josh Volk visits 15 successful farms, all 5 acres or less, so you can learn from veterans such as Eliot Coleman, new agers such as J.M. Fortier and many others on how to plan and manage a successful compact farm.
With colourful layouts of each farm, you are bound to be inspired to create your own farm layout.
Being armed with the information of what works and what doesn’t on each of these farms helps make designing your own layout just that much more efficient so you can maximize profit.
Each of the 15 farms Volk visits outlines important information, such as:
- Customers and markets
- Crop care
As I have mentioned before, there is no better learning tool than experience. And since you probably don’t have too much market gardening experience (yet), learning from someone else’s experience is your best bet.
I found this book to be a good read and I absolutely loved the illustrations of all 15 farms. We used this book to help plan our own market garden by pulling together what we liked and disliked from each farm and using what made sense for the land we have.
If you’re like me, you love the LEAN movement. You know, six-sigma and all that. The beauty of LEAN is that it can be applied to all aspects of life, including your own market garden!
I first learned about LEAN in my former life as a lab technologist when we redid our lab to be more efficient and productive, and let me tell you, it worked.
I also applied the principles I learned in my own life to declutter and make my own house more efficient.
Needless to say, I was excited to see that someone had written a book about LEAN principles and how they are applied to market farming.
Even though we are just starting our farm, it is important to know these principles so they can be applied while we develop our systems so we don’t have to backtrack or redo things as much (because we will more than likely make mistakes no matter how many books we read!)
Topics included in The Lean Farm are:
- Learning from customers
- Farm waste
- Continuous improvement
- Farm staff
- Limits of lean in farming
While this may not be the first book to read when starting a market farm, I believe it is an important one to help your farm be more efficient, reduce waste, and maximize profits with less work.
Being educated and prepared when starting a new venture is key to success so that backtracking and starting over are kept to a minimum. Nothing hurts efficiency and productivity like doing the same task over and over again.
The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook: A Complete Guide to Managing Finances, Crops, and Staff by Richard Wiswall
Richard Wiswall draws from his 27 years of experience to bring much needed information about the business side of farming to light.
His book, The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook covers important topics such as:
- Efficient crop production
- Marketing strategies
- Managing employees
- Managing farm operations
- Office systems
- How to invest your profits
There is also a companion CD which includes spreadsheets for projecting cash flow, payroll calculator, tax planners, crop budgets, etc.
This book is a must-have for market garden beginners because the business side of a market garden is a HUGE component of operating a market farm. Growing vegetables without a plan on how to sell them or manage them is just a garden.
Knowing how to plan, market, and operate a market garden are essential skills to have in order to be successful.
Pam Dowling’s Sustainable Market Farm is an amazing guide for small-scale farmers detailing how to raise organic crops on just a few acres.
If you’re looking for a manual on the nuances of growing vegetables and fruit, be sure to check out this book.
This practical guide provides detailed information on:
- Crop details, including:
- Common pests and disease and how to deal with them
- New techniques
- Season extension
- Farm business skills
This book is a great resource for new market farmers and those looking to improve their production. A must-have for the emerging market gardener.
A Dirty Life by Kristin Kimball is a great story of how one can live their dream, even when the odds are stacked against them.
A Dirty Life chronicles Kristin and Marks first year on their farm. Their plan was to grow everything needed to feed a community, including beef, pork, chicken, milk, eggs, beans, flours, maple syrup, 40 different vegetables, and more.
This is an inspiring book and should be read to keep you motivated and inspired to go after your market garden dreams, despite any nay-sayers and doubts you may have.
Lynn Byczynski’s Market Farming Success is another must-have for new farmers. Lynn identifies obstacles that typically trip-up new market gardeners and shows how to overcome such hurdles that will inevitably pop-up.
Lynn Byczynski is the editor of Growing for Market, a respected journal for market farmers, so you can trust the information being presented as being as accurate as possible.
Advice covered in Market Farming Success include:
- How much starting a market garden costs
- Earning expectations
- Best crops for most profitability
- Essential tools and equipment
- Where to sell your produce
- How to keep records for maximizing profits and minimizing taxes
- General tricks and tips of the trade
This is a great overall guide that you will want to have on hand to refer to as needed. Very useful and well written.
This may not be the most exciting book on the list, but the information is very important. The business side of market farming can be tough to wrap your head around, so I find it useful to read as much on the topic as possible so to understand it better.
Many market farmers are not accountants and do not have a financial background, so reading about the topic can help to clarify it for the lamen (us!).
Topics in Fearless Farm Finance include:
- Financial management
- Data collection and organization
- Organizing financial information
- Analysis and decision making
- Future of your farm
This book can help you put your hard earned money in the right place when you are starting out as a market gardener and as you grow into a seasoned farmer.
If you want to understand every aspect of running a market garden, pick up this book and start learning about farm finances!
Well, it’s a good thing winter is coming because suddenly your schedule is quite full!
Reading and learning about market farming should get you revved up and ready to take action come spring.
You will probably find other books that strike your fancy, read those too! Be as informed as possible before you start your market farming venture if you want to run an efficient, productive, profitable farm.
Have you read any useful small-scale farming books that aren’t on this list? If so, please let us know in the comments below so we can check them out!
Kathy & Jon
Your friendly neighbourhood gardeners