Book Review – The Market Gardener

Review by Frank Kaminski, originally published by Mud City Press

The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-Scale Organic Farming, By Jean-Martin Fortier

For some years now, author and farmer Jean-Martin Fortier has lived rather comfortably with his family entirely off the proceeds of their market garden in Québec, Canada. He, his wife Maude-Hélène Desroches and their two children, Forest and Rose, generate up to $140,000 in revenue a year (with a profit margin of nearly 50 percent) and feed more than 200 local families with vegetables raised on a mere acre and a half. And they do so without tractors or other industrial farm equipment, instead relying on hand and light power tools. Fortier’s terrific success at low-tech growing has earned him an international following and the moniker “rock star farmer.”* He freely shares hismethods and techniques, and encourages others to emulate his example.Even so, I suspect that he’s one of those prodigies who make everything look easy, and that those trying to follow in his footsteps will have a challenging time of it. Yet that should hardly keep one from trying; and to this end Fortier has put out two books detailing exactly how he and his family have done it. The first one, Le Jardinier-Maraîcher, was an instant hit when released in 2012 by small Montreal-based publisher Écosociété. The second, an English translation of the first titled The Market Gardener, is now fresh off the presses from New Society Publishers. Both books meticulously guide readers through every stage of Fortier’s process, from buying equipment to managing soil tilth to seeding and harvesting crops. They also contain a wealth of supporting materials—such as checklists, planning sheets and crop rotation schedules—that offer great insight into how Fortier and his family run their operation. In short, they giveFortier wannabes the best possible chance of capturing his magic. Fortier has a favourite catchphrase when it comes to his preference for small scale: “Small is profitable.” He uses it to emphasize that localized organic approaches are desirable not only because of their low impact, but because they can supply just as secure a livelihood as industrial methods. Thus, his and his wife’s eschewal of heavy machinery and chemical pesticides is not a philosophical choice but a practical one: they simply don’t need such shortcuts. The initial setup costs for their farm totalled about $40,000 nearly a decade ago, and this is the amount that Fortier still recommends as upfront investment for beginning market gardeners. This sum includes $11,000 for a greenhouse, $8,500 for a walking tractor and its

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