The Market Gardener by Jean-Martin Fortier (Book Review)

Recently I purchased a copy of The Market Gardener written by the Canadian organic farmer Jean-Martin Fortier. As soon as I read the description I was immediately interested in its contents. The Market Gardener explains how to raise enough crops on just 1.5 acres of land to make a full time income and support one’s family.

With my love for growing the garden, farmers market experiences, and a hope to always be able to continue to do what I enjoy for a living The Market Gardener sounded like a great book.  I was not disappointed! I learned a lot from the pages of The Market Gardener. Jean-Martin Fortier has 10 years of experience in growing vegetables which he then sells through a thriving CSA program, to grocery stores, and at farmers markets. He and his partner Maise-Helene Desroches have created a unique business plan for small scale farming using biointensive techniques that can be transferred over and scaled to any small garden.

What is The Market Gardener About?

In the first pages of The Market Gardener, Jean-Martin explains some of the fundamentals of how their small organic farm is so productive. Biointensive farming involves techniques that nourish the soil and the land to get the maximum output possible from the crops. By enriching the soil, plants can be spaced closer together and the rich soil contributes to a better harvest. There is a great deal of planning to grow a program as successful as Les Jardins de la Grelinette (the name of their farm).

Throughout the book Jean-Martin shares biointensive techniques on weed control, growing crops, and most importantly: planning the whole small farm operation. In order to make the farm as profitable as possible it requires extensive planning, detailed note taking, and organization which enables their small 1.5 acre farm earn over 120k per year. What they have done is very impressive, especially when you consider the lack of mechanization. As a small scale farming operation they have minimized the use of tillers and mechanical equipment to help preserve soil structure. It’s a farm, but its spirit is a garden.

The Market Gardener is a great roadmap for anyone interested in pursuing a similar farming operation. The book doesn’t sugar coat the process but instead gives you guide in how to think, how to plan, and how to implement successful techniques for small scale farming. What I found particularly interesting were the statistics that he shared about Les Jardins de la Grelinette. There were charts with a list of profitable vegetable plants and the income they produced, proper plant spacing, when to start the crops from seed, fertilization, crop rotation, and much more. The Market Garden really is a treasure trove of information on biointensive gardening for the market gardener!

It’s an inspiring read for any gardener who dreams of running his or her own farm. Every farm situation is different and success will vary significantly between techniques used and the discipline of the farmer. Jean-Martin does a great job of explaining the process in a realistic and detailed fashion. Farming is extremely hard work and The Market Gardener explains how to be successful at it on a local scale.

I highly recommend The Market Gardener: A Successful Grower’s Handbook for Small-scale Organic Farming
for anyone who has aspirations of making an income off of the land!