Good Reads For Homesteading, Market Gardening, Farming, And More
If you’d like to dig deeper into homesteading, permaculture, market gardening, bioremediation, high tunnels, low tunnels, or greenhouse growing, then here is a great place to start.
Here we have put together a short list of authors that we think will give you a great start on your horticultural or agricultural journey.
This list is by no means complete as there are tons of excellent books out there, but should serve as a jumping-off point in your quest for deeper knowledge.
A modern classic of the new agrarianism
“Chris Smaje…shows that the choice is clear. Either we have a small farm future, or we face collapse and extinction.”—Vandana Shiva
“Every young person should read this book.”—Richard Heinberg
In a groundbreaking debut, farmer and social scientist Chris Smaje argues that organizing society around small-scale farming offers the soundest, sanest, and most reasonable response to climate change and other crises of civilization—and will yield humanity’s best chance at survival.
Drawing on a vast range of sources from across a multitude of disciplines, A Small Farm Future analyses the complex forces that make societal change inevitable; explains how low-carbon, locally self-reliant agrarian communities can empower us to successfully confront these changes head on; and explores the pathways for delivering this vision politically.
Challenging both conventional wisdom and utopian blueprints, A Small Farm Future offers rigorous original analysis of wicked problems and hidden opportunities in a way that illuminates the path toward functional local economies, effective self-provisioning, agricultural diversity, and a shared earth.
Perfect for readers of both Wendell Berry and Thomas Piketty, A Small Farm Future is a refreshing, new outlook on a way forward for society—and a vital resource for activists, students, policy makers, and anyone looking to enact change.
With in-depth information on electric fencing, watering, and husbandry for ruminants, poultry, and pigs, plus butchering, dairying, and more
“If we work hard, we sleep well.”
Twenty years ago, when authors Shawn and Beth Dougherty purchased the land they would come to name the Sow’s Ear, the state of Ohio designated it “not suitable for agriculture.” Today, their family raises and grows 90% of their own food.
Such self-sufficiency is largely the result of basing their farming practices around intensive pasture management. Pioneered by such luminaries as Allan Savory, Greg Judy, and Joel Salatin, the tenets of holistic grazing—employed mostly by larger-scale commercial operations—have been adapted by the Doughertys to fit their family’s needs. In The Independent Farmstead, The Sow’s Ear model for regenerating the land and growing food—“the best you ever tasted”—is elucidated for others to use and build upon.
In witty and welcoming style, The Independent Farmstead covers everything from choosing a species of ruminant and incorporating it into a grass-based system to innovative electric fencing and watering systems, to what to do with all of the milk, meat, and, yes, manure that the self-sustaining farm produces. Within these pages, the Doughertys discuss how to:
- Find and improve poor, waste, or abused land and develop its natural water resources;
- Select and purchase the appropriate ruminant for regenerating your farmstead;
- Apply fencing strategies and pasture management basics;
- Implement basic, uncomplicated food processing, including large and small animal butchering and cheese making; and
- Integrate grass, gardens, and livestock to minimize or eliminate the need for off-farm inputs.
As the Doughertys write, more and more people today are feeling “the desire for clean, affordable food, unmodified, unprocessed, and unmedicated and the security of local food sourcing for ourselves and our children.” The Independent Farmstead is a must-have resource for those who count themselves as part of this movement: both new and prospective farmers and homesteaders, and those who are interested in switching to grass-based systems. Best of all it’s the kind of rare how-to book that the authors themselves view not as a compendium of one-size-fits-all instructions but as “the beginning of a conversation,” one that is utterly informative, sincere, and inspiring.
An in-depth exploration of organic mushroom cultivation practices, groundbreaking research and myriad ways to incorporate mushrooms into your life
“A clear, comprehensive guide that is a gift to amateur as well as professional mushroom growers. This book opens the doors wide to a diverse and fascinating fungal world.”—Toby Hemenway, author of Gaia’s Garden
What would it take to grow mushrooms in space? How can mushroom cultivation help us manage, or at least make use of, invasive species such as kudzu and water hyacinth and thereby reduce dependence on herbicides? Is it possible to develop a low-cost and easy-to-implement mushroom-growing kit that would provide high-quality edible protein and bioremediation in the wake of a natural disaster? How can we advance our understanding of morel cultivation so that growers stand a better chance of success?
For more than twenty years, mycology expert Tradd Cotter has been pondering these questions and conducting trials in search of the answers. In Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation, Cotter not only offers readers an in-depth exploration of best organic mushroom cultivation practices; he shares the results of his groundbreaking research and offers myriad ways to apply your cultivation skills and further incorporate mushrooms into your life―whether your goal is to help your community clean up industrial pollution or simply to settle down at the end of the day with a cold Reishi-infused homebrew ale.
Inside, you’ll find:
- The Fundamentals of Mushroom Cultivation
- Innovative Applications and Projects Using Fungi
- Basic Laboratory Construction, Equipment, and Procedures
- Starting Cultures and Spawn Generation
- Detailed descriptions of over 25 different genus
The book first guides readers through an in-depth exploration of indoor and outdoor cultivation. Covered skills range from integrating wood-chip beds spawned with king stropharia into your garden and building a “trenched raft” of hardwood logs plugged with shiitake spawn to producing oysters indoors on spent coffee grounds in a 4×4 space or on pasteurized sawdust in vertical plastic columns. For those who aspire to the self-sufficiency gained by generating and expanding spawn rather than purchasing it, Cotter offers in-depth coverage of lab techniques, including low-cost alternatives that make use of existing infrastructure and materials.
Cotter also reports his groundbreaking research cultivating morels both indoors and out, “training” mycelium to respond to specific contaminants, and perpetuating spawn on cardboard without the use of electricity. Readers will discover information on making tinctures, powders, and mushroom-infused honey; making an antibacterial mushroom cutting board; and growing mushrooms on your old denim jeans.
Geared toward readers who want to grow mushrooms without the use of pesticides, Cotter takes “organic” one step further by introducing an entirely new way of thinking―one that looks at the potential to grow mushrooms on just about anything, just about anywhere, and by anyone.
“This comprehensive introduction to growing and utilizing fungi has something for all mushroom-inclined readers . . . . Both practical and passionate, Cotter offers extensive and detailed information.”—Publishers Weekly
The most comprehensive book on how to raise and breed your own poultry flock is now fully updated and expanded
“The ultimate book for those who want to know everything there is to know about raising poultry.”—Gene Logsdon, author of Letter to a Young Farmer
“There’s no better introductory reference on the joy of home-raising chickens.”—Booklist
The first edition of The Small-Scale Poultry Flock helped thousands of small-scale farmers and homesteaders successfully adopt a practical and integrative model for working with chickens and other domestic fowl based on natural systems. In this expanded and thoroughly revised edition, readers will find plenty of all-new material. Author Harvey Ussery introduces readers to his new favorite breed of chicken, Icelandics; describes how he manages his breeding flock using a clan mating system; presents detailed information on the use of trapnests and record-keeping spreadsheets for evaluating breeding hen performance; and provides step-by-step instructions for construction of an ingeniously designed mobile poultry shelter.
Readers will also find fully updated information and tips on all aspects of flock management, including:
- Growing (and sourcing) feed on a small scale
- Cultivating earthworms and grubs as high-protein poultry feed
- Brooding (and breeding) at home
- Implementing manure management
- Using electric net fencing for ranging flocks
- Using poultry as insect and weed managers in the garden and orchard
- Enlisting your chickens as garden tillers and compost-makers
- Protecting the flock from predators
- Keeping the flock healthy
- Working with mother hens
Ussery presents a sustainable and ecologically friendly model that can be adapted for use at a variety of scales. His advice and examples throughout the book will prove invaluable for beginner homesteaders, growers looking to incorporate poultry into their farm, or experienced flocksters seeking to close their loop.
“The best wine book I read this year was not about wine. It was about cider”–Eric Asimov, New York Times, on Uncultivated
Today, food is being reconsidered. It’s a front-and-center topic in everything from politics to art, from science to economics. We know now that leaving food to government and industry specialists was one of the twentieth century’s greatest mistakes. The question is where do we go from here.
Author Andy Brennan describes uncultivation as a process: It involves exploring the wild; recognizing that much of nature is omitted from our conventional ways of seeing and doing things (our cultivations); and realizing the advantages to embracing what we’ve somehow forgotten or ignored. For most of us, this process can be difficult, like swimming against the strong current of our modern culture.
The hero of this book is the wild apple. Uncultivated follows Brennan’s twenty-four-year history with naturalized trees and shows how they have guided him toward success in agriculture, in the art of cider making, and in creating a small-farm business. The book contains useful information relevant to those particular fields, but is designed to connect the wild to a far greater audience, skillfully blending cultural criticism with a food activist’s agenda.
Apples rank among the most manipulated crops in the world, because not only do farmers want perfect fruit, but they also assume the health of the tree depends on human intervention. Yet wild trees live all around us, and left to their own devices, they achieve different forms of success that modernity fails to apprehend. Andy Brennan learned of the health and taste advantages of such trees, and by emulating nature in his orchard (and in his cider) he has also enjoyed environmental and financial benefits. None of this would be possible by following today’s prevailing winds of apple cultivation.
In all fields, our cultural perspective is limited by a parallel proclivity. It’s not just agriculture: we all must fight tendencies toward specialization, efficiency, linear thought, and predetermined growth. We have cultivated those tendencies at the exclusion of nature’s full range. If Uncultivated is about faith in nature, and the power it has to deliver us from our own mistakes, then wild apple trees have already shown us the way.
The Bio-Integrated Farm is a twenty-first-century manual for managing nature’s resources. This groundbreaking book brings “system farming” and permaculture to a whole new level. Author Shawn Jadrnicek presents new insights into permaculture, moving beyond the philosophical foundation to practical advanced designs based on a functional analysis. Holding his designs to a higher standard, Jadrnicek’s components serve at least seven functions (classical permaculture theory only seeks at least two functions). With every additional function a component performs, the design becomes more advanced and saves more energy.
A bio-integrated greenhouse, for example, doesn’t just extend the season for growing vegetables; it also serves as a rainwater collector, a pond site, an aquaponics system, and a heat generator. Jadrnicek’s prevalent theme is using water to do the work. Although applicable in many climates, his designs are particularly important for areas coping with water scarcity.
Jadrnicek focuses on his experience as a farm manager at the Clemson University Student Organic Farm and at his residence in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. These locations lie at the cooler northern edge of a humid subtropical climate that extends west to the middle of Texas and north along the coast to New Jersey. He has created permaculture patterns ranging from raising transplants and field design to freshwater prawn production and composting.
These patterns have simplified the operation of the 125-share CSA farm while reducing reliance on outside resources. In less time than it takes to mow his two-acre homestead, Jadrnicek is building a you-pick fruit farm using permaculture patterns. His landscape requires only the labor of harvesting, and the only outside input he buys is a small amount of chicken feed. By carefully engaging the free forces of nature—water, wind, sunlight, convection, gravity, and decomposition—Jadrnicek creates sustenance without maintenance and transforms waste into valuable farm resources.
The Bio-Integrated Farm offers in-depth information about designing and building a wide range of bio-integrated projects including reflecting ponds, water-storage ponds, multipurpose basins, greenhouses, compost heat extraction, pastured chicken systems, aquaculture, hydroponics, hydronic heating, water filtration and aeration, cover cropping, and innovative rainwater-harvesting systems that supply water for drip irrigation and flushing toilets.
Perfect for fans of English Pastoral and Wilding, Hoofprints on the Land shows that herding cultures are not a thing of the past but a regenerative model for our future.
Hoofprints on the Land is a fascinating and lyrical book exploring the deep and ancient working partnerships between people and animals. UN advocate and camel conservationist Ilse Köhler-Rollefson writes a passionate rallying cry for those invisible and forgotten herding cultures that exist all over the world, and how by embracing these traditional nomadic practices, we can help restore and regenerate the Earth. Ilse has spent the last 30 years living with and studying the Raika camel herders in Rajasthan, India, and she shows how pastoralists can address many of the problems humanity faces.
Whether it be sheep, cattle, reindeer, camels, alpacas, goats, or yaks—this ancient and natural means of keeping livestock challenges the myth that animal-free agriculture is the only way forward for a healthy planet.
From the need to produce food more sustainably and equitably to the consequences of climate change, land degradation, and loss of biodiversity, we can learn from pastoralists to help repair the human relationship with livestock to return to a model of intelligent cooperation rather than dominance.
As Ilse writes: “Herding is therapy, not just for the planet, but also for our souls.”
“Farmers like Charles and Perrine Hervé-Gruyer [are] beacons of light. Their work allows the rest of the world to see that there is another life, there is another way.”—Eliot Coleman
What began as a simple dream has turned into one of the world’s most radical, innovative experiments in small-scale farming—using the Bec Hellouin model for growing food, sequestering carbon, creating jobs, and increasing biodiversity without using fossil fuels
When Charles and Perrine Hervé-Gruyer set out to create their farm in a historic Normandy village, they had no idea just how much their lives would change. Neither one had ever farmed before. Charles had been traveling the globe teaching students about ecology and indigenous cultures. Perrine had been an international lawyer in Japan. Their farm Bec Hellouin has since become an internationally celebrated model of innovation in ecological agriculture. Miraculous Abundance is the eloquent tale of the couple’s quest to build an agricultural model that can carry us into a post-carbon future.
The authors dive deeper into the various farming methods across the globe that contributed towards the creation of the Bec Hellouin model, including:
- Permaculture and soil health principles
- Korean natural farming methods
- Managing a four-season farm
- Creating a productive agroecosystem that is resilient and durable
- Using no-dig methods for soil fertility
- Modelling an agrarian system that supports its community in totality; from craft, restaurants and shared work spaces to jobs, agritourism, energy and ecological biodiversity
Perfect for aspiring and experienced farmers, gardeners, and homesteaders, Miraculous Abundance is a love letter to a future where ecological farming is at the centre of every community.
“This book, more about philosophy than a how-to, describes how two inexperienced beginners succeeded in creating a gorgeous, productive, self-sustaining farm.”—Marion Nestle
Best practices for the eight most profitable crops: tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, peppers, leafy greens, lettuce, herbs, and microgreens
“Mefferd’s book fills a gaping void in the literature for market growers. I highly recommend it to anyone growing in greenhouses, or who aspires to.”— Ben Hartman, author of The Lean Farm
Whether growing in a heated greenhouse or an unheated hoop house, this book offers a decision-making framework for how to best manage crops
Today only a few dozen large-scale producers dominate the greenhouse produce market. Why? Because they know and employ best practices for the most profitable crops. The Greenhouse and Hoophouse Grower’s Handbook levels the playing field by revealing these practices so that all growers—large and small—can maximize the potential of their protected growing space. Whether growing in a heated greenhouse or unheated hoophouse, this book offers a decision-making framework for how to best manage crops that goes beyond a list of simple do’s and don’ts.
Author Andrew Mefferd spent years consulting for growers using protected agriculture in a wide variety of climates, soils, and conditions. The Greenhouse and Hoophouse Grower’s Handbook brings his experience and expertise to bear in an in-depth guide that will help readers make their investment in greenhouse space worthwhile.
Every year, more growers are turning to protected culture to deal with unpredictable weather and to meet out-of-season demand for local food, but many end up spinning their wheels, wasting time and money on unprofitable crops grown in ways that don’t make the most of their precious greenhouse space.
In The Greenhouse and Hoophouse Grower’s Handbook comprehensive chapters include:
- Protected Growing Structures and their features
- Heating, Cooling, Lighting, and Irrigation
- Plant Basics
- Propagation, Pruning, and Trellising
- And Much More!
Mefferd’s book is full of techniques and strategies that can help farms stay profitable, satisfy customers, and become an integral part of re-localizing our food system.
From seed to sale, The Greenhouse and Hoophouse Grower’s Handbook is an indispensable resource for protected growing.
A new “farm-to-closet” vision for the clothes we wear–by a leader in the movement for local textile economies
There is a major disconnect between what we wear and our knowledge of its impact on land, air, water, labor, and human health. Even those who value access to safe, local, nutritious food have largely overlooked the production of fiber, dyes, and the chemistry that forms the backbone of modern textile production. While humans are 100 percent reliant on their second skin, it’s common to think little about the biological and human cultural context from which our clothing derives.
Almost a decade ago, weaver and natural dyer Rebecca Burgess developed a project focused on wearing clothing made from fiber grown, woven, and sewn within her bioregion of North Central California. As she began to network with ranchers, farmers, and artisans, she discovered that even in her home community there was ample raw material being grown to support a new regional textile economy with deep roots in climate change prevention and soil restoration.
A vision for the future came into focus, combining the right livelihoods and a textile system based on economic justice and soil carbon enhancing practices. Burgess saw that we could create viable supply chains of clothing that could become the new standard in a world looking to solve the climate crisis.
In Fibershed readers will learn how natural plant dyes and fibers such as wool, cotton, hemp, and flax can be grown and processed as part of a scalable, restorative agricultural system. They will also learn about milling and other technical systems needed to make regional textile production possible. Fibershed is a resource for fiber farmers, ranchers, contract grazers, weavers, knitters, slow-fashion entrepreneurs, soil activists, and conscious consumers who want to join or create their own fibershed and topple outdated and toxic systems of exploitation.
At Clay Bottom Farm, author Ben Hartman and staff practice kaizen, or continuous improvement, cutting out more waste—of time, labor, space, money, and more—every year and aligning their organic production more tightly with customer demand. Applied alongside other lean principles originally developed by the Japanese auto industry, the end result has been increased profits and less work.
In this field-guide companion to his award-winning first book, The Lean Farm, Hartman shows market vegetable growers in even more detail how Clay Bottom Farm implements lean thinking in every area of their work, including using kanbans, or replacement signals, to maximize land use; germination chambers to reduce defect waste; and right-sized machinery to save money and labor and increase efficiency. From finding land and assessing infrastructure needs to selling perfect produce at the farmers market, The Lean Farm Guide to Growing Vegetables digs deeper into specific, tested methods for waste-free farming that not only help farmers become more successful but make the work more enjoyable. These methods include:
- Using Japanese paper pot transplanters
- Building your own germinating chambers
- Leaning up your greenhouse
- Making and applying simple composts
- Using lean techniques for pest and weed control
- Creating Heijunka, or load-leveling calendars for efficient planning
Farming is not static, and improvement requires constant change. The Lean Farm Guide to Growing Vegetables offers strategies for farmers to stay flexible and profitable even in the face of changing weather and markets. Much more than a simple exercise in cost-cutting, lean farming is about growing better, not cheaper, food—the food your customers want.
A practical, comprehensive, and essential how-to manual with information on growing perennial crops, soil fertility, water security, nutrient dense food, and more!
“Essential reading for the serious prepper as well as for everyone interested in creating a more resilient lifestyle.”—Carol Deppe, author of The Resilient Gardener
The Resilient Farm and Homestead is for readers ready to not just survive, but thrive in changing, unpredictable times. It offers the tools to develop durable, beautiful, and highly functional human habitat systems anchored by preparation, regeneration, and resiliency.
Ben Falk is a land designer and site developer whose research farm has drawn national attention. The site is a terraced paradise on a hillside in Vermont that would otherwise be overlooked by conventional farmers as unworkable. Falk’s wide array of fruit trees, rice paddies (relatively unheard of in the Northeast), ducks, nuts, and earth-inspired buildings is a hopeful image for the future of regenerative agriculture and modern homesteading.
The book covers nearly every strategy Falk and his team have been testing at the Whole Systems Research Farm over the past decade, as well as experiments from other sites Falk has designed through his off-farm consulting business.
The book includes detailed information on:
- Gravity-fed water systems
- Fuelwood hedge production and processing
- Human health through nutrient-dense production strategies
- Rapid topsoil formation and remineralization
- Agroforestry, silvopasture & grazing
- Species composition
- The site-design process and site management
- Ecosystem services, especially regarding flood mitigation
- Tools, equipment, and appropriate technology guides
- A “Homestead Vulnerability” checklist
- Resiliency Aptitude quiz and skills list for emergencies
- And much more!
Complete with gorgeous photography and detailed design drawings throughout!
The Resilient Farm and Homestead is more than just a book of tricks and theories for regenerative site development. It offers actual working results from a complex farm-ecosystems based on research from the “great thinkers” in permaculture, and presents a viable home-scale model for an intentional food-producing ecosystem in cold climates, and beyond. Inspiring to would-be homesteaders everywhere, but especially for those who find themselves with “unlikely” farming land, Falk is an inspiration in what can be done by imitating natural systems, and making the most of what we have by re-imagining what’s possible. A gorgeous case study for the homestead of the future.