Book Review: “Practical No-Till Farming”

Andrew Mefferd’s “Practical No-Till Farming” is a comprehensive introduction to no-till, from philosophy to application, designed to help growers get started.

by Robin Hackett
PHOTO: lzf/Adobe Stock

Title: Practical No-Till Farming: A Quick and Dirty Guide to Organic Vegetable and Flower Growing

Author: Andrew Mefferd

Cover Price: $34.99

Publication Date:  November 1, 2022

Publisher: New Society Publishers

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If you’re a small-scale vegetable or flower farmer, you’ve probably heard a lot about no-till over the past several years. And rightly so. As Andrew Mefferd explains in his newly released book “Practical No-Till Farming,” no-till growing can come with many advantages.

Among other things, these advantages include improved soil health, better soil aeration and drainage and lower barriers to entry to starting or scaling up the farm. As Mefferd explains at the beginning of the book, “no-till growing makes it possible to start a profitable farm with little to no equipment, on a very small land base.”  

A No-Till Revolution

In 15 years from now, perhaps we’ll look back on this decade as the time in which organic no-till reshaped the world of small-scale agriculture. (I sure hope so).

When I first developed an interest in no-till growing six or seven years ago, there were very few resources on the topic. So much has changed.

Now, one of the most popular farming podcasts in the country is devoted to the topic and several recent books by authors like Brian O’Hara, Andrew Mefferd and Jesse Frost offer deep-dives into no-till systems. 

Maybe we are living in the good old days of “the organic no-till farming revolution” (to borrow the title of Andrew Mefferd’s previous book on no-till) right now.  

A Practical Guide

Given the proliferation of no-till resources, however, a new problem can also emerge: Where to begin? As Mefferd explains at the beginning of “Practical No-Till Farming,” he “wrote this book primarily to help people who are interested in no-till but don’t know where to start. But it’s also for growers who have already started with no-till and are interested in expanding or refining their repertoire of techniques.”  

“Practical No-Till Farming” would certainly be a valuable asset for people in either of those camps. The book offers a no-nonsense overview of no-till growing that covers everything from the advantages and disadvantages of no-till (there are some of those too) to the nitty-gritty of no-till systems.   

Read more: Organic no-till growing is good for you and you land.

A Unique Perspective

It is also worth noting that there are few farmers across the country who are as well positioned as Andrew Mefferd to write a book like this. As no-till practices became more widespread in recent years, farms across the country have evolved their own no-till techniques.

Mefferd visited many of these farms and cataloged their unique strategies in a previous book, “The Organic No-Till Farming Revolution.”  He is also a farmer himself with ample no-till experience, and is the editor and publisher of Growing For Market magazine, which has been at the center of the no-till conversation for years. 

In short, if someone has developed a successful system of no-till production, chances are Andrew Mefferd is aware of it.

It may sound like a trite thing to say about a book like this, but I’ll risk it anyways: I wish I had this book when I was managing a no-till vegetable farm several years ago. I would have kept a copy stashed in the tool shed for quick reference. 

Overall the book strikes a kind of happy balance between serving as a reference guide for farmers in the field and as an introduction for those who are no-till-curious.  

Whether you’re an experienced no-till grower looking for some additional tips or an aspiring no-tiller hoping to get started, “Practical No-Till Farming” has something to offer. My only complaint is that Mefferd didn’t write it sooner. 

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