Author: Daniel Mays
Cover Price: $17.85
Publisher: Storey Publishing
The No-Till Organic Vegetable Farm by Daniel Mays is different from other no-till books that have come out recently. Whereas other books have focused in on the practices used to minimize tillage, Mays has larger ambitions. Although Mays’ book certainly outlines various no-till strategies, it also aims to provide a complete guide to running a no-till vegetable farm.
The No-Till Moment
In many ways, the book feels right for the moment. At a time when no-till, organic vegetable farming is becoming increasingly popular, Mays’ book provides an important perspective: No-till methods can enable real financial stability on a vegetable farm.
As Mays describes, “the goal of this book is to show that no-till farming on a few acres is not only possible—it can be at once economically, socially and ecologically enriching.”
Throughout the book, Mays provides details about his own farm’s finances, something farmers are typically reluctant to do.
“I began the farm with a loan of $180,000 and an interest rate of 3.8 percent. Four years later, the farm grossed over $250,000 in a season. Today the farm sells about $300,000 of food each year from 2.5 acres of vegetables and about the same size of pasture.” Mays also provides detailed cash-flow budgets from Frith Farm (his own operation), and spreadsheets detailing the expected startup costs for similar operations.
More Than Money
The No-Till Organic Vegetable Farm covers much more than just farm finances, however. The book touches upon all the various aspects of starting and running a farm. In many ways, it feels like a comprehensive manual. Although reading The No-Till Organic Vegetable Farm won’t turn the uninitiated farmer into Eliot Coleman overnight, it certainly won’t hurt either.
Individual chapters describe topics ranging from finding capital to crop planning, implementing irrigation systems, harvesting and marketing. For the new gardener, the book promises to provide invaluable information about the basics of plant and soil health.
And for the seasoned grower, there’s no shortage of technical detail about refining farm systems and developing no-till practices.
Wealth of Knowledge
The book’s ambitions are truly encyclopedic. In a section on drainage, Mays dives into the particulars of constructing a French drain, complete with a diagram. And in a chapter on farm infrastructure, Mays gives advice on how large an electric panel a vegetable farm needs. (He decides on 200 amps, which is probably not bad advice).
In the same chapter, Mays advocates learning basic construction and electrical skills, and tackling wiring projects on the farm oneself. And although there is no chapter in the book on the basics of wiring, it almost wouldn’t feel out of place if there was.
The book is undoubtedly rooted in the importance of no-till practices, though. And Mays returns to this point throughout. As he writes at one point, “the best approach to caring for the soil is usually to stop messing with it.”
In short, The No-Till Organic Vegetable Farm is an invaluable resource that will help farmers and gardeners hone their craft. It offers a compelling and detailed guide to implementing no-till practices, and to designing a farm that is both ecologically and financially sustainable.