More than Just Planting Seeds

Whether you've grown a green thumb and love to garden, or you are thinking about starting a farming operation, there is a huge amount of information to review before actually breaking ground. Farming is a very misunderstood profession, and much of the public actually makes farming out to be a simple task of planting, watering and reaping the rewards. If only it were that easy, we'd all be flocking to the fields in an effort to grow.  The farmer both controls and is controlled by nature, and it is an intricate dance between the two to create sustenance for the people. Farmers must be part-time meteorologists, botanists, mechanics, businessmen and businesswomen and marketers, and a host of other professions blend to create a very complex and difficult occupation. Therefore, in order to introduce readers to the rigor of a farming career, or to advance the knowledge in those interested in farming or gardening, here are the five most helpful and informative books on the subject.

The Organic Farming Manual

First and foremost, The Organic Farming Manual by Ann Larkin Hansen is the most comprehensive and in-depth guide to starting a farming operation available. Over 400 pages of valuable how-to guides, farmer profiles, and thorough explanation should make this book the first on your list to read. It ranges in topics from compost management, care for fruit trees, and what to look for in acquiring land for your farm. There is no book equal in value for anyone interested in starting a farm.

Sharing the Harvest: A Citizen's Guide to Community Supported Agriculture

Now that you have hopefully read through The Organic Farming Manual, Sharing the Harvest is a must-read in order to determine what kind of farming operation you wish to run. The new and fastest growing trend in farming, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) consists of farms that engage the community in ways that traditional farms can not. While the internet may provide some basics on starting and managing a CSA, Elizabeth Henderson and Robyn Van En go into great detail to provide their readers with a thorough understanding of the principles and fine points of CSA management. Starting a CSA is a very appealing option for small farmers and this book serves as a guide to success.

The Essential Urban Farmer

Composed by Novella Carpenter and Willow Rosenthal, The Essential Urban Farmer is a great tool for starting a small farming operation within the confines of a city, apartment or other limiting space. Not everyone wishing to grow food has the luxury of sweeping hill and countryside farmland, so this advice can be applied to green thumbs everywhere. The authors take a very practical approach to everything you might want to know about raising food on little land.

How to Grow More Vegetables

Endorsed by famous green thinker and restauranteur Alice Waters, John Jeavons's How to Grow More Vegetables is an interesting read on the dynamics of soil life and the power of healthy soil. Obviously, one of the most important aspects of any farm (besides hydroponic farms) is the soil quality. In the text, Jeavons demostrates how to maximize soil health in order to grow a large amount of food on small plots of land. This book offers wonderful planning charts and also touches on other interesting topics, such as planting crops in coordination with the moon cycles for greater growth. A great read for anyone growing their own food.

Gaining Ground

Last but definitely not least, Forrest Pritchard's Gaining Ground is an awesome read. Less how-to than the others, this book serves as a confidence boost to all those wishing to start a farm but not yet ready to take the plunge. Pritchard relates his story of saving his family's farm step-by-step, learning the ins and outs along the way. Pritchard shows that, with a lot of hard work, a bit of luck and a good sense of humor, starting a farm is possible. A good read, even for those not interested in farming.

Further Reading

In covering the "Top 5 Books on Farming", I did not wish to exclude anyone from the list. Honestly, any piece of literature that provides assistance on proper farming methods that do not harm the land should be applauded. However, in reading these five books, you will gain a thorough and well-rounded view of the ins-and-outs of farming. Some other great authors to read include Joel Salatin, Wendell Berry and J.A. Rodale. 

Best of luck to you in your endeavors, and remember to strive to keep learning!