February 25 – March 10, 2019
Mount Washington — For readers either new to or steeped in the history and practice of organic farming and gardening, I recommend a new book that is stirring me as I prepare for the growing season. Thirty years ago, in 1989, I procured the original edition of Eliot Coleman’s “The New Organic Grower – A Master’s Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener,” published by Chelsea Green Publishing. Five months ago, a revised and expanded edition was published: The 30th Anniversary Edition. My original, still an indispensable reference despite its fraying binding, is a handsome black and white, large-format paperback illustrated with appealing drawings and informative charts. The new edition is beautifully designed and extensively illustrated with tables and schema that make basic information immediately accessible, as well as color photographs by horticulturist-writer Barbara Damrosch, Coleman’s professional partner and wife.
The book opens with two new, definitive chapters. From the first: “Biology is in charge in the natural world, and a sensible agriculture is a biological agriculture that focuses on the soil – a biological agriculture that will continue to be productive as long as the earth abides.” In Chapter Two, “A Little History to Begin,” Coleman shines his light on the legendary figures of recent history who developed the foundation for biological agriculture. He gets at the root of misdirected, exploitative industry: “This book is suggesting that the techniques espoused by chemical agriculture are based on the mistaken premise that the natural world is inadequate and, therefore, needs to be supplemented with industrial chemicals.” (Page 12)
“The New Organic Grower” is a go-to manual for best practices, from the grand design for starting a market garden to season extension strategies, choosing tools, seed spacing and storing the harvest. Coleman’s 50 years of thought and experience are reflected in the photographs of his Four Season Farm in Maine and in the new book’s congenial, authoritative voice.
I am about to re-acquaint myself with Eliot’s chapter on Crop Rotation to further inform my plans for the 2019 growing season. Chapter 9 begins, “Most dependable agricultural practices are ages old.” And continues, “From his experience as a researcher at Rutgers, Firmin Bear stated that well-thought out crop rotation is worth 75 percent of everything else that might be done…”
A good place to begin.
All photographs reprinted by arrangement with Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, Vermont. Photographs © 2018 Barbara Damrosch. www.chelseagreen.com
Eliot Coleman, “The New Organic Grower: A Master’s Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener, 30th Anniversary Edition.” Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, Vermont, 2018 www.chelseagreen.com
Eliot Coleman’s How To Make Compost and Add Organic Amendments: