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Organic farming is as old as agriculture itself, but many farmers have become reliant on ways of farming that unfortunately cause more harm to themselves and the environment than good. Pesticides filled with chemicals and poor crop management can backfire, harming nature and crop yields in the process. Thankfully, many organic experts can help you get back to basics and fight with nature rather than against her. So take a look at these best organic farming books for some key tips and insights when it comes to sustainable practices, having the right mindset, and getting back to basics.
Best for Cultivating The Right Mindset: Working With Nature – Shifting Paradigms
The modern farming movement is powered by a belief that you must fight nature: your food will be better if you spray pesticides to ward off bugs and undesirable weeds, GMOs are a great idea and help feed the world more efficiently, and Frankenfoods are a testament to human creativity. To be a prosperous organic farmer, you are going to have to let go of all of those unhealthy attitudes and learn how to work with, rather than fight, Mother Nature.
Learn fascinating facts about how weeds and plants work together. Did you know paying for removing weeds with chemicals could lead to paying to add nutrients back into the soil, a double whammy! Find out how compost tea can heal the worn-out Earth and learn more helpful strategies renew the ground.
This 200-plus-page book will give you an excellent understanding of the interconnected processes that control the farmer’s life: sun, soil, water, other plant and animal systems and even the air surrounding your plants are all relevant factors, and learning how to work with them will lead you to great organic successes.
Best for A Comprehensive Overview: The Organic Method Primer
This book is old school and hard to find, but it is probably the best book to help you understand the fundamentals of organic gardening and the principles behind it. It was written by the Dr. Bargyla Rateaver, the preeminent expert on organic farming who started the organic method in California and organized the first organic conference.
It’s technically the first textbook ever written on the topic so that it might overwhelm the casual reader or gardener, but if you are serious about starting your organic farm, it’s chock-full of amazing tips that seem unusual or odd but are backed entirely by science. Understanding the why behind organic gardening is the greatest motivation to make the switch. If you are not sure if organic gardening is right for you, this book has the potential to sway you.
Best for Making Mulch: The Rodale Book of Composting
If you are not using artificial fertilizers, you are still going to need something to feed your plants. Thankfully, composting is an Earth- and wallet-friendly alternative to buying bags of the modern stuff. But you can’t put just anything in your compost pile, and this book will show you exactly what you can and cannot use to fuel your fertilizer.
But beyond that, there are tactics you can use to produce top-notch mulch: this newly updated book will show you how, using the latest tools and techniques. There are even individual sections to help guide you in the event you should find yourself advising an apartment dwelling friend or leading a community that would like a non-traditional compost pile of their own.
Best for Picking Plants: The Gardener’s A-Z Guide to Growing Organic Food
When you are an organic farmer, your world is a whole lot larger than that of an organic gardener’s, but that does not mean that this book does not have valuable information to teach you. You will still have to decide how many of which plants to spend your time growing, and this book gives you in-depth information on over 765 fruits, vegetables, herbs and even nuts.
You will learn which work best for what climates, how to plant and water them, the proper soil types and spacing requirements, and even the first and last times you should plant them. In addition to learning about the plants themselves, you will also learn recipes for naturally fighting off insects, animals, and diseases.
Best for Fruit Lovers: The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruits & Berries
Who does not love good, wholesome, delicious organic fruit? This book will teach you how to grow the tastiest of nature’s delights the natural way. Cultivating an orchard requires passion, but if you have the proper space and dedication, you can make it work. This book will teach you all about the hidden growth cycles of trees, how to connect with nature, how to design your planting strategy and even advanced techniques like grafting two varieties together.
No matter where you live, you will find a seasonal calendar that includes the best trees to plant in your area — as well as ones to avoid. In addition to pome and stone fruits that grow on trees, you will also learn how to grow all sorts of berries. Moreover, you will also gain insider knowledge on how native pollination and biodiversity work to support your efforts.
Best for Advanced Farmers: Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual
This is not a book for beginners. Advanced organic farmers learn not just to work with nature, but to design and maintain their farms in such a way that they contribute to the already existing ecosystem. Permaculture, short for permanent agriculture, is the study of just that. Inside this text, stuffed with academic research, case studies, diagrams and complex topics, you’ll learn a complete history of how people have worked with the land sustainably across a variety of cultures — and how failing to do so leads to disaster. You will discover a way of viewing the world as interconnected, and you will learn how to use that understanding to shape your farming methods.
Best for Troubleshooting: The Non-Toxic Farming Handbook
If you farm for long enough, even the most knowledgeable and careful people will inevitably run into a few problems along the way. When you are facing a problem with your plants, pests, disease or planning, this book will become your go-to. It is approachable enough for a beginner because it summarizes complicated research on biology, soil recovery, and weeds in a way that anyone can understand.
And that makes sense: It is written by an international agronomist who runs a soil testing lab and consults for farmers around the world who has a broad academic background — not to mention a Ph.D. in biophysics. This book is a great read and is an excellent reference book to have on hand.
Best for Learning From The Ground Up: Secrets of the Soil
The soil is a living organism — it is full of thousands of different components, and making sure the dirt on your farm is in top condition is a crucial part of growing the best organic food. This book covers innovated and sometimes wacky theories — from biodynamic agriculture to “Sonic Boom” ways of stimulating faster plant growth and even how you can use rock dust to transform depleted soils.
Just because you are farming organic does not mean you need to miss out on the latest technologies in agriculture; you can still use them to your advantage, just in ways that benefit you, your plants and the planet.