Small farms and hobby farms share a common characteristic, the owners or managers of the farm don’t always have an education in agriculture under their belt.  They also don’t always have the disposable income to register in online courses on livestock management, pest control, animal medicine, and soil management techniques.  What could you possibly do to prepare for a venture into farming? How can you stay ahead of the potential list of problems you might face? Below you will find our list of 5 must have books for farming.

From Experience to Books

I was fortunate enough to grow up with farming on both sides of the family.  My paternal grandparents raised beef cattle.  My maternal grandparents grew produce.  My experiential learning served me well once I decided to cast off into my own farming adventure but I still had many questions. Questions that had answers in books.  Lots of books.

Book List – Farm Must Haves

Below you will find the list of my 5 must have books on a small diversified farm.  These books still get signed out of my farming library at home from time to time.  They are an invaluable resource to find quick solutions to problems that I find myself second guessing.

“I can’t imagine a man really enjoying a book and reading it only once.” – C.S. Lewis

Merck Veterinary Manual

I first received my Merck Veterinary Manual in high school when I had every bit of interest in pursuing a degree in veterinary medicine.  Flash forward to now and that didn’t happen.  However, this book as proven to be an indispensable resource in helping to make sense of ailments, diseases, and conditions that sometime happen with livestock.  I’m not suggesting to buy this book to play vet, but it will help to deepen your understanding about the selection of courses of treatment made by vets and the symptomology of conditions.  I can guarantee you that this book will not take on the nature of a paper weight however, it is heavy with resources that you will need on the farm.

You Can Farm by Joel Salatin

Any book by Joel Salatin will be sure to give you proper insight into the entrepreneurial mindset of a farmer trying to make their farm profitable.  Joel Salatin turned his farm in the Shenandoah Valley of the state of Virginia into a profitable entreprise by using the symbiotic relationship between cattle and chicken to improve the health of his fields through mob grazing and well-timed chicken scratching.  If anything, this book will help you to develop an entrepreneurial mindset that allows you to think outside of the box.  It is one of the ways that we first started diversifying our farm.  It just might work for you as well.  Joel Salatin has a basket of other books that might interest you as well, including Pastured Poultry Profit$, the first book that we bought when we decided to diversify the farm.

The Market Gardener by Jean-Martin Fortier

If you have a small diversified farm with livestock and produce and limited acreage this is the book for you.  Not to say that the principles given in this book can’t be used on a larger scale but this resource is definitely geared towards the smaller size grower looking to maximize the returns on their labors.  We used this book to help us develop a plan to build a roadside stand and produce vegetables to meet local culinary demands.  This book will help you plan your garden layout and the seeds you’ll need to accomplish growing for your family or for farm to table programs.

The Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman

Season extension is the mother of success for small diversified farmers.  Finding a way to make the farm profitable throughout the year, even in the Persephone months when daylight hours are too short and the sun’s trajectory is too low to grow vegetables, is the focus of this book.  This book gives insight into the parameters surrounding the growth and production of vegetables in unheated greenhouses around the year.  This book educated us on the growth windows of different vegetables and the many technologies including frost covers, row covers, and mulches used to keep vegetables alive during the coldest of months under snow or inside unheated greenhouses.  With Eliot living in the only state bordering the province of NB, Maine, his home climate very closely resembles ours so we’ve been in 100% agreement with the contents of his book.

All Creatures Great and Small

Farmers, like the rest of the world, need reading material that they can unwind with and not worry about how to implement the ideas found in a text to make their farming endeavours more sustainable.  This book gives a comedic but informative take on the life of a vet doing his rounds in the British countryside.  In some ways the author’s challenges give us farmers hope to push through the difficulties we’ll encounter along our journey.  It’s the perfect book to sit and muse about the farming lifestyle and the vast amount of positives that come with it, even in the hard times.

Niche-Specific Books

Our family farm is a small diversified enterprise.  We raise livestock and grow vegetables, looking for ways to value-add our products every chance we get.  Within our operation we have books that are focused on raising sheep, raising cattle, growing greenhouse vegetables, growing field vegetables, taking care of your soil, and the list goes on.  The above 5 books are each representative of their own niche: Animal medicine, new farmers, market gardening, season extension, and farming amusement.  They are our 5 must have books for running a small farm, but as you all know, once you buy one book, you’re likely to buy much more.

“Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks.” – Dr. Seuss

Please leave any comments, questions, or feedback and we’ll be glad to get back to you!

MacCurdy Farm – Responsibly Stewarded, Naturally Balanced
Chelsea Green Publishing - the leading publisher of sustainable living books since 1985.


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