Title: Fruitful Labor: The Ecology, Economy, and Practice of a Family Farm
Author: Mike Madison
Publication Date: February 12, 2018
Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
Date Started: January 8, 2018
Date Finished: January 15, 2018
Format: Adobe Digital Edition
*I would like to thank the publisher, author, and NetGalley for providing an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*
I’m not certain if I can convey in words how excited I was to read Fruitful Labor. My dream is to one day run a small alpaca ranch, either during retirement or as a side hobby, and I love reading little informative books on how to successfully run farms and ranches. I dove straight into this book, and ended feeling refreshed and inspired.
Fruitful Labor is the account of Mike Madison and his operation. He runs a relatively small farm sitting on roughly 20 acres in the Sacramento Valley of California where he produces various fruits and flowers, but specializes in olives. I really appreciated that he was upfront about the purpose of this book. If you are expecting advice on how to start or run a farm, this probably isn’t the book for you. Instead, he focuses on protocols that he has tried, both the ones that worked and those that didn’t. Topics vary from soil maintenance to tools on the farm to governmental certifications.
The one thing that Madison incorporated into this primer that all others I have read to this point have lacked is ecology. While not touched on explicitly in several sections, it remained a constant guide for his actions. I am probably quite biased on this, being a biologist myself. Normally, in order to maximize profits, agricultural industries tend to assume that what is best for the crops is to eliminate all other organisms and increase yield by whatever means. However, taking the ecology into account (thinking about the beneficial insects and “weeds” that can give back to the soil, and so on) a farm can reach a more self-sufficient and less destructive equilibrium with the environment while maintaining an income for the local farmer.
Even though this book was not designed to provide a course of action for running a business, I nevertheless found myself taking notes on numerous occasions. There were so many “aha!” moments and little details that I know will make a difference in the future. Reading methods and expert opinions from someone I could immediately trust (all he needed to do was say he worked as a researcher in the tropics), I was instantly transported to my own little patch of heaven, my one-day farm, and I was instilled with an excitement that I really needed right now with the short, dark, way too cold days. If you are interested in agricultural management, this book deserves a place in your collection.
Overall, 4/5 moose