Designing the Market Farms for Success with Jean-Martin Fortier – Part 3 of 3

In the last post, we covered features of JM’s design for his market garden, including his permanent bed system and some of the equipment he uses. In this final post, we’ll look at work-life balance, seeding, and weeding.

Working Hours

The farm’s 10-acre land constraint has been a blessing to JM and Maude-Hélène since it has forced them to prioritize, to determine which things they were and weren’t good at, and to be more efficient. 

Only having a few acres to grow on also created an incentive to balance work and the rest of life. They were able to put a time cap on their working hours—from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. This especially helped once they had kids. Single people can try to work forever, but if you have a family, doing so only leads to resentment. 

Crunching Numbers and Overlooked Strategies

JM and Maude-Hélène are able to rake in a 45 percent profit margin. They keep their labor costs to a minimum by working on the farm full-time themselves, and they have low overhead costs. Only using a walking tractor ensures low fuel costs. 

The close spacing of their crops had naysayers telling them it wouldn’t work; but ever since they implemented the practice, the only disease pressure they’ve had is mildew. JM’s theory is that because of their crop rotation and because their soil is occupied by good bacteria, few other pathogens can exist. 

JM rarely follows the spacing recommendations on seed packets. He always spaces crops so that the leaves touch each other at three-quarters of their full growth. This covers the soil, shades out weeds, and locks in moisture. Keeping the soil moist is beneficial to soil microbes. 

The permanent bed set-up also eliminates soil compaction from the get-go since only the topmost layer is cultivated. 

As for weeds, JM notes that one should try to prevent them in the first place by not using manure with weed seeds, rarely using straw, using transplants to get ahead of weeds, and implementing intensive spacing to shade out the weeds. It’s important to systematize your practices so you’re not always reacting to weeds.

Get Started

For anyone who is interested in farming, market gardening is definitely worth a try. You can start off with little capital and can scale up your production. It’ll take trial and error, but the pay-off will be worth it in the long run. 

Thanks for reading our series on designing successful market gardens.

You can learn more in this episode of Farm Small, Farm Smart with market gardener Jean-Martin Fortier:

And you can find all our market gardening podcasts at Farm Small, Farm Smart—the longest-running podcast on market gardening in the world.

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