The Market Gardener with Jean-Martin Fortier, Six Figure Farming Part 1 Introduction


The idea today is to present to you an image of what I’v described in my book The Market
Gardener and the premise of everything is that
you can make a really decent livelihood farming on
small acreage we’ve been doing this for more than and
decade and we’ve learned so many things along the way and if I had known all that we’ve came up
with when I started I think that would’ve really kick-start our career
so hopefully we’re passing this on to you guys were going to talk about the cropping system per se this you know the first half and then we’ll
talk about some management practices, weed prevention, crop planning and the tools we use this is all going to go with
as the day goes by I think I’ll start my presentation today
with just giving you numbers of what we do so that’ll kind of give you
the scope and the idea of the farm so my farm is called the de la Grelinette which like is the broad fork farm in French and we farm on an acre
and a half of permanent raised beds the CSA share is a 140 members we deliver for 21 weeks and we also do two farmers markets one on
Saturday morning one on Thursday the sales of the vegetables produced on-site last year was a hundred and fifty thousand dollars
of production these are the vegetable that we produce
on the farm the labor on the farm has been me an my wife full-time ever since we started the
project in 2004 we’ve had no outside labor’s and we’re
hiring two full-time staff 40 hours a week from March to December and so there’s
four of us to make the show a run and we also have
interns on the farm we have from to 2 to 3 they come for a four week internship program but I don’t count them as labor on the
farm and the reason is not because they’re not good workers
it’s just they’re not reliable and every year I get these long letters from people that read my book in
French most of them come from France and you know their
computer people and then they’ve read that and
they want to change their life and it’s like this big heart opener for them and then they want to
come and intern on the farm and so we give them a slot and then when it’s time to come I get a
phone call from from John luke that says I’ve met this
beautiful French Canadian girl and I’m going biking across Canada I will not be
not be there Jean-Martin tomorrow and that happens so often you wouldn’t
believe it that we’ve stopped relying on these people for labor because if I’m planning that
these guys are working and they’re not there that’s more
pressure on me to operate so without them we can operate the four
of us an actually we can talk later on about
interns or internship programs if you want but on our farm the interns it’s it’s something that Maude-Hélène and I my
wife my girlfriend my wife in French in Canada we say
girlfriend wife the same it’s romantic that way I
think but it’s not a gift but
it’s like we want to be communicating what we’re doing so that’s
why we have interns so they’re more of a distraction if you want from production so they’re not equated in the
labor force we have no tractor on the farm and it will become clear to you guys why
its it’s not for philosophical reasons or
because it’s a dogma it’s just because we didn’t need one an our farm got to be successful because
we don’t have one people don’t believe me but
that’s the case I’m going to try to make the breakout for diesel and fossil
fuel is really low diesel because we go to Montreal twice a week our delivery truck runs
on straight vegetable oil so if it didn’t that number would be much higher we have a high cost for propane because
we’re in the northern climate and our goal is by the first of June
to have you know a booth with everything on it
so we we plan to have tomatoes by the first of June so we heat a lot the greenhouse but two hundred and sixty
dollars is what is equated for the gasoline that
I put in my walking tractor which is all of the fossil fuel input
for for soil working on the farm which is
really not a lot like I’m doing my accounting these days
and you know just my parking tickets in Montreal its five times that amount of money and
and most importantly the number that is important in all of this this is interesting because it
illustrates that we can we can have on small acreage we can have a lot of
production an we can have you know full-employment
with not a lot of fossil fuel consumption but what’s really important
and why this farming model I think is relative and why i’m invested in
passing it along and teaching about it is the profit margin on our farm ever
since we started the farm in 2005 was our first year operation our profits have been around 45 percent
meaning that at the end of the year when we’ve
paid all of our expenditures you know the salaries to our employees, seeds, mortgage whatever almost half of the
production the income from the production comes
back to Maude-Hélène and I as our salary which you know were not you know day traders at Wall Street but we’re making enough
money to have a very comfortable livelihood
okay so that’s what we’re doing in numbers and I don’t know if some of you
guys are familiar with numbers with farming numbers if you
have a farm or if you know about farming operations you could have a
sense of what this is if this is good or not but if you don’t
this is really good these are really great numbers for farming especially the 45 percent margin
and then the question is well how do we do this how do we get
this going in a northern climate because you know
people were fended away today because of the
snowstorm but how much in fahrenheit how much was it at my
farm this morning -20 was this morning on my farm okay just to
give you an idea so I’m not saying this is super good
just to brag I’m saying okay so then the question
is how do we do this and that’s what the workshop today is
about making sure that you guys understand the key elements the key factors that
allow us to make this happen and hopefully to make it happen for you
guys okay so I’m gonna start off by taking about you know half an
hour to tell you a bit about my story and how our farm came to be because I
think it’s important that you guys understand how this system
evolved because we haven’t started with these numbers you know we I knew nothing about farming when I
started I graduated from McGill University I had
studied environmental science ecology basically I took three-year courses in environmental disasters and I was really
bummed when I finish because I had no is geez I just learned how you know there’s
an ecological collapse happening everywhere and i felt invested in trying to be
part of the solution and we were looking both that’s where I
met my wife we were looking for answers about how to
be a a positive factor of change but to be doing
something physically we did a trip we went to Mexico we worked on coffee bean farms we
were worked on fair trade farms and then we went to New Mexico and we
started to woof on a small organic farm and that’s where we met the French Canadian guy that was farming there around Santa Fe an that was a great
gift for us to meet this guy because he was
our first impression of what farming was because again I I didn’t come from a
rural background and back in the early 2000 at least where I was living in
organic wasn’t what it is now and the local food
movement wasn’t as developed so I really knew nothing about farming but
here was this guy farming in beautiful abiquiu like
beautiful area beautiful light working all day growing
stuff preparing his things making it really
neat to go to market on Saturdays and then he would we would wake up early
go to market and then there was like you know people lining up like these
were like 20 people lineups to buy rishar salad because he was the
salad king over there he was one of the better growers and people were thanking him for
his work hey Rishar whaaaa thanking him and I was doing the cash
register now and I was looking at that money he was making like man this guy is making like three grand in half a day’s work and I would like make three grand in the whole summer as
I was like whoa this is cool and then Rishar would take his winters
to go to Mexico and hang out and I was like whoa that’s a pretty
sweet setup and that got me interested in this
lifestyle of farming and so that was the start of it then we were asked by you know another funny turn of event to work as farm
managers on another small farm which we did in New Mexico stayed there for a
year and a half and after two years of you know farming
really really small scale we were farming on 11 acres we came back to Québec because that’s
where our roots are from and we started our own little operation
and we had a grower that was doing CSA he had like thirty members and and he quit and so we took his client’s and we started our own little program we
didn’t have a place to live we didn’t know where we wanted to go so
we just figured you know trying to find a cool community
which we did and then we asked people if we could just set up a summer camp on their
place and we had a couple of French French people that had like a B&B kinda
farm to table thing and just bluntly when said you know you guys would you guys be interested in
having us live live on your farm and they said yes
and then so we set up a summer camp and we lived there for two years and the
you know I had seen a young couple with kids in
in New Mexico put up a teepee and live in a teepee
and I thought wow that’s cool so we did that in Quebec but there was
something that was lost in translation because this you know your better off with a yurt or you know whatever but not a teepee because you’re
losing all the heat and the water gets in now those two years we did a lot of
mistakes and that is was a another blessing in disguise
because when you make these mistakes then the next time around you don’t do
them again you know an example you know the teepee was like pretty bad in
itself but that was a Northern slope
really big slow clay heavy clay but the site had an amazing view of pinnacle
mountain and back then we’re like well this is
what you want you know when you’re working outside when you
working the fields when you doing things ecologically you wanna stop and
contemplate and be in bliss because it’s a nice you know environment
and so we thought that so that was a key factor for taking on this site but know if you want
to be a successful small-scale farmer you should perhaps not stop and just work and have a beer at 5:30 and you can
drive up to the you know whatever and so we didn’t know
about that but we learned a lot and I incourage everyone
that’s that wants to get into farming to start on rented land and make your
mistakes there before buying so that’s what
we set it up and one great one great part of that about that time is that we were doing it
we were doing it you know really right on we had
30-member the first year we had fifty the next year we started a small farmers
market to and already we were making like you
know 6, 7, 8 grand of profit at the end of the season
because we had no expenditures all the tools were super simple
hand tools that we bought from Johnny’s and were farming with
rakes and an old rotor tiller and we had put up a teepee and it was good
enough the only drawback was winters and even
there we took our winters and when traveling down south and one of
the first trip that we made was to go to Cuba and that for
us as I look backward now of what came
about in are cropping system was a very
important moment because it was the first time we
were seeing farming without tractors in a large-scale perspective and that didn’t happen by chance because we
had studied at McGill when we were at the university there the cuban experiment which lasted about 12 years and really was kick-start when the Soviet Union fell apart these guys lost all of their fossil fuel input on the
island so all of the you know fuel for the tractors or if
they had a little bit of fuels when the tractors would break they didn’t have any parts to repair them and
all of the you know synthetic fertilizers fungicides herbicides pesticides these are all petroleum-based products so they had none of that so
they had to basically reinvent their whole agriculture for it to be 100
percent organic so with regards to vegetable production
what they came up with was these permanent raised beds of cement slab contoured you know beds called organoponicos
and in these beds you had densely seeded or transplanted crops and you would see these you would see acres and acres and acres and acres of
these organoponicos and the growers they were gardeners they were farming with hand tools and we were
looking at this you know around La Habana or in the
countryside you know it was always the same setup and we’re like geez man this is a lot of production
per square foot and that was like something that got us thinking about
kind of like trying to buildup that kinda model the next winter
we made another trip and this time we went to a France we went there because
at that time this was already my fourth growing
season and I was reading a lot of the books coming out of California about bio
intensive growing you know John Jeavons high-yield
gardening square foot gardening all these books and they would always refer to the
French intensive techniques and so i’m frankaphone and so I thought
you know I was gonna fly there and check it out for myself in and pick up all the
best tricks and what I found was that every time I
would ask people about bio intensive they would go what what is that bio you know that didn’t computed at all for them and then when we would describe these
patterns of you know densely seeded area they would bring us to these kind of
operations which was you know super productive but monoculture kinda
type you know glass houses that costed
millions and millions of dollars and basically we toured part of France
looking for you know acre farms that were really
doing it and we didn’t find any not to say that they weren’t any but we
didn’t find any we learned a lot from these growers because even the
conventional growers you know they have they have a lot of
things to teach and so we learned about spacings we learned about quality we learn about different cultivars
varieties because you know in france is just crazy how
they they’re really into it for the taste and
the quality of the produce and so that was inspirational for us we also learned a lot from working the
soil really gently because these guys it’s
not like over here they don’t have space so if
they’ve been farming for thirty years or forty years and they’ve messed up their soil they
just cant go to the next one because there’s a parking lot or there’s
another farmer there’s there’s something you know Europe is like condensed there’s a lot
of people there and so they’ve figured out through time how to
work their soil to get their operations done but to be really gentle with their soil
to conserve the organic matter over 45 or 50 weeks
growning season so we learned a lot about that so coming back more to our story an event kinda propelled us to
something new which was the farm where we were
working got sold and then we were we had to move
again and we decided it was time for us to buy
a farm because we had already one kid and we wanted to you know get our roots established
in that community and land was super expensive it is super expensive where we are
you know all these day traders lawyers bankers they have
second homes you know where an hour south in Montreal
in the Eastern Townships no mosquitoes no fly good climate
whatever a lot of vineyards but we found that 10-acre site which was seven-acre
woodlot three-acre prairie in the middle of which had a
rabbit coop a rabbit coop is a building where you
raise rabbits for meat and that was a forty by a hundred
building that was empty had been abandoned for
like eight years and the asking price was really
reasonable because it was there there was a zoning
regulation there that if you weren’t a farmer you couldn’t build a house on it and if you were farmer what are you gonna do with two acres of prairie except park your machinery on that so nobody would buy it but we
thought this is perfect we’ll build the house inside that it’ll be
much better than the teepee which was molding all over the place getting sick about that and then we
thought you know if all this is planted it’s going to be a lot
and our goal when we started the farm when we bought it in 2004 was to have two salaries derived from our farming operation and and having this generate enough income
also to pay for the mortgage of the house that we wanted to build inside the rabbit coop so we had a pretty
clear mission statement from start then we went to different loan offices to
get loans to get you know to get to buy have a mortgage
and to get equipment and we had a really sweet business plan
really well made had done our homeworks and everything
was super fine with everyone that we went because we
visited I think 4 or 5 before somebody said yes everybody was like compelled it was like
oh the charts are nice you put colors you printed in colors it was all good and then they would really go through it
and say whoa you’re farming on an acre and a half I and then they said okay that’s not
serious we’re not interested because nobody knew about small-scale
farming or micro scale farming the way we wanted to do it and so I
think what happened to us is that one of the bankers they’re really didn’t
readout they would just they looked at the colors and that was good enough for them and they
said yes so so we finally end up starting our project
that way so all this to say that that’s been our reality ever since on the farm I E we’ve had about two and a half acre prairies to establish a market garden that had to be quite productive and yeah so we you know first winter we bought in the fall first
winter started to play their it was great we were
building our house and again you know just like this for us
like was way better than the teepee like I still remember I
would step outside and just the when it would rain when it would pour is was like wow the
water is not coming in the house now is like these guys know how to make buildings
and I was like really impressed you know and and so now it’s a nice house you know after two years two winters of building and unbuilding because I
would do it myself and then I was kinda I had time so I would
build it and then I wouldn’t see you know my my father in law would come and say hey JM no that’s not how you do this and then I would tear it up and then I would
do it again so I I did the house twice but now it’s a it’s a fine house and I’m
showing this to say because you know these old buildings these
tobacco farms or whatever they’re out there I’m and why not give them a second
chance if they’re rightly built and if
you know the roof structure is nice man they can go another 50 years no
problem

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56 thoughts on “The Market Gardener with Jean-Martin Fortier, Six Figure Farming Part 1 Introduction

  1. Hi there. Inspiring story. We live in south africa and hope to one day achieve the same you have. I'm an office worker, but gardening. As a kid i used to spend every second weekend on my uncles farm, however lack knowledge and experience. What would suppoze be the best, frist travel as you did to learn the ins and out, or start trying something? One of the comments said you have a book, where can one get a copy.

  2. Yay!! I've been reading and rereading your book, so I'm very excited to find these videos! Thank you so much for your generosity!

  3. You are my celebrity. My partner and I have just purchased a 3 acre lot just outside Almonte Ontario, and will have a home built on it in the fall. Our dream is to be self-sufficient and to have a small homestead that includes growing all types of crops and having goats and chickens.

    I hope to meet you one day and I look forward to reading your book cover to cover.

  4. Can I get this book in Japan? I wish he would visit Japan and see how he thinks of Japanese small farms!

  5. Extremely interesting presentation. This guy lives in my region. His topic was a revelation for me. I learned a lot. Thanks.

  6. Hi JM (or someone who can speak for him) do you know what the yield in pounds of kilos per metre square is on the farm?

  7. Hi Jean-Martin, hello from San Diego California, thanks for your videos and inspiration. I'm planning to move to the city's outskirts and do my small farm but first I'm educating my self before making that step, it's such a wonderfull feeling to get in touch with nature and its fruits and to see the rewards that soil gives us when we work it properly.

  8. My wife and I are engaged in commencing a micro farming enterprise. we have been working towards this for a few years now. We certainly know what it means to try to head in a direction that appears so obvious but so few people around us appear to yet be aware of as an option.

    Your book found its way in to our life (a purchase not a gift lol) and wanted to say thank you. The information was indispensable in helping us to formulate our business plan going forward. It has helped us to not feel overwhelmed and to keep our focus on the simple steps we need to take.

    This series of videos was a spectacular addition to the book and gave the additional touches we needed to have confidence that we have reasonably understood what you have shared. Thank you so much to you and your wife for your desire not only to "do" but to "share".

  9. Thank you for such a pure gold material. I'd really like to contribute caption translations in my native Bulgarian, but this is not allowed right now. If you don't mind changing the setting allowing it – that'd be great. Thanks in advance!

  10. I am enjoying these videos so much, thank you for sharing all this information! What an adventure you have created. (beekeeper & hobby farmer in Oklahoma, hopeful to enter a local market soon)

  11. The prices quoted in the book for his vegetables seem very inflated.  Aside from that, the book was inspiring and informative.

  12. When you BUY land in the US…. you are only buying the right to be present on that land. You really do not understand that you truly do not OWN that land. The city and county OWN that land ,and can tell you what you can and cannot do with it,.

  13. I would like to do this in southern Arkansas but I don't think we have the market in the Deep South that you would find in more progressive parts of the world

  14. superbe anecdote de Jean-Luc qui à rencontrer une superbe canadienne Française !!! il viendras une autre fois .

  15. organics are beyond affordability of those who desperately need it. making lots of money off rich people who can afford and taking holidays doesnt sound like change to me. making a good living is understandable.

  16. Hello jean I am watchin video from nepal I also one of farmer but I haven't any modern knowledge your is very great I want to learn from you I joint your form for learning how i can make better so how I can joint with you?

  17. This guy is so great we are studying his book in my agriculture science program in college. Listening to him and reading his book really inspires me to turn an acre into a profit.

  18. wondering what CSA stands for… some customer count, but what is it? Restaurants? local markets? Individual customers/neighbors>?>>????

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