Real Self Reliance: A Model for Profitable Micro-Farming (On Just 1.5 Acres)

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Editor’s Note: One of the key tenets of living a sustainable lifestyle is the ability to produce one’s own food. Traditionally, accomplishing such a goal required would-be farmers or ranchers to first find land, come up with a ton of start-up money, and then move the entire family out to rural America. But what if there were a way that you could produce enough food for yourself, while also feeding up to 200 families without the typical start up requirements for farming? In the following interview with Adam Taggert of Peak Prosperity and The Market Gardener author Jean-Martin Fortier, you can learn just how to do it yourself. Moreover, not only will you be well on your way towards self reliance, but you can turn it into a profitable business while you’re at it. Jean-Martin Fornier did and he did it using just 1.5 acres – an incredible feat considering most farms requires acres upon acres of land to be successful. Don’t miss this one – it could well change your life (and if enough individuals and families start their own micro-farms, it could even change how our entire society works from top to bottom).


micro-farm-modelAs we awaken to the realities in store for us in a future defined by declining net energy, concerns about food security, adequate nutrition, community resilience, and reliable income commonly arise.

Small-scale or micro-farming usually quickly surfaces as a pursuit that could help address all of these. Yet most dismiss the idea of becoming farmers themselves; mainly because of lack of prior experience, coupled with lack of capital. It simply feels too risky.

The refrain we most frequently hear is: I think I’d love doing it, but I don’t know how I’d make a living.

Enter Jean-Martin Fortier and his wife, Maude-Hélène. They are a thirtysomething couple who have been farming successfully for the past decade. In fact, they’ve been micro-farming: their entire growing operations happen on just an acre and half of land.

And with this small plot, they feed over 200 families. And do so profitably.

The Fortiers are pioneers of the type of new models we’re in such need of for the coming future. Fortunately, they realize this, and are being as transparent about their operations as they can — in order to educate, encourage and inspire people to join the emerging new generation of small-scale farmers.

They have published a book, The Market Gardener, which is nothing short of an operating manual for their entire business. In it, they reveal exactly what they grow, how they grow it, what tools and farming practices they use, who their customers are, what they charge them, and how much profit they take home at the end of the day.

A quick summary of the numbers from their 1.5 acre operation:

  • 2013 revenue: $140,000
  • Customer sales breakdown:
    • CSA operations (140 members): 60%
    • Farmer’s markets (2): 30%
    • Restaurants/grocery stores: 10%
  • Staff: 2 paid employees + the Fortiers
  • 2013 Expenses: $75,000
  • 2013 Profit: $65,000 (~45% profit margin)

Their initial start up costs were in the $40,000 range. Not peanuts; but fairly low by most new business standards.

Did I mention they’re doing this in Quebec? (translation: colder, and shorter natural growing season vs most of North America)

Learning to do more with less, and doing it sustainably, will be a key operating principle for future prosperity. Here’s a model that shows it’s possible to do both, and have good quality of life, to boot.

We need more of these.

(Hat tip to PP.com reader Bill12 who brought the Fortiers onto our radar)

Click the play button below to listen to my interview with Jean-Martin Fortier (34m:16s):

You can also view this video at Youtube

Full transcript available at Peak Prosperity.

Get the book: The Market Gardener

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