Letter to a Young Farmer – Gene Logsdon – Book Notes

letter to a young farmer gene logon

Summary – I felt Letter to a Young Farmer by Gene Logsdon had some great nuggets of wisdom.  Rambling a bit at times like we where sipping tea on his farm, but that’s what gives the book an authentic tone.

Key points:

  • Garden farming means to grow animals and plants on a small level, for pleasure (most people) and to make a little amount of money if so desired (not usually enough to live on).  Often producing their own inputs/feed, using their own labor, and building soil
  • Garden farming types want leisure time for making art and satisfaction without spending time making money
  • Example farm showing that we can produce quality food without harming animals or the earth affordably – Will Witherspoon’s Shire Gate Farm
  • To succeed in farming it helps to just start doing it, get some hands on experience to see if it’s a good fit, be stubborn, and suspicious of formalized education
  • Investors are putting their money into farmland
  • Wendell Berry is the pioneer of the new small farming movement and a master at combing farming and writing – Amazon books 
  • Being humble, wise spending, and self-producing needs are keys to living this lifestyle – Love of the land comes before making money
  • Keep your day job, moderation in all things, don’t borrow money, be smart with money and know the effects of your spending (use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without) because the more you spend the more you need to work for more money, avoid traveling, eat at home, fix things yourself, buy quality goods of things you really need
  • Life is more tranquil the less one participates in the money economy
  • Find a partner to farm with.
  • Land prices are always too high.  Adjust your goals based on reality of what you can afford
  • The more people crowd together the more irrational and irresponsible they tend to be
  • A new economy is taking hold that understands farming is a biological process and should be handled with care and gentle husbandry and agronomy
  • Consumers are starting to care more about how their food is produced and sourced.. wanting REAL food
  • To get a feel for what is going on with local food in your area read Edible magazine
  • Decentralization of food is becoming a way of life and not a fad
  • Late 1800’s distributism economic movement came.  Were against socialism and capitalism and wanted to spread means of production and ownership out to as many people as possible until centralization took over

The small organic farm greatly discomforts the corporate/ industrial mind because it is one of the most relentlessly subversive forces on the planet.  Over the centuries both the communist and the capitalist systems have tried to destroy small farms because they are a threat to the consolidation of absolute power…  It is very difficult to control people who can create products without purchasing inputs from the system, who can market their products directly thus avoiding the involvement of mercenary middlemen, … who can’t be bullied because they can feed their own faces. – Eliot Coleman on Dave Smith’s website.

  • Sea salt used to be a a great backyard business.  Then, the corporations took over, but the economics are not as good as the small guys, so they are taking back the market share
  • Walled gardens work by protecting the garden from predators, and thermal mass to create a warmer climate.  Test it by putting a cinder block with a hole in it on the lawn in late fall and the grass inside the hole will be healthier come spring time.
  • Hoophouses have made the small gardens more efficient
  • What is we could grow all of our crops in an enclosed space?  Eliot Coleman is able to get up to five crops a year in Maine.  Amazon book.
  • If instead of lawns we enclosed 1/8th of an acre of land with six hens and a pig or two to each greenhouse scraps we could have an enormous amount of local food production
  • The key with tunnels is to be able to open them easily when needed
  • You can layer protection in hoop houses by also using cold frames inside.  Each layer moves the climate about 500 miles south

There is another way to look at this whole topic of decentralized food production.  How about some real heresy?  Maybe farming isn’t an economic process that is supposed to make money.  What if food production should be an activity that nearly everyone has to be involved in, like cooking or taking a bath. – Gene Logsdon


  • There is no profit in farming if you are putting back into the soil what you are taking out, beyond getting healthy sustainable food
  • Gene’s lifestyle of garden farming drastically lowers his expenses.  Providing low cost healthy food that he uses and gives away (people often give him some money for it).  This allows him to continue doing what he loves.. writing
  • It’s nice to make money from art or gardening and be content with a modest living, but even if an artist can’t, they still keep creating and find a different way to make a living.  Lasting forever is the goal of all art and the soul of good farming
  • The reward of farming is to know you are adding beauty and value to the world and doing no harm
  • “New kinds of farming comes out of cities” – Jane Jacobs in The Economy of Cities (Amazon)
  • The secret to pleasant farm work is not to be in a hurry, letting nature’s pace guide you.  Do a little work, take a breath, talk to the animals, etc.
  • Being in a quality and efficient barn gives one a sense of security, independence and pride that is no common today
  • One couple used a old barn as a store and place to house workhorses. Both work to attract customers
  • Corn cribs are typically built with 4′ spacing between the slant of walls and walls outwards from the bottom to top.  Allows the proper air flow to dry the corn and moisture for water to drip outside the crib not in it.
  • Read old barn books for more info from authors like Eric Sloane (Amazon)
  • Old watering systems used cypress wood that swells when moisture contacts it so it does not leak.  (Although today cypress can only be sourced from old growth trees and is not sustainable.  Builders have switched to other woods like Eastern Red Cedar)
  • Sheep can be used to mow grass and weeds – Urban Shepards

  • Businesses like to use the services of sheep mowing because it attracts customers.  Also works well for parks, factories, schools, cemeteries, public utility right a ways, golf courses, etc.
  • Sheep manure is similar to deer and rabbit.  No very smelling and good fertilizer
  • Be careful and avoid rams though.  They can kill you and enjoy breaking things over their heads
  • Old school buses make great chicken tractors – They can also be used to attract customers just like the sheep
  • Amish are perfect examples of the new homestead model – purchase little to no inputs, raise/grow food, house is apart of production, use their own labor, travel by bike or buggy, horses over tractors, walk to work, make their own clothes, windmills and water cisterns by gravity for water, and solar electricity and diesel electric for milking
  • Barns, raw milk, and local honey all aid with allergies
  • The farms of the past that were most likely to succeed was those were husband and wife worked together in everything
  • Radical Homemakers is a book (Amazon) that highlights the female role model in local food movement
  • Most farmers don’t like crowds, but they don’t like being lonely in solitude either – You need a mate who shares your madness
  • Travel/transportation is one of the largest contributors to climate change along with large houses, and running our air conditioners more than we should.  But no one talks about those issues.  Those that do have to travel should use trains or sailboats
  • Pasture farming is a easy method to produce milk, meat, eggs, with the least amount of money and time for the part-time homesteader – Key is to under stock animals so they always have food
  • Three staples for pasture farming – Red clover, white clover, and bluegrass. Bluegrass and white clover can feed chickens almost all year round as long as snow doesn’t cover the ground. Dried clover can also be raked up and fed to chickens during winter just like hay
  • Red clover can be broadcast seeded best in the early spring when the ground is still a bit frozen.  15 pounds per acre
  • Fencing is often the most expensive part of pasture farming.  Get 5′ high wire panel fencing and it will last a lifetime
  • Wild plants can give you free and delicious food from tree crops
  • North American Fruit Explorers – NAFEX Has a journal about wild fruits – Which Gene finds and tries to grow on his land
  • Buying trees on named varieties will give you a higher chance of quality fruit, but hunting for them is cheaper (free) and more fun
  • Pick the seeds out and store them in a plastic bag in the fridge/freezer to stratify for spring planting
  • Hickory trees do best grown by the nut and not transplanted
  • Stubbornness is a good trait to have for farming
  • Virgin soils are best for growing and has more nutrients in them.  Organic gardening will help restore soil
  • Farmers markets are a democratic melting pot as good food creates more peace than off of philosophy combined
  • Competition around farmers markets are good.. just as two fast food restaurants next to each other benefit both
  • Educate and entertain customers when selling them food
  • Food producers need to keep up with food trends so they can bring it up with customers
  • Green veggies are the tastiest when they are garden fresh and young and tender, which is impossible to get in a commercial system
  • We need to advance good tasting low cost foods that are easy to bring to market – Cricket farming, hops, barley, etc
  • Fake meats are not as cost-effective as natural meats.. as nature can produce cheaper than the machines and transportation
  • Most farmers would rather sit on their porch and look out over their fields than at a ocean anyway – homebodies that feel more secure at home than on the road
  • Art can only come from deep familiarity with one’s place – you get closer to the truth the deeper you go in exploring the familiar world around you – There is always something new and more to turn into more tranquility
  • When one is contrary – they seem to disagree with the popular view of things and that alone will often keep one from socializing a lot anyway
  • How much better art could one create if they weren’t in traffic waiting for lights to change colors?
  • Farming with diversity lowers risk, animals, fish, plants of different varieties
  • Land and food has real value versus paper money that is really only worth the paper it was printed on

time is not money; time is life. And I love my life.  I love it so much I made a decision to pursue it even though it meant we would not have much money to spend on stuff we didn’t need

  • Gene’s way of life kept him in control of his time, not vice versa.  Meaning when something they wanted to do was ready.. like ice skating they did it.  Then, would fit in other things that needed to get done around that.  Not a slave to the clock but by what they wanted and needed to do that day

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