How I met JM Fortier

JM Fortier with his farm's namesake, the broad fork.
JM Fortier with his farm’s namesake, the broad fork.

One of the things I want to do with this blog is to give some back story on how I met the farmers that are profiled in the book. JM just sent me a really lovely endorsement for the book so I posted that over on the About page and I’ll kick off the blog with the short story of how I “met” him.

I used to be a very regular contributor to Growing For Market and I guess folks were reading my articles there because I got a lot of nice feedback over the years. I also had this farmer up in Canada send me a manuscript for his book telling me he appreciated my articles and asking if I’d be willing to read the manuscript and write an endorsement for the cover. I have to admit that my initial impression was that this guy had just rewritten Eliot Coleman’s New Organic Grower, but then I thought about it a little more and realized a couple of important differences. Most obviously it was his story, not Eliot’s. He had obviously been influenced by Eliot, but the book was more of an homage to the New Organic Grower than a cheap imitation, and more than anything his example demonstrated clearly that Eliot’s techniques could be applied by others, with great success. The examples in the book were from actual experience on his farm, things that worked for him, not theoretical ideas taken from reading about farming or from imagining a better way. On close reading he also had a number of refinements to Eliot’s systems that worked for him in his conditions and were likely useful to many other small farms.

So, after initial healthy skepticism, I sent him back an appreciative note and a strong endorsement for his book. I was pleasantly surprised when the print version came out to find my endorsement on the back cover, right under Eliot Coleman’s endorsement!

In the past few years JM’s “The Market Gardener” has been an incredibly influential book, in no small part due to his generous touring around the country to give more details on the techniques (something I’ve taken note of and am considering for my own book). It’s also because his techniques are excellent and well presented, and indeed, build on the techniques that Eliot presented in his book and and in turn that Eliot borrowed from visiting market gardeners in Europe when he was getting his start. In other words, time tested and slowly refined techniques that work.

I’ve had the good fortune to cross paths, in person, with JM a number of times in the intervening years and he’s a great guy, full of energy and enthusiasm for promoting small farming, spreading good and useful information and having a little fun at the same time. I’m so happy he was willing to be a part of my book and I think his farm not only is a great example of how to be successful on a very small scale, but provides a good reference point for the other farms profiled in the book.

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