Books About Market Farming

For those just getting started in market gardening, here are the books that I consider essential reading.

The New Organic Grower by Eliot Coleman. This guide to small-scale, intensive vegetable production is the foundation of today’s local food movement. Virtually every market farmer has read this book, so it’s part of our common language. Its most recent revision was in 1995, but it is just as relevant and important today as then.

Sustainable Vegetable Production from Start-Up to Market by Vern Grubinger. This is an excellent overview of vegetable farming, with an emphasis on larger-scale production than The New Organic Grower. It covers all aspects of market farming, from planning to marketing, and does a great job of helping the small grower understand what is required to expand. The sections on equipment are particularly useful to new growers.

The Flower Farmer: An Organic Grower's Guide to Raising and Selling Cut Flowers. I’m the author of this book and I’ve been told by countless people that it helped them get started with this most profitable crop. Adding cut flowers to the crop mix doesn’t require a lot of extra production expertise or costs, but it brings in a lot more revenue. 

The Hoophouse Handbook: Growing Produce and Flowers in Hoophouses and High Tunnels is a collection of Growing for Market articles about all aspects of high tunnels, including how to buy and build one (with photos and illustrations), how to grow various crops, and which crops are the most profitable.

Winter Harvest Handbook by Eliot Coleman. This book is about Coleman’s system for growing year-round in unheated or minimally heated greenhouses. It is detailed about materials, construction techniques, varieties, planting dates, etc. and is a great resource on season extension. A companion DVD, Year-Round aVegetable Production, is a video of a workshop taught by Coleman.

Walking to Spring by Paul and Alison Wiediger, Kentucky growers who use their high tunnels year-round for a succession of profitable crops.

The Essential Urban Farmer by Novella Carpenter and Willow Rosenthal shares the experiences of two successful urban growers. It covers all the issues that are particular to urban farming, such as soil contamination, limited space, zoning and neighbors, security, and much more. 

Food and the City by Jennifer Cockrall-King explores the growing urban agriculture movement.

Small Farm Equipment by Jon Magee. This little book is a real help for those with no mechanical knowledge. It explains the basics of how farm equipment works, how to use it safely, and how to maintain it.


ATTRA is The National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. (It was originally called Applied Technology Transfer for Rural Areas, and became so well-known for its sustainable agriculture information that it has hung onto the acronym.) It is managed by the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), a private nonprofit organization founded in 1976, and is funded under a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). That’s a long way of saying that it’s a federally funded information service for sustainable farmers.

ATTRA has compiled a huge number of extensive, free publications about topics of interest to market farmers. They are all written by staff members who have expertise in agriculture, and they usually include excerpts from magazines, newspapers, and Extension publications. Under the heading of Horticultural Crops, for example, there are 78 separate publications. These resources offer detailed information on production of specific horticultural crops, focusing on sustainable and organic production methods for traditional produce, and also introducing a range of alternative crops and enterprises. In these publications you can find information on strategies for more sustainable greenhouse and field production of everything from lettuce to trees. 

ATTRA publications are free at If you don’t have Internet access, you can also call toll free to 800-346-9140 (English) or 800-411-3222 (Espanol) to request printed copies of publications for a small fee. 

ATTRA also offers the only nationwide internship listing service. If you are a farmer who wants to take on interns, you can list your farm for free with ATTRA. Use the same contact information as above.

SARE Learning Center

The USDA’s Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program has funded the publication of many fine books over the years, and now offers some of them as free downloadable PDFs. For example, Building a Sustainable Business is $17 in print, but free as a download. SARE also publishes bulletins, grant project reports, and much other useful information.

Chapter 1: Getting Started


I encourage you to go to conferences when getting started in market farming. You will learn from the speakers, certainly, but you’ll get as much value from chatting in the hallway with other growers and visiting vendors at the trade show. Most market farming conferences are held in the winter months, and there are large ones in every region of the country. Start with the conference in your own region, and try to attend one of the big conferences farther afield. Some of these are epic events. Below is information on some of the largest conferences; others are listed on the ATTRA website,


EcoFarm Conference is the granddaddy of them all, held for more than 33 years at the beautiful Asilomar conference center on the northern California coast. Beautiful surroundings, great organic meals, pre- and post-conference bus tours, and many speakers.

Great Plains Growers Conference is held in St. Joseph, Missouri, in January and features one day of intensive workshops plus two days of shorter presentations on many topics, including vegetables, fruits, cut flowers, poultry, marketing, CSA, and high tunnels, geared toward Midwestern commercial growers.

MOSES Organic Farming Conference attracts more than 3,000 people to LaCrosse, Wisconsin, every winter for the largest organic conference and trade show in the United States. Workshops, organic food, nearly 200 vendors, music and dancing in the evening—it’s the social event of the season for Upper Midwest farmers.

NOFA Summer Conference is held in August by the Northeast Organic Farming Association and there are several state NOFA conferences held in winter.

New England Vegetable and Fruit Conference is held every second year in December.

Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Conference is held in February and features two days of workshops for organic farmers.

Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture holds its Farming for the Future Conference is held in February and attracts more than 2,000 farmers, processors, consumers, and community leaders.

Southern SAWG Conference is held in January and features two days of intensive short courses and two days of general conference and trade show activities. It is tailored for those in the South producing organic and sustainable food on a commercial scale and for those working to improve local food systems.

Sustainable Agriculture Conference of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association is held in the fall in North or South Carolina. Three days of workshops and great local food.

Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers (ASCFG) holds a national conference every other year and regional meetings every year.

Educational Organizations

These groups publish information, hold field days and conferences, and serve small farmers in many other ways. Look for groups in or near your state.

Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network, PO Box 2127, Montgomery, AL 36102-2127; 256-743-0742;

Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project, 306 West Haywood Street, Asheville, NC 28801; 828-236-1282;

California Certified Organic Farmers, 2155 Delaware Ave., Ste. 150, Santa Cruz, CA 95060; 831-423-2263;

Cascade Harvest Coalition, 4649 Sunnyside Avenue North, Room 123, Seattle, WA 98103; 206-632-0606;

Carolina Farm Stewardship Association (CFSA), PO Box 448, Pittsboro, NC 27312; 919-542-2402;

Community Alliance with Family Farmers, PO Box 363, Davis, CA 95617; 530-756-8518;

Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers (FOG), PO Box 12311, Gainesville, FL 32604; 352-377-6345;

Future Harvest-CASA, 1114 Shawan Road, Suite 1, Cockeysville, MD 21030; 410-549-7878;

Kansas Rural Center, PO Box 133, Whiting, KS 66552; 785-873-3431;

Kerr Center for Sustainable Agriculture, PO Box 588, Poteau, OK 74953; 918-647-9123;

Land Stewardship Project, 301 State Road #2, Montevideo, MN 56265; 320-269-2105; 180 E. Main Street, Lewiston, MN 55952; 507-523-3366; 821 E. 35th Street #200, Minneapolis, MN 55407; 612-722-6377;

Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, PO Box 170, Unity, ME 04988; 207-568-4142;

Michael Fields Agricultural Institute, W2493 County Road ES, PO Box 990, East Troy, WI 53120; 262-642-3303; 16 N. Carroll Street, Suite 810, Madison, WI 53703; 608-256-1859;

Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service (MOSES), PO Box 339, Spring Valley, WI 54767; 715-778-5775;

Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society, PO Box 736, Hartington, NE 68739;

Northeast Organic Farming Association, Box 164, Stevenson, CT 06491; 203-888-5146;

Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society, PO Box 194, 100 1st Ave. SW, LaMoure, ND 58458; 701-883-4304;

Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association, 41 Croswell Rd., Columbus OH 43214; 614-421-2022;

Oregon Tilth, 260 SW Madison Ave., Suite 106, Corvallis, OR 97333; 503-378-0690;

Organic Seed Alliance, PO Box 772, Port Townsend, WA 98368; 360-385-7192;

Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, PO Box 419, Millheim, PA 16854; 814-349-9856;

Rural Roots, PO Box 8925, Moscow, ID 83843; 208-883-3462;

Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, 2510 Sam Noble Pky, Ardmore, OK 73401; 580-223-5810;

Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, PO Box 48, Elgin, TX 78621; 512-656-2456;

Tilth Producers of Washington, Good Shepherd Center, 4649 Sunnyside Avenue N #305, Seattle, WA 98103; 206-632-7562;

Virginia Association for Biological Farming, PO Box 1003, Lexington, VA 24450; 540-463-6363;

Leasing Land

The Landowner’s Guide to Sustainable Farm Leases from Drake University Agricultural Law Center can be downloaded at

Chapter 2: The Markets

Wherever you market your produce, you should get your farm listed on, a website dedicated to linking producers and consumers. You can create a free listing with if you are a direct marketing family farm, a producers’ farmers market, a business that sells products made from things grown locally by family farms, or an organization dedicated to promoting small farms and the “buy local” movement.

CSA resources

At this writing, I’m aware of three software platforms to help CSA farmers manage signup and payment, take online orders, create picking lists, and organize deliveries. All have their own features, so explore each in turn to see which works best for your business. 

Member Assembler from Small Farm Central, a business that creates websites for farmers:

CSAware from



 Local Harvest: A Multifarm CSA Handbook is available free from the SARE Learning Center:

The Kansas Rural Center’s publication Subscribing to Change is about the Rolling Prairie Farmers Alliance, an eight-farmer CSA in eastern Kansas that has been operating for more than 15 years. It is available free on the KRC website:

Wholesale Success: A Farmer’s Guide to Food Safety, Selling, Postharvest Handling, and Packing Produce is an excellent manual for all producer growers. It emphasizes practices that will ensure food safety and a long shelf life—essential for wholesale growers but helpful for farmers market and CSA growers as well. It’s a big, heavy spiral-bound book and is available from

The US Department of Agriculture has a huge amount of information on farmers markets, food hubs, and agricultural cooperatives. Start exploring at

Chapter 3: The Crops


The best place to find information about commercial vegetable production of major crops is from the state Extension services. The best way to locate publications is to use an Internet search engine with the term “commercial vegetable production” and the name of the veggie you want to find. From the results, pick the state nearest your own, but also read a couple of others to get a broader perspective on how vegetables are grown. I particularly enjoy the publications from North Carolina and Virginia.

Microgreens and Salad Mix

Johnny’s Selected Seeds has a fact sheet on micro mix production, as well as a large selection of seeds that are suitable for microgreens. 877-564-6697;

Several publications are available to explain Good Agricultural Practices and HACCP plans as they pertain to salad mix. The FDA Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables can be found at

Cornell University has produced Food Safety Begins on the Farm: A Guide for Growers located at Cornell University Good Agricultural Practices Network for Education and Training:

Chapter 4: Equipment and Tools

Farm Hack is an online community of farmers working to share information and experience about scale-appropriate tools. It is hosted by the National Young Farmers Coalition, an organization for anyone in the first 10 years of a farming career.

To get a good sense of the kinds of equipment out there, it pays to start collecting catalogs or perusing websites. You might encounter a problem and not even know a solution exists, if you don’t educate yourself about farming equipment and tools. Here are some of the dealers and suppliers I consider essential.

Tractors and implements

The BCS is the most commonly used type of walk-behind tractor on market farms. That’s primarily because there are many kinds of implements that can be used on the BCS, ranging from the basic tiller to hay balers and mowers. You can see the range of possibilities at the Earth Tools website,; 1525 Kays Branch Road, Owenton, KY 40359; 502-484-3988. You may also find local dealers for BCS tractors.

Ferrari Tractor specializes in scale-appropriate equipment from manufacturers around the world. Walking tractors, bed shapers, greens harvesters, walk-behind combines; if they are in use in Europe, you can get them through Ferrari Tractor. 530-846-6401;

A great source of information about vegetable planting and harvesting equipment is Market Farm Implement, a farm-based business in Pennsylvania. The company sells both new and used equipment. It has a warehouse you can visit, or you can view equipment online at For more information: Market Farm Implement, 257 Fawn Hollow Road, Friedens, PA 15541; 814-443-1931.

Steel in the Field: A Farmer’sGuide to Weed Management Tools, is a book that describes the many kinds of cultivation equipment available. It’s published by Sustainable Agriculture Network, Handbook Series No. 2. Sustainable Agriculture Publications, University of Vermont. To order, or for more information, call 802-656-5459 or email [email protected].

Vegetable Farmers and Their Weed Control Machines, is a video on the same topic. Ordering information is the same as above.

Wheel hoes

There are at least four brands of modern wheel hoes available in the United States:

Valley Oak Wheel Hoe is made by a small-scale tool company in California, and is the least expensive of the two. We have used one and found it to be satisfactory in every way. PO Box 301, Chico, CA 95927; 530-342-6188;

The Real Wheel Hoe is a Swiss-made tool sold by several seed and farm suppliers in the United States. It is more expensive to purchase and to repair, but it’s heavier, which may be either an advantage or disadvantage depending on the size of the farmer. Check with Johnny’s Selected Seeds,

The Hoss wheel hoe is available from

The Maxadyne is available from

Tools and supplies

Several companies specialize in the kinds of tools and supplies you’ll need on a market farm. This list is of companies that sell a wide variety of tools and supplies for greenhouse and field production. See separate entries for specialized supplies named in other chapters.

A.M. Leonard supplies the nursery and landscape industry, and a source for landscape fabric and hand tools. 800-543-8955;

BWI is a horticultural supplier with 14 locations serving much of the Midwest, South and Southeast. 903-838-8561;

G&M Ag Supply, 928-468-1380 or 800-901-0096;

Gempler’s carries tools and clothing for agriculture and greenhouse, 800-382-8473;

Fred C. Gloeckner & Co. sells seeds to the commercial greenhouse industry, but also has a supply catalog with all kinds of greenhouse tools. 800-345-3787;

Growers’ Supply by Farm Tek, 800-476-9715;

Griffin Greenhouse Supply serves the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. 800-888-0054;

Harmony Farm Supply focuses on sustainable and organic growers, with a full line of tools and supplies, including cover crop seeds and irrigation supplies. 707-823-9125;

Hummert International has locations in Missouri and Kansas, and will ship anywhere else. 800-325-3055;

Johnny’s Selected Seeds sells tools and supplies, as well as seeds. The broadfork is available here. Be sure to specify that you want the commercial growers’ catalog. 877-564-6697;

McConkey Co., horticultural supplier in California, Oregon and Washington, 800-426-8124;

Morgan County Seeds is a farm-based purveyor of seeds, tools, and vegetable farming machinery, 573-378-2655;

Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, 888-784-1722;

Woodcreek Farm & Supply sells all kinds of fertilizers, pest control products, etc. 276-755-4902;

Barr Inc. specializes in reconditioned coolers, and will ship anywhere. 888-661-0871;

Greenhouse and hoophouse manufacturers

Agra Tech, 925-432-3399

Atlas Greenhouse Systems, 800-346-9902;

BWI Companies, see above.

Conley’s Greenhouse Manufacturing & Sales; 800-377-8441;

Farm Tek’s Growers Supply, see above

G&M Ag Supply, see above.

Harnois C.P., 450-756-1041;

Hummert International, see above.

Jaderloon, 800-258-7171;

Keeler-Glasgow, 800-526-7327;

Ledgewood Farm, 603-476-8829;

Ludy's Greenhouse Manufacturing, 800-255-5839;

McConkey, see above.

Nexus, 800-228-9639;

Oehmsen Midwest, 800-628-4699;

Paul Boers Total Growing Systems, 905-562-4411;

Poly-Tex, 800-852-3443;

Stuppy Greenhouse Manufacturing, 800-733-5025;

X.S.Smith, 800-631-2226;

Zimmerman high tunnels are available from Morgan County Seeds, 573-378-2655;

Chapter 5: Planning Your Production

Johnny’s Selected Seeds offers a plant calculator that tells you both the number of weeks to start seeds before setting them out and the same time to set out plants relative to the frost-free date:

Day length

As you start to develop a planting calendar, it’s helpful to be aware of your day length in any given month. Here‘s a link to a great calculator that allows you to choose from a drop-down list of cities to find your latitude, longitude, and the current day length:


AgSquared is online farm management software that helps you create a yearly plan and monitor your progress through the seasons:

Farmigo is a national network of food communities bringing the community=based farmers market online:

COG Pro provides record keeping software simplifying documentation of fertilizers, weed and pest control methods and other farm inputs for organic certification:

GAP Pro is a web-based record keeping service that helps farmers to track their use of production and processing protocols known as Good Agricultural Practices (GAP):

Dan Kaplan of Brookfield Farm in Massachusetts uses computer spreadsheets on Microsoft Excel for crop planning and record keeping on his CSA farm. The disks with the spreadsheet templates can be obtained by sending a donation of $25 to Brookfield Farm. Contact: Dan Kaplan, Brookfield Farm, 24 Hulst Road, Amherst, MA 01002; 413-253-7991; [email protected];

Crop enterprise budgets

Publications on high tunnel tomatoes and melons are available from University of Missouri Extension for $10 each. To order: MU Publications, 2800 Maguire, Room E1, Columbia, MO 65211; 800-292-0969;

Chapter 6: Planting and Tending Your Crops

Greenhouse potting mix recipes are available from:

Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Assn. website,

ATTRA, (see top of chapter for more information on ATTRA).

Compost-based seed-starting mix that has won fans in the Northeast is now available nationwide from Vermont Compost Company, 802-223-6049;

Plug suppliers

Several seed companies serve as brokers for the numerous plug producers that are located around the country. Here are three that will send you a plant catalog:

Germania Seed Company, 800-380-4721;

Gloeckner & Co., 800-345-3787;

Harris Seed Company, 800-544-7938;

Deer control

A publication about deer management on the farm:

Suppliers of deer fencing include:

Benners Gardens,

Deer Resistant Landscape Company,

G&M Ag Supply, 800-901-0096, 

Harmony Farm Supply, 707-823-9125;


Some of the best publications for vegetable growers come from North Carolina State University. They are clear, comprehensive and to the point. Here is link to an excellent publication on irrigation: /hort/hil/hil-33-e.html.

Penn State has a publication on irrigation on small-scale vegetable farms, complete with cost estimates for various types of irrigation systems:

A good how-to publication on drip irrigation is from Kansas State University:

DripWorks is a full-service irrigation supplier, including drip tape, sprinklers, filters, pond liners etc. The company also can help design a system. 800-522-3747;

Irrigation Mart, 800-SAY-RAIN;

Rain-Flo Irrigation, 717-445-3000,

Chapter 7: From Field to Market


An excellent discussion of produce packaging is available from North Carolina State University at The publication describes the various types of packaging and it lists commonly used packages, weights and quantities for all the major types of produce.

Formtex sells clamshells and corrugated boxes.

Glacier Valley Enterprises has a wide selection of packaging supplies and containers for fruit and vegetable farmers. And it offers smaller quantities than many produce package suppliers. 800-236-6670;

Boxes, bushel baskets, clamshells, and so on can be purchased from Monte Package Company, 800-653-2807;

Hubert Company sells fixtures, displays and supplies to supermarkets. You will find produce packaging, clamshells, and much more here. Hubert is also a source for the natural plastic containers made from corn, known as PLA or polylactic acid. 866-482-4357;

Produce boxes, bags, mesh bags, bushel baskets and more are available from Southern Container Corp., 800-261-2295;

Marketing supplies

A. Steele Co. sells supplies for farmers market vendors including portable scales, cash registers, wireless credit card terminals and EZ Up tents. 800-693-3353;

Eat Local Food produces fine art graphics of vegetables and fruits, including banners, postcards, tote bags and other marketing materials. 734-341-7028;

Grower’s Discount Labels is a farm-based business that designs and prints custom labels for farm products. 800-693-1572,

Produce Promotions sells banners, flags, bags, baskets, and other marketing products. 888-575-4090;

Chapter 8: Managing Your Business

The IRS has remarkably clear publications on farming tax issues. They can be found at, or request the Farmer.s Tax Guide from 800-829-3676.

For information about farmland property tax assessments, the American Farmland Trust and the USDA have compiled numerous publications on the website

How to track electricity usage: The Kill A Watt Power Measurement Tool is available from Real Goods, 888-567-6527;

Deciding on a legal structure for your business requires the advice of an attorney or accountant. Here is a link to a publication from Kansas State University that describes the various options:

Where to advertise for interns

ATTRA, the sustainable farming information source, allows farmers to list internships on their website:

Willing Workers on Organic Farms is an international organization that allows farmers and interns to advertise for each other.

Several organic associations offer matching services for their member farms:

Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association,


Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association,

Carolina Farm Stewardship Association,

Hawaii Organic Farmers Association,

Growing Growers, a program for Kansas and Missouri farmers,

Most regional and state organic farming associations have newsletters, some with online listings, where you can place a classified ad for apprentices.

Growing for Market runs classified ads for apprentices,

Payroll services

QuickBooks Payroll,

ADP, 800-225-5237;

Local accounting offices also do payroll for small businesses; be sure to compare prices and services. 

You can type “Child labor law” + (your state) into an Internet search engine to find your state’s labor department.


The company that provides our farmers cooperative’s products liability coverage (as well as our personal farm policy) is called Goodville Mutual Casualty Company, It’s based in New Holland, Pennsylvania, and covers a lot of direct market farmers in these nine states: Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas and Oklahoma. You can call the company at 717-354-4921 to find an agent near you who sells their policies.

Inter West Insurance Services, 800-444-4134;, in Sacramento, California.