Book Review: Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre by Brett L. Markham

Markham’s definition of self-sufficiency is not my own. In his case (though he does not clearly define it) it seems to mean not providing all that your family needs but all the food your family needs. Vegetable, fruit, egg and chicken production and processing (I found the included free plans for an automated chicken plucker and grain threshers made from leaf shredders very interesting.) are covered, but the bulk of the book deals with vegetable gardening. Markham’s method of vegetable growing is his personal combination of traditional, Biodynamic, Grow Biointensive, French Intensive, Square Foot, and other methods. He uses raised beds; close, rowless spacing; trellising and choosing upright varieties whenever possible; planting at final spacing to eliminate the thinning process; starting all plants from seed to save money on starts; and saving seed from non-hybrid varieties.

I feel that this book is a good jumping-off point – a good place to start, but not a backyard bible (not that there’s really any one book that contains every last fact you’d need to live off your land). I was left with the impression that while Markham has tested all the methods about which he writes, he has not much more experience than we do. I cannot say that any of the information presented is inaccurate, but some seems incomplete. For instance: Markham gives a recipe for homemade jerky that omits the crucial final step of freezing. There are no preservatives in the recipe and in my reading on the subject I have learned that homemade jerky, no matter how safely made, must be frozen if not consumed immediately.

— Amanda

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