Jean-Martin Fortier Visit Through Yale Sustainable Food Project Speaker Series

Jean-Martin Fortier at Yale

Jean-Martin Fortier at Yale

Jean-Martin Fortier, a micro-farmer and educator also known as the Market Gardener, presented a workshop through the Yale Sustainable Food Project Speaker Series on December 2, 2014. Fortier, a native to Quebec, specializes in organic and biologically intense practices that allow him to cultivate only 1.5 acres of land, yet still gross more than $100,000 per acre.

Fortier began by explaining his journey to farming. While studying at McGill University, he and his wife were inspired to go to Cuba, where they had learned about their successful use of permanent raised beds without the reliance of fossil fuels at any point during production. Lessons learned in Cuba set the stage for Fortier’s own designs back in Quebec, where he currently standardizes his practice to:

  • a total of 10 fields
  • 30-inch wide permanent beds
  • bed lengths of 100-feet
  • aisle spacing of 18-inches

 Fortier emphasized that this design largely contributed to his success. Standardization allows him to reuse materials, such as tarps and remay, at any given location on his farm. 18-inch aisles allow just enough space in the rows without giving away too much for paths, but also without being too cramped. 30-inch beds require Fortier to plant more bio-intensely as well as creatively.

The Market Gardener explained that when he plants his 30-inch beds with biologically intensive cropping practices, plant growth results in a canopy over the soil, which retains moisture and nutrients. While some might argue that this would result in a smaller product, Fortier showed how as long as there is soil depth and structure to allow for the plants to deeply root themselves, they will not compete with one another for resources. On the farm, he also lightly harrows the soil about 1 inch down which both helps to support soil structure and a healthy earthworm environment. Fortier compared rototilling the soil overtime to putting it in a blender, which renders it much more difficult for the plants’ roots to reach down as far.

On such a small plot of land, Fortier also has to be creative with his planting practices.  Many local farmers may already be familiar with a few of the techniques he uses, such as trellising cucumbers and grafting tomatoes, but he also talked about a few other interesting experiments: growing onions in groups of 3 to maximize space and burying leeks rather than hilling them to produce a longer white stalk. He rotates the crops in his 10 different fields counterclockwise each year and plans their placement depending on where they can receive the maximum amount of nutrients based on which plant was previously there. Fortier mentioned that this careful planning is what supports the efficient functionality of his farm. He transplants everything to allow for quick transitions between crops and to also give the plants a head start on weeds. Fortier explained that this practice is more for weed prevention rather than control, and that UV-treated silage tarps are also essential in his weed prevention practices.

In addition to all of this information, Fortier shared many anecdotes and images from his farm while he delivered his inspiring workshop. He also talked about various tools that help him on his tractor-free farm, and describes them in depth on his website. Fortier continues to educate people through speaking tours, workshops, conferences, the media and his book, The Market Gardener.

A Talk With Jean-Martin Fortier – December 2, 2014

Organic micro-farmer and author of The Market Gardener, Jean-Martin Fortier, will lead a workshop on successful small-scale organic farming. Fortier professionally entered agriculture by operating low-tech, low-carbon and high-yield market gardens, and you can too.

4pm – 5pm, December 2, 2014 at
St. Anthony Hall, Yale University
New Haven CT

Sponsored by the Yale Sustainable Food Program. More information here.

Build Your Network – December 9, 2014


SCOUT HALL YOUTH CENTER Tuesday, December 9th, 2014
PROGRAM: 8:30 AM – 3:30 PM

Come join us for a day of learning about key programs and resources that are available to new and beginning farmers in Connecticut. Network with service providers and other farmers. Highlights include:

  • Introducing New Farmer Bucket List
  • Panel of experienced farmers explain which service providers have helped them get started
  • Review most relevant financing and risk management opportunities
  • Premiere screening of 4 short videos about new farm businesses in Connecticut that are succeeding
  • Two breakout sessions led by innovative and successful farmers
  • Lunch featuring CT-­‐Grown

More details available at

Download a PDF of the flyer here.

Photos from the Darling Farm Tour

Chicken coop at Darling Farm

Darling Farm Tour September 2014

Darling Farm

Saturday September 20th
4-6 pm farm tour
6-7:30 pm potluck (bring a dish to share and your own plate/utensil/drinking glass)

1907 Litchfield Turnpike, Woodbridge, CT 06525Go To Google Maps

Darling Farm

Darling Farm

Darling Farm is a small mixed vegetable farm nestled at the base of West Rock Park in Woodbridge, CT. The farm was started in 2012 by Aaron and Caitlin Taylor upon becoming the caretakers at the Thomas Darling House, a historic homestead owned by the Town of Woodbridge and managed by the Amity and Woodbridge Historical Society. In 2014, Rachel Berg joined Darling Farm as the third partner and farmer. The DF team is committed to growing a diverse set of produce, thereby providing an alternative to our disastrously monocultured food system, introducing customers to ever-increasing variety, and challenging themselves to grow exciting, rare, and unique food. As a NOFA pledge farm, DF is also committed to developing and establishing methods and practices that are sustainable on every level: for the environment, the community, the consumers, and the farmers.

The farm expanded from a quarter-acre market garden in their first year to growing an acre of vegetables, added another full-time farmer, and developed an increasing market presence. Aaron, Caitlin, and Rachel will discuss the process of starting up a farm business with limited resources, the trials and tribulations of years one through three, and the lessons they have learned thus far from the process. Attention will be given to crop plan refinements, market development, on-farm processes, and overall decision-making.

Darling Farm
1907 Litchfield Turnpike
Woodbridge, CT 06525

The 2014 farm tour series is sponsored in part by USDA’s Risk Management Agency.

Photos from the Cato Corner Farm Tour

Cato Corner Waiting for Feed

Cato Corner Farm Tour August 2014

Sunday August 17th
4-6 pm farm tour
6-8 pm potluck (bring a dish to share and your own plate/utensil/drinking glass)

178 Cato Corner Road, Colchester CT 06415Go To Google Maps

Cato Corner Farm

Cato Corner Farm

One of New England’s premier hard cheese makers, Cato Corner Farm is a partnership between Elizabeth MacAlister and her son Mark Gilman. Liz has owned the farm for more than 30 years and began milking cows and making cheese in 1997 as a way to keep her farm sustainable. Liz sold a conservation easement on 31.5 acres of the farm’s pasture and grassland to the USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service in 2006 in the first phase of Cato Corner’s preservation. In 2008, the Connecticut Farmland Trust, the fiscal sponsor of NCTFA, helped Liz and Mark complete the second and final phase of preserving Cato Corner Farm. Liz donated a conservation easement on the 75-acre farm, which includes extensive pasture and woodlands, a farmstead, and a farm store.

During the tour Liz will focus on the fiscal reality of a small-scale farm operation in both general terms and specifically for a grass-based dairy. Cato’s heard of primarily Jersey cows rotationally grazes and is milked twice a day for cheese production. Their cheese can be purchased at select local farmers markets, the Union Square and Grand Army Plaza Greenmarkets in New York City and many specialty stores across the country.

Cato Corner Farm
178 Cato Corner Road
Colchester, CT 06415

The 2014 farm tour series is sponsored in part by USDA’s Risk Management Agency.

Photos from the Urban Oaks Farm Tour

Mark Rutkowski Field Walk

Urban Oaks Farm Tour – July 2014

Urban Oaks Farm

Sunday July, 27th 4pm-6pm, with potluck to follow
207 Oak Street, New Britain CT 06051 Go To Google Maps

Urban Oaks Farm

Please join The New CT Farmer Alliance for our July 2014 Farm Tour.

Join Farmers Mike Kandefer, Mark Rutkowski, and Joey Listro for a farm tour of one of Connecticut’s first urban farms.  We’ll tour five greenhouses used for year-round growing and learn about how the farm maximizes use of this space year-round.  Mike will discuss the organic seedling sale, one of the largest income generators for the farm, and how it has grown over the years. The farmers will discuss the challenges of growing in small spaces, serving a low-income community, and maintaining aging infrastructure.  They will also discuss their wholesale niche of serving speciality and heirloom produce to farm-to-table restaurants and their love for growing exotic grapefruits, avocados, limes, and figs in our greenhouses.

The mission of Urban Oaks is to nourish the communities of Greater New Britain with high-quality produce accessible to all; education and employment opportunities; and economically viable, progressive, organic farming methods that promote and provide sustainable, ecologically sound agriculture in an urban environment.

Urban Oaks began in 1999, when the City of New Britain invited Mike Kandefer and the late Tony Norris to take over the abandoned Sandelli Florist.  They have always placed an emphasis on farm-based education, providing schools and community members educational tours and programs at the farm, and serving countless volunteers throughout the years.

More information about Urban Oaks can be found at:

Photos from the Starlight Gardens Tour

Starlight Gardens SignThe New CT Farmer Alliance toured Starlight Gardens in Durham CT, hosted by gracious farmer, David Zemelsky. David farms on 3 acres using a variety of tools and techniques familiar to many growing intensively on small acreage. David showed us some of his favorite hand tools on his farm that he uses for seeding and weeding. His use of high tunnels for year-round production of vegetables is well known and has been documented in a case study done by Ted Blomgren and Tracy Frisch. (The full document is published by the University of Vermont’s Center for Sustainable Agriculture.) As you may know, Starlight Gardens suffered devastating losses of their original high tunnels during the last two winters when CT experienced heavy snow storms. Although the original tunnels had gothic style roofs, the tunnels did not shed the heavy wet snow and the roofs caved in at the bend where it meets the side wall. If you want to see the sad photos of the aftermath of the Blizzard of 2013, check out David’s site. Since then, he has rebuilt all the high tunnels, and on the advice of an engineer, added additional bracing to support the tunnels at this weak point. The bows are spaced 4 feet apart. David is still not completely convinced that this will be enough to withstand the next freak blizzard of the century, but hopefully they will. He has some tunnels oriented north/south and two oriented east/west, and based on his experience, he finds that the east/west tunnels work better. David grows a fantastic salad mix during the winter in his high tunnels, and grafted heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers during the summer. He is also trying ginger in one of his tunnels this year. Yes, you can grow ginger here in CT.

We had an opportunity to help David scout for insect pests among his robust, flowering potatoes. In exchange for helping him squish potato beetle larvae, we learned how to identify this infamous pest of potatoes, plus ladybug larvae and several other beetles like a spotted potato beetle trying to pass as a lady bug. It is not your friend. We did not find a big infestation of bad bugs and his potatoes looked really healthy. He hills them several times using leaf mulch. Also in his fields, he demonstrated how he germinates lettuce in the heat of the summer. He direct seeds the lettuce in a section that gets morning sun but no direct afternoon sun. Then he covers the row with shade cloth and keeps it moist with irrigation. In between the rows of chard, we could see the tiny lettuce germinating nicely.

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