I was fortunate enough to receive an advance copy of The Joy of Hobby Farming, by Michael and Audrey Levatino, and have been reading it for about a month now. I didn't mean for it to take me that long, but this book is so full of facts and tips that I wasn't able to skim over any of it.
It's all good reading.
I guess I should start with describing what this book is all about. Hobby Farming as described by the Levatinos is enjoying the bounty of your land without making economic demands on it or on yourself. It is farming your land because you love it, regardless of how much money you make from it. This really resonates with me because I know so many full time farmers who use toxic chemicals to give them bigger crop yields. They agree with me that organic is better, but have such economic demands that they feel they have no choice.
The Levatinos put no such demands on themselves. Instead they believe in striving for natural, organic self-sustainability. They do make money from their farming efforts, but Michael Levtino also works a "regular job". I think that is why this book is so refreshing. The Levatinos show that it is possible to grow food, raise animals, and ENJOY a partially sustainable life.
The amount of "how-to" information in this book is amazing but not overwhelming. This book really makes me believe that I could be doing so much more than I already am to help the environment and be more self sustainable.
Since I don't know much about raising animals, I really liked how they teach basic animal care in an easy to understand way. They cover everything from possible animals to raise and where to find the animals you want to proper shelter, food and first-aid for those animals. They cover small animals like chickens and bees, as well as large ones like Donkeys, llamas, alpacas, and even horses. I currently don't have room for those large animals, but I think they heave me convinced that I should at least be raising bees.
As an avid gardener, my favorite section in The Joy of Hobby Farming is titled Growing Things. This book provides great tips on where and how to garden, best practices for popular crops, flower gardening and even how to extend your growing season with cold frames and hoop houses (always favorites of mine).
The back of the book covers running your farm as a business. They share things not readily available in most farming books. Things like how to establish a good brand for you farm, and tips about sales and taxes.
The Levatinos farm on 23 acres in Virginia. There are many things in this book that I could apply even with my 1/2 acre "farm". I have to admit however that this book almost had me thinking about looking for a larger place. If you are looking for a possible farm then this book is for you. Possibly the biggest strength of the book is the first section: The Search for a Farm. They cover everything you should be considering if looking for a farm; things like wells and springs, septic systems, heating options, farm safety, fencing and gates, outbuildings, ponds, firewood and much more.
Like I said before, The Joy of Hobby Farming is packed with tips and information about farming from people who are making it happen on their farm. The Joy of Hobby Farming will be going to my "top shelf" as I'm sure I will be referring to it again and again.