Review by Michael Smith (Veshengro)
The New Horse-Powered Farm
Tools and Systems for the Small-Scale Sustainable Market Grower
by Stephen Leslie
Foreword by Lynn Miller
Paperback, 346 pages
Published by Chelsea Green Publishing on 25 July 2013
For many farmers, particularly those working organically, the financial and ecological cost of fuel used in farm machinery is a real concern. Including working horses in the farming mix can bring a satisfying solution, offering a viable model for a sustainable, resilient small farm. The New Horse-Powered Farm presents all the information a small-scale farmer will need to incorporate draft horses into the farm’s working day.
Using horsepower on the farm, says author Stephen Leslie, is better for the land and better for the soul. “From an ecological standpoint, it’s just so clean, versus burning fossil fuel and the compaction you get with a tractor,” he said. “But on that other level, there is just this unending learning curve that keeps you engaged… This book is not about trying to go back to some idyllic past. It is designed to be a manual to help us move a few steps forward to a more sustainable future.”
The popularity of TV shows such as the BBC’s The Victorian, Edwardian and Wartime Farms demonstrates that there is considerable interest in more traditional ways of working the land. For anyone seriously interested in draft horses and how they can contribute to a closed-loop, resilient farm, The New Horse-Powered Farm will be an essential resource.
Getting started with workhorses
The merits of different draft breeds
Various training systems for the horse and teamster
Haying with horses, seeding crops and raising small grains
In-depth coverage of tools and systems
Managing a woodlot, farm economics, education, agritourism and more
Stephen Leslie and the methods outlined in his book have been featured in The New York Times. For the past 17 years he has earned his living by farming and gardening with draft horses. He currently manages an organic farm in Vermont.
This is a very detailed book on the use of the horse in farming and market gardening operation today and can be regarded right now already as the handbook for the modern horse-powered farm.
Unlike John Seymour in “The Complete Book of Self Sufficiency” when dealing with the use of horses on farms where he was but looking at the “old” breeds and doing it the very old-fashioned way this book looks at new(er) breeds of draft horses predominately and at more modern implements for horse-farming, many of which seem to have first seen their light of day on Amish farms.
Considering the fact that farming with large tractors and combines and such like is slowly but surely, aside from being not environmentally sustainable, heading towards its end as the cost of fuel and the amount of fuel those huge machines use will soon make them too expensive and thus the horse will, in due course, come back into its own. This book will then, as already now for those transitioning, a most valuable resource and reference.
The book contains lots of photos and illustrations and is well written making it pleasure to simply read as well. Together wish the listed resources and the case studies this must be the ultimate modern guide – so far – to working with horses in farming, market gardening and forestry.
As someone who is advocating a return to the working horse on the farm it is a book I am most happy to recommend.