Year-Round Vegetable Production Using Organic Practices
Eliot Coleman is one of America’s most innovative farmers. His determination to grow organic vegetable crops during the winter for profit in Maine has started a revolution among small farmers and market gardeners throughout the temperate climate regions of the world.
Coleman is an American farmer, author, agricultural researcher and educator, and proponent of organic farming. He served for two years as Executive Director of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), and was an advisor to the U.S. Department of Agriculture during its 1979-80 study, Report and Recommendations on Organic Farming, a document that formed the basis for today’s legislated National Organic Program (2002) in the U.S.
Thanks to Eliot Coleman’s books such as Four Season Harvest and The Winter Harvest Handbook many Virginia farmers now look forward to the fall as a time to get started in crop production. Or-ganic growers are learning that there are often better opportunities for economic success in the cool off season than there are in the warm summer months. Quite a few members of the Virginia Association for Biological Farming remember hearing Eliot speak about organic farming practices used by small farmers in Europe at one of the Sustainable Agriculture Conferences held in Charlottesville back in the 1980s. His first book, The New Organic Grower had a huge influence on thousands of aspiring organic farmers. It gave everyone practical systems to follow in organic vegetable production that really worked. This book brought a great deal of new credibility to organic vegetable production by creating order out of chaos.
The Virginia Association for Biological Farming (VABF) is a large organization in the state of Virginia concerned with organic and biological farming and gardening.
The association membership includes:
-Certified organic farmers and market gardeners
-Practitioners of organic farming / gardening who have chosen not to be certified
-Sustainable, ecological and low-input producers
-Biodynamic gardeners and farmers
-Producers of pastured beef, poultry, eggs, dairy cows or goats, etc.
-Home gardeners and homesteaders
-Researchers and other agricultural professionals interested in organic or sustainable agriculture
-Others who want to support ecological agriculture or sustainable food systems, or who simply want
safe, nutritious, fresh, locally-grown food.
On his Four Season Farm in Harborside (Brooksville), Maine, he produces year-round vegetable crops under harsh winter conditions, using unheated and minimally heated greenhouse structures. He even manages to grow artichokes, claiming that “I grow them just to make the Californians nervous.”
In his writing, Coleman promotes small-scale organic farming practices and sustainable agriculture. One of his central principles is “small is better,” advocating business growth through improved production and marketing, rather than physical expansion. He also favors direct relationships with customers over formal organic certification.