The New Horse-Powered Farm: Tools and Systems for the Small-Scale Sustainable Market Grower

review by Eli Rubin

While there are many books about the history of draft horse farming in the past, this 320 page book is about the practical application of farming with horses today. Intended for the organic, or ecologically minded, grower this book covers more than the basics of growing crops, with over 100 pages on market vegetables.  The author draws both from his own experience of over 20 years of growing organic produce and from a collection of other respected minds in the fields. The result is a beautiful blend of information from farms (mostly in the northeast) each with their own way of solving the riddles of commercial organic production, all compiled and told in one concise voice.

This book covers the ins and outs of draft horses in agriculture — from the history of the species, to diet and health, to training methods, to specifics of driving both in the rows and in the field. About a third of the book is specifically for the farmer interested in working horses. Another third of the book is devoted to the general how-to of farming (not specifically with horses) and is a guide as good as any other out there.  Included in this is spreading and fertilizing, plowing, discing and harrowing, cultivating and pest control, and harvest.  Ample discussion is given on cover cropping, soil health, hay making and storage, and on the economics of horse powered faming.  Four farms tracked all horse related expenses and the hours in which horses were used to calculate the dollars per hour it costs to use a horse, and the yearly horse expense. Also included are the income statements of the four farms. This section is an immensely useful tool for anyone who is actively farming with horses or for anyone who is thinking about farming with horses.

Laid out in an easy to access format, you’ll find yourself consulting this book both during those hot July afternoons while making adjustments to your cultivator in the shop, and on cold February nights while inside with pen, paper and calculator, planning out your bed spacing and potato yields.