The Colibri Gardens Home-Grown Syllabus
Resources compiled by Lara Scanlon
Lara’s highest recommendations are marked with “*” and are a great place to start or continue your sustainable agriculture education.
Where to Begin
*Letters to a Young Farmer: On food, farming, and our future
Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture, edited by Martha Hodgkins
Princeton Architectural Press. New York, NY. 2017
This is a lovely introduction to the beauty and struggle of small farming. It will lift your spirits, propel you to this work, and kick your butt into gear. This most glorious compendium of some of the most important voices in the sustainable agriculture movement offers abounding insight and a sense of mentorship.
*Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ Plan for Revitalizing Rural Agriculture
Bernie Sanders has penned one of the most comprehensive plans for supporting rural America. This plan offers a window into genuine problem-solving and political possibility that address some of the most serious issues confronting the small farm today.
*Natural Farming: A practical guide
Scribe Publications. London, UK. 2004.
An absolute must-read for the beginning farmer. Pat Coleby answers the question “why organic?” from a scientific, practical wealth of knowledge and gives you all of the information necessary for creating your own regenerative agriculture success story.
Once you have livestock, Pat Coleby’s series of natural care books give you crucial and valuable information for raising the healthiest animals and responding to each challenge that may arise.
Natural Cattle Care
Acres U.S.A. Publishers. Austin, Texas. 2001
Natural Goat Care
Acres U.S.A. Publishers. Austin, Texas. 2001, 2012.
Natural Sheep Care
Acres U.S.A. Publishers. Austin, Texas. 2006, 2012.
*Gaia’s Garden: A guide to home-scale permaculture (second edition)
Chelsea Green Publishing Company. White River Junction, VT. 2000, 2009.
Toby Hemenway offers a tremendous anthology of knowledge and in doing so, creates a perfectly practical guide to regenerative growing, including in-depth explorations of soil-building, garden guilds, and much more. This book is a beautiful companion for the process of starting your own food forest.
Four-Season Harvest (revised and expanded edition)
Chelsea Green Publishing Company. White River Junction, VT. 1992, 1999.
Eliot Coleman is the master of organic vegetable gardening. He has done so much of the work for you through his well-thought-out garden plans and management practices. Just follow along, and you’ll be on your way to eating your own fresh vegetables all year long.
The Rodale Book of Composting: Easy methods for every gardener
Edited by Grace Gershuny and Deborah L. Martin
Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, Pennsylvania. 1992.
Composting animal manures and vegetable matter is an integral part of a sustainable farm. This accessible how-to guide solves the mystery of composting and positions you to set up your own sustainable food cycle.
Edible Forest Gardens: Ecological vision and theory for temperate climate permaculture
Volume One: Vision & Theory, Volume Two: Design & Practice
Dave Jacke with Eric Toensmeier
Chelsea Green Publishing Company. White River Junction, VT. 2005.
For all you super nerds, this is the most in-depth guide ever written for food forest enthusiasts (and beginners who are eager to learn). If you have read Gaia’s Garden, and it made you hungry for more, this compendium is the most comprehensive research literature available on food forest gardens. There is absolutely incredible information to be found in it. That being said, the text is less accessible and the price point is higher than is realistic for most.
The Humanure Handbook: A guide to composting human manure (third edition)
Chelsea Green Publishing Company. White River Junction, VT. 2005.
Embark on a fun adventure in next-level composting. If you have ever asked “what did people do before flushing toilets?” or want to engage with responses to such questions, Joseph Jenkins’ work is a thought-provoking place to start.
American Agricultural History and Understanding
*Radical Homemakers: Reclaiming domesticity from a consumer culture
Shannon A. Hayes
Hayes explains the history of why our society undervalues the homemaker. While the home used to be a unit of production in which a family worked together to grow and trade for what they needed, capitalism forced a cultural shift that transformed the home into a unit of consumption. Through both historical research and poignant interviews, Hayes reasserts the value of being one who makes a home, no matter the scale and applicable to both homesteading and other contexts. Especially if you have an inkling in your soul that you want to homestead, she will offer the historical context and language to confront the harmful teachings of capitalism, fill you with purpose and direction, and give honor and validity to that spark.
*Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the great west
W.W. Norton & Company. New York, NY. 1991.
An absolute must-read for every person living on American soil, this book will change your perspective of place, space, and land, and if you’re like Lara, your life too. William Cronon explains how cities and farms have been intrinsically linked on the American landscape. This text chronicles the cultural shifts that resulted in the disintegration of most people’s relationships with how and where their food is grown.
Dust Bowl: The southern plains in the 1930s
Oxford University Press. New York, NY. 1979.
This book explains the painful reality of how tractors, tilling, and the push towards large-scale agriculture created the dust bowl. It is an important read for understanding why agriculture looks like it does today and the necessity of moving away from those practices and towards small, sustainable farming.
Tending the Wild: Native American knowledges and the management of California’s natural resources
M. Kat Anderson
University of California Press. Berkeley, CA. 2005.
It is long time we reevaluate the myth of untouched western wilderness. This gorgeous book details extensive tending of the land by indigenous peoples in California for sustainable food resources and ecological health, through Kat Anderson’s scientific understanding. Listen up!
The Earth’s Blanket: Traditional teachings for sustainable living
Nancy J. Turner
University of Washington Press. Seattle, WA. 2005.
A wonderful companion to Tending to the Wild, Nancy Turner’s ethnographic work uses a narrative voice to enliven her complex understanding of indigenous teachings with thoughtful storytelling.
World Fire: The culture of fire on Earth
Stephen J. Pyne
University of Washington Press. Seattle, WA. 1995.
This book is crucial to understanding why the west is burning. Steven Pyne meticulously illustrates the vital connection between human beings and fire and the uses of fire in agriculture for centuries.
The Geography of Nowhere: The rise and decline of America’s man-made landscape
James Howard Kunstler
Touchstone. New York, NY. 1993.
Do we really want all of our food to taste the same? This is an incredibly thought-provoking account of how we got railroaded into the idea that standardization of food should be the goal of agriculture and why cookie-cutter suburban houses, MacDonald’s, and Starbucks are now the dominant American landscape. People’s relationships with food used to be locally specific and founded on understanding of place. The uniqueness of food that ensued is what makes the human experience of food beautiful. So why would we not strive for this? James Howard Kunstler utilizes an architectural understanding to explain how the modern goals of standardization and universal convenience have replaced an appreciation of locality. Though not specifically focused on agriculture, his work informs how small-scale farming can push back.
Water Wars: privatization, pollution, and profit
South End Press. Cambridge, MA. 2002
Vandana Shiva is one of the most powerful and important voices in the fight to save us all. Informed by vivid description and brilliant research, this book is just one of many of Shiva’s dire cries to wake us up enough to save our precious resources, be they water, seeds, land, or community. Her work and her message could not be timelier.
What the Robin Knows: How birds reveal the secrets of the natural world
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. New York, NY. 2012.
A playful and fun read, this book offers a new perspective into what is going on in the forest beyond the human eye, especially when you slow down enough to listen. This whimsical examination of bird language can expand your perception of life, and in doing so, inform a connection with animal life that is integral to food forest farming.
The Homestead Kitchen
*Nourishing Traditions: A cookbook that challenges politically correct nutrition and the diet dictocrats (revised second edition)
Sally Fallon with Mary G. Enig, Ph.D.
NewTrends Publishing, Inc. Washington, DC. 1999, 2001.
This should be required reading for every human being eating today. Sally Fallon has the most comprehensive and well-researched understanding of genuine nutrition, and her sixty-page introduction to this fabulous cookbook ushers in a new relationship with food, and perhaps a new world. This is a fundamental examination of the importance of true nutrition, how what we eat works into a sustainable farm system, and its connection with the sustainable and organic agricultural movement.
Nourishing Meals: Healthy gluten-free recipes for the whole family
Alissa Segersten and Tom Malterre, MS, CN
Whole Life Press. 2012.
This is a favorite cookbook full of gluten-free and sugar-free recipes that are both easy to prepare and incorporate the wonderful products of your farming.
Home Cheese Making (third edition)
Storey Publishing. 2002.
This book is the bible for home cheese making with goat, cow, and sheep milk. It also contains helpful links to cheese making supplies.
Wild Fermentation: The flavor, nutrition, and craft of live-culture foods
Sandor Ellix Katz
Chelsea Green Publishing Company. White River Junction, VT. 2003.
This book is a staple for anyone who loves to create fermented food, from miso to kimchi to kefir and beyond. If it’s fermented, it’s in this book.
Johnny’s Selected Seeds: An employee-owned company serving growers since 1973
(i.e. 2018 catalog)
Considered the gold standard, this is the seed company that commercial growers use for garden success year after year.
Premier 1 - Fences That Work
(i.e. 2020 catalog)
From this resource, you can get the absolute best electric fencing and solar charge systems on the market and a wide variety of supplies for everything you could possibly need to raise grazing animals.
Murray McMurray Hatchery
Sourcing day old poultry with an astounding variety of breeds, this is one of the healthiest places to start your flock.
Back to Basics: How to learn and enjoy traditional American skills
Reader’s Digest Association, Inc. Pleasantville, NY. 1981.
This is an all-around fun book with a smattering of skills to dabble in and figure out what you might want to take a deeper dive into learning. It is great winter reading for anything and everything related to homesteading.