"This book, more about philosophy than a how-to, describes how two inexperienced beginners succeeded in creating a gorgeous, productive, self-sustaining farm on 1000 square meters of land in Normandy—La Ferme du Bec Hellouin.
They did this by using the techniques of permaculture. This they define as “a box of smart tools that allows the creation of a lifestyle that respects the earth and its inhabitants—a practical method inspired by nature.” Later, they explain that it is based on an ethic: “Take care of the earth. Take care of the people. Equitably share resources.” As I said, philosophy, not how-to.
You have to read the book to figure out what all this means in practice. It seems to come down to what I thought of as French Intensive methods. These use raised beds, rich soil, composting, and thoughtful planting of coordinated crops that support each other’s growth and nutritional needs. Vandana Shiva’s Navdanya—nine seeds—approach works the same way. The authors drew on the work of John Jeavons, Eliot Coleman, and many other small-scale sustainable farmers from all over the world to develop their version of these methods.
If the color photographs are any indication, the results are magnificent. The place is so highly productive that it easily supports the two of them. The mandala garden alone made we want to get on the next plane just to see how it works in controlling weeds.
The moral: you could do this at home."--Marion Nestle
"Charles Hervé-Gruyer tells the starry-eyed, dirty-nailed story of how he and his wife, Perrine, transformed a 'dilapidated cottage' and 'a mediocre field' into an idyllic, prolific 37-acre farm and educational center in Normandy over the course of eight years. La Ferme du Bec Hellouin, one of the few French farms employing permaculture and intensive, nonmechanized agriculture, has attracted the attention of aspiring microfarmers and mainstream agronomists. Grounded in permaculture and inspired by intuition and beauty, Charles modestly acknowledges that their techniques are not original. They draw on a multitude of sources from indigenous Asian and South American cultures to 19th-century Parisian market gardeners and modern California biointensive gardening, and their teachers include English agrarian-self-sufficiency author John Seymour, Maine year-round farming expert Elliot Coleman, Quebec market gardener Jean-Martin Fortier, and a number of French organic-farming pioneers. Charles extrapolates from his own experience and environmental concerns to propose a worldwide agricultural transformation into “agrarian solidarity systems,” quasi-land trusts managed and cultivated by multiple individual farmers and the cottage industries that develop from them.”
“’Dare to imagine the new,’ Perrine and Charles Hervé-Gruyer tell us. ‘Take the best of the many traditions of humanity, and the best of modernity, to shape a world that has never existed.’ These authors synthesize the best from multiple indigenous cultures with successful patterns of modern small-scale farming to create a soaring example and vision of a future—one in which human beings are an essential and positive force helping to preserve the biosphere, and even a quarter acre can be a full-fledged and productive farm yielding amazing agricultural bounty.”--Carol Deppe, author of The Tao of Vegetable Gardening and The Resilient Gardener
“Miraculous Abundance is a true marvel! Like Perrine and Charles Hervé-Gruyer's amazing farm, their book blends science and anthropology, but it also mixes memoir and travelogue to create a beautiful whole that will inspire the next generation of farmers.”--Novella Carpenter, author of Farm City; coauthor ofThe Essential Urban Farmer
“This book will be a source of inspiration and guidance for those striving toward an agriculture that is not merely sustainable but also regenerative and rewarding. Charles and Perrine are trailblazers, courageous visionaries who have drawn inspiration from sources as varied as 19th century Parisian market gardeners and Amazonian tribes people. As their method is a fusion, so too is the book; practical, historical, and philosophical in tone, it shows us how practicing agriculture as part of the ecosystem is not only economically viable but also spiritually fulfilling. We need people like the Hervé-Gruyers to show us what is possible in reality rather than just theory, and in sharing their journey, they tell an important story for the future of humankind.”--Caroline Aitken, permaculture teacher and consultant at Patrick Whitefield Associates; coauthor of Food from Your Forest Garden
“At their farm in Normandy, France, Perrine and Charles Hervé-Gruyer have created an inspiring example of how it is possible to intensively farm a small plot of land and produce an abundance of food while at the same time enriching the fertility of the soil and the health of the people, plants, and animals that live there. Their work demonstrates how people and nature can again co-exist for mutual benefit—and their self-sufficient way of living and farming is certainly the future of agriculture.”--Larry Korn, author of One-Straw Revolutionary; editor of Masanobu Fukuoka’s The One-Straw Revolution and Sowing Seeds in the Desert
“Miraculous Abundance is a dynamic combination of permaculture, biointensive, four season, natural farming, and Amazonian farming approaches with exciting practical goals to pattern after. The book is about healing ourselves and the Earth in a post-carbon era. Worth reading for inner growth and outer growing of food, compost materials, income, and soil!”--John Jeavons, author; biologically intensive farming specialist
“Miraculous Abundance is absolutely the right book for right now. I don't know when I have been more encouraged about the future. The authors tell how, after some ten years of upward—not always successful—experimentation, going directly against the grain of modern industrial farming, they have advanced the renaissance of small-scale agriculture to near biological perfection. They are combining biointensive farming and permaculture to make a viable, diversified microfarm on test plots that are little more than two acres with the possibility of reducing that size down to as small as one fourth acre. They do their farming almost entirely by hand and with the utmost refinements and advances in agronomic soil enrichment. They use hardly any fossil-fuel energy at all, calling what they do the ‘agriculture of the sun.’ Along the way they provide solid evidence from sources all over the world to back up the conclusions they are drawing from their work, including achieving more healthful food, food security for the coming population increases, more jobs, effective sequestration of CO2, and indeed a whole new world order that would insure better social stability out of the chaos we presently face.”--Gene Logsdon, author of A Sanctuary of Trees and The Contrary Farmer
“In this lovely, hopeful book, an unlikely couple creates an astonishingly productive edible landscape in Normandy, weaving together the insights, materials, and techniques of dozens of acknowledged predecessors. Miraculous Abundance is a modestly written song of defiance, a demonstration that the world can readily feed its projected 9 billion with an agriculture that restores the biosphere.”--Joan Gussow, author of Growing, Older and This Organic Life
“Miraculous Abundance offers one of the most readable, visceral blueprints for earth-healing abundance I've ever seen. Absolutely captivating. Only true-blue practitioners, hands in the soil, can offer the kind of eclectic synthesis—combining the best of all the earth-healing traditions and technologies—discovered on this permaculture microfarm. A fantastic book with iconic potential. I couldn't put it down.”--Joel Salatin, owner , Polyface Farm; author of Fields of Farmers
"Miraculous Abundance tells the story of a pioneering permaculture market garden in France. Small, highly diverse, highly productive microfarms are a critical part of climate-change mitigation; their 'agroecological intensification’ means we can grow more on less land and reduce deforestation at the same time. Perrine and Charles Hervé-Gruyer's book covers more than the logistics of their operation—it delves into their philosophy and historical roots in French market garden history. Miraculous Abundance is a powerful case study of an intensive, commercial permaculture production system."--Eric Toensmeier, The Carbon Farming Solution
“Can farming a tiny quarter-acre piece of land be sustainable, economic, and fulfilling? In Miraculous Abundance, Perrine and Charles Hervé-Gruyer tackle that very questions and answer it positively in the affirmative. This fascinating book describes the evolution of their farm from its beginnings in 2004, when the authors knew little, over the next ten years as they discovered biointensive agriculture, permaculture, forest gardens, and more. The authors are passionate about small, human-scale farming and the role it can play in the future, and they envisage a future with numerous small farms, enabling many more people to live on the land and lessening the effects of climate change. Their farm in France now attracts farmers, chefs, and scientists and also hosts a school to teach how a diverse edible landscape can be created to both earn a living and make a beautiful space and a fulfilling life.”--Martin Crawford, author of Trees for Gardens, Orchards and Permaculture