One Quarter Acre, Two French Farmers, and Enough Food to Feed the World
Foreword by Eliot Coleman
The Bec Hellouin model for growing food, sequestering carbon, creating jobs, and increasing biodiversity without using fossil fuels
When Charles and Perrine Hervé-Gruyer set out to create their farm in an historic Normandy village, they had no idea just how much their lives would change. Neither one had ever farmed before. Charles had been circumnavigating the globe by sail, operating a floating school that taught students about ecology and indigenous cultures. Perrine had been an international lawyer in Japan. Each had returned to France to start a new life. Eventually, Perrine joined Charles in Normandy, and Le Ferme du Bec Hellouin was born.
Bec Hellouin has since become a celebrated model of innovative, ecological agriculture in Europe, connected to national and international organizations addressing food security, heralded by celebrity chefs as well as the Slow Food movement, and featured in the inspiring César and COLCOA award-winning documentary film, Demain (“Tomorrow”). Miraculous Abundance is the eloquent tale of the couple’s evolution from creating a farm to sustain their family to delving into an experiment in how to grow the most food possible, in the most ecological way possible, and create a farm model that can carry us into a post-carbon future—when oil is no longer moving goods and services, energy is scarcer, and localization is a must.
Today, the farm produces a variety of vegetables using a mix of permaculture, bio-intensive, four-season, and natural farming techniques–as well as techniques gleaned from native cultures around the world. It has some animals for eggs and milk, horses for farming, a welcome center, a farm store, a permaculture school, a bread oven for artisan breads, greenhouses, a cidery, and a forge. It has also become the site of research focusing on how small organic farms like theirs might confront Europe’s (and the world’s) projected food crisis.
But in this honest and engaging account of the trials and joys of their uncompromising effort, readers meet two people who are farming the future as much as they are farming their land. They envision farms like theirs someday being the hub for a host of other businesses that can drive rural communities—from bread makers and grain millers to animal care givers and other tradespeople.
Market farmers and home gardeners alike will find much in these pages, but so will those who’ve never picked up a hoe. The couple’s account of their quest to design an almost Edenlike farm, hone their practices, and find new ways to feed the world is an inspiring tale. It is also a love letter to a future in which people increasingly live in rural communities that rely on traditional skills, locally created and purveyed goods and services, renewable energy, and greater local governance, but are also connected to the larger world.
Reviews and Praise
"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….If the color photographs are any indication, the results are magnificent….The mandala garden alone made me 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, author of Food Politics
More Reviews and Praise
"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
About The Author
|Book Art:||Black-and-white illustrations throughout, 16-page color insert|
|Size:||6 x 9 inch|
|Publisher:||Chelsea Green Publishing|
|Pub. Date:||March 23, 2016|
Available In/Retail PricePaperback, 272 pages, $24.95
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