Chelsea Green Publishing

The New Horse-Powered Farm

Pages:368 pages
Book Art:Full-color illustrations throughout
Size: 8 x 10 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
Paperback: 9781603584166
Pub. Date March 05, 2013

The New Horse-Powered Farm

Tools and Systems for the Small-Scale, Sustainable Market Grower

By Stephen Leslie
Foreword by Lynn Miller

Availability: In Stock


Available Date:
March 05, 2013


In an era when fuel is a primary concern, draft horses are seen by many as the solution to small-scale, resilient farming with a closed-loop system. Horses bring farmers back to the roots of what it means to work the land and present a viable model for a small farm that lasts, while offering enjoyment for the whole family. This is the first book of its kind, offering wisdom and techniques for using horse power on the small farm or homestead, from longtime horse farmer Stephen Leslie.

The New Horse-Powered Farm sets the stage for incorporating draft power on the farm by presenting tips on getting started with horses, care of the work horse, different horse-training systems, and the merits of different draft breeds. The novice teamster is introduced to the basic tools of horse-drawn tillage and cultivation used for profitable horse-powered farming, with a spotlight on whole-farm management, as well as information on haying with horses, raising small grains, managing the woodlot, farm education, agritourism, and more.

Incorporated throughout are profiles of more than a half-dozen farms that epitomize some exciting new trends in agriculture and highlight the new and old horse-drawn equipment used for profitable market gardening, including contributions directly from the farmers about what works and what doesn't. The novice teamster is introduced to the specifics of horse-drawn tillage and cultivation of the market garden, and using horses in the woodland. Recent studies on the economics of horse-powered market gardening and a comparison between horse-, human-, and tractor-powered systems have been included to help round out the picture. The resources section lists contact info for teamster schools, books, draft-animal publications, annual events, equipment manufacturers, parts and repairs, and more. A must-have for any farmer, homesteader, or teamster seeking to work with draft power in a closed-loop farming system.


Publisher's Weekly-

"How many citizens of the 21st century know that a teamster is someone who drives workhorses? Leslie—a former art student and monk turned small-scale farmer—is part of a growing revival of horse-powered farming, and in this comprehensive, thoughtful guide, he dusts off archaic terms and demonstrates how he and others are reviving and revising traditional skills for a postmodern era of rising oil prices, soil loss and degradation, and climate change. The author covers horse selection and care; working and communicating with horses; training horses and drivers; old, repurposed, and newly created tools; and uses for horse labor on a small farm. Leslie also offers economic comparisons to tractor- and human-powered farms. Perhaps most importantly, he draws on stories from contemporary horse-powered farms to demonstrate both the satisfaction and difficulties of living in a work relationship with animals. 'The lively presence and wonderful mix of personalities the workhorses bring adds a richness of relationships that makes the farm without animals seem sterile and lonesome in comparison,' Leslie writes. This will be compelling reading for the enthusiastic and idealistic young farmers in the local food movement."

ForeWord Reviews-

"As homesteading and back-to-the-land movements gain momentum, many people are drawn to small-scale farming, where they feel more connected to the earth and its rhythms. Although there are plenty of cutting-edge tractors and implements available to them, sustainability-minded growers are gravitating toward more traditional methods for cultivation and farm maintenance, and often that means employing horses.

In his outstanding guide The New Horse-Powered Farm, Stephen Leslie covers a wide range of topics that will help many readers feel more comfortable about introducing horse labor into farming and gardening. With his comprehensive, crucial presentation of best practices, it’s likely that Leslie will serve as informal mentor to thousands more.

Leslie backs up his advice with extensive experience; he and his wife manage an organic farm in Vermont, and he previously served as an apprentice at a biodynamic farm in upstate New York. His book has its origins in a series of articles Leslie wrote for Small Farmer’s Journal about working with Fjord horses, which he expanded into a thorough, useful guide that will shepherd farmers through choosing a breed, basic horse care, training horses, making compost, and plow usage, among other topics.

Also well articulated are topics on growing, including use of plastic mulch, seeding cover crops, and planning vegetable fields according to horse-powered harvest methods. Throughout, Leslie includes numerous photos that illustrate his main points and some of the horse breeds and harness systems that vary from farm to farm.

In addition to handy sidebars with plenty of tips, Leslie includes commentary from other farm owners, making the book into a rich compendium of opinion and advice.

Fascinating and exceptionally well written, The New Horse-Powered Farm is a major work that deserves to be on the shelf of every small-scale market grower, whether they use horses or not.

Although he covers an variety of technical information—right down to thoughts about the tongue length for implements pulled by draft ponies—Leslie writes in an accessible style that’s understandable to the layman. When he veers slightly into the realm of sustainability issues like water retention and soil conservation, he introduces an idealistic tone without sounding dire or political. He simply believes in what he’s doing, and conveys his beliefs with passion and commitment."

Library Journal-

"Readers will quickly find this work, far from a nostalgic look at using horses to farm, to be an excellent, practical guide to incorporating horses into sustainable farming practices. Leslie has used draft horses to farm and garden for several years and currently manages an organic farm at the Cobb Hill Ecovillage in Hartland, Vermont. In this comprehensive work, the author successfully covers the selection of draft breeds (from minis to full size) based on the amount and kinds of work to be accomplished, types of harnesses and hitches (single and multi-horse), advances in horse-powered equipment, best practices for creating fertile soils and working the land for a variety of crops, necessary training for both humans and horses, the economics aspects, and other uses of horses on the farm. The book includes  numerous stories of how horses have been incorporated into a variety of production systems by farmers other than the author, further demonstrating the variety of ways in which human, horse, and tractor systems can be combined to create more sustainable farming systems. VERDICT This book is highly recommended for both public and academic libraries, particularly those in rural settings."

"I applaud Stephen Leslie’s important new book, a volume that combines information about good farming and working with animals. This volume moves animal power forward yet another step."--Lynn Miller, from the Foreword

"Many equate draft horse-powered farming with tilting at windmills, a laudable but unrealistic ambition. In this book, however, Stephen Leslie demonstrates that draft horse power is ideally suited to vegetable market farming. Indeed, this comprehensive treatment of the subject provides the beginner or transitional farmer with the resources needed to succeed, as Leslie takes no shortcuts in his research and presentation of material."--Joe Mischka, editor & publisher, Rural Heritage Magazine

The New Horse-Powered Farm is a thorough and practical book for anyone considering horse-powered farming. Stephen Leslie knows and understands what he writes about because he walks the talk. This is an extraordinarily comprehensive guide for anyone interested in horse-powered farming, and clearly shows how to get started, from the selection and care of the different horse breeds, training the horse and the teamster, soil fertility, plowing, tillage, seeding, and harvesting, to managing pastures and making hay. As a lifelong horse-powered farmer, I learned a lot from reading this book.”--David Kline, founding publisher of Farming Magazine


Stephen Leslie

Stephen Leslie is the author of The New Horse-Powered Farm, published by Chelsea Green in 2013. He began his farming career in 1992 at Hawthorne Valley, a biodynamic farm in upstate New York, where he worked for three years as an apprentice. Since then, in partnership with his wife, Kerry Gawalt, he has made his living farming and gardening with draft horses. Currently, Stephen and Kerry and their daughter, Maeve, own and operate Cedar Mountain Farm, a Fjord-horse-powered CSA and Jersey-cow dairy at the Cobb Hill Cohousing in Hartland, Vermont. Stephen is a regular contributor to the Small Farmer’s Journal and Rural Heritage magazine.


Horse-Powered Farming for the 21st Century

Horse-Powered Farming for the 21st Century

By Stephen Leslie

With contributions from more than 60 contemporary draft-animal-powered farmers and equipment manufacturers 

Now is a time of exciting new developments for live animal power. As the numbers of adherents to this way of life grow, ecologically minded farmers in their fields are developing efficient horse-drawn systems, and equipment manufacturers in small shops all across North America and Europe are coming forth with new innovations in ground-drive technology that have us poised on the cusp of another agricultural revolution—with working horses, mules, donkeys, and oxen at the heart of it.

Stephen Leslie’s first book, The New Horse-Powered Farm, presented an overview of the many facets of running a small, diversified farm with live horse power. Horse-Powered Farming for the 21st Century is focused entirely on the tools and methods required to successfully manage the horse-powered market garden with draft animal power. However, this is not a step-by-step how-to guide outlining one single system, but rather a manual that presents a range of options and approaches. Leslie examines the function and use of all the implements typically employed on a contemporary draft-animal-powered market garden and illustrates these points with insightful reports from the field, farm profiles, and home-built solutions contributed by over sixty draft animal-powered farmers from across North America and Europe.

Each teamster’s story represents a patch in a quilt that is woven together with a narrative thread to guide the reader through the whole fabric of the growing season, from soil preparation to harvest. The book structure follows the seasonal progression of implements, beginning with several examples of contemporary draft-animal-powered produce farms; next an examination of the versatile utility of forecarts; then taking an in-depth look at fertility management on the farm; moving on through primary and secondary tillage, seeding and transplanting; then on to the multifold options for cultivators, tool carriers, and multipurpose implements, with technical harnessing and hitching details for the best use of the implements. For experienced teamsters and beginning market growers farming with horses, this is an invaluable and one-of-a-kind guide, sure to last forever in the agricultural canon.

Available in: Hardcover

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Horse-Powered Farming for the 21st Century

Stephen Leslie, David Kline

Hardcover $45.00


Episode 75: Four Corners


This Organic Life

This Organic Life

By Joan Dye Gussow

Joan Dye Gussow is an extraordinarily ordinary woman. She lives in a home not unlike the average home in a neighborhood that is, more or less, typically suburban. What sets her apart from the rest of us is that she thinks more deeply--and in more eloquent detail--about food. In sharing her ponderings, she sets a delightful example for those of us who seek the healthiest, most pleasurable lifestyle within an environment determined to propel us in the opposite direction. Joan is a suburbanite with a green thumb, with a feisty, defiant spirit and a relentlessly positive outlook.

At the heart of This Organic Life is the premise that locally grown food eaten in season makes sense economically, ecologically, and gastronomically. Transporting produce to New York from California--not to mention Central and South America, Australia, or Europe--consumes more energy in transit than it yields in calories. (It costs 435 fossil fuel calories to fly a 5-calorie strawberry from California to New York.) Add in the deleterious effects of agribusiness, such as the endless cycle of pesticide, herbicide, and chemical fertilizers; the loss of topsoil from erosion of over-tilled croplands; depleted aquifers and soil salinization from over-irrigation; and the arguments in favor of "this organic life" become overwhelmingly convincing.

Joan's story is funny and fiery as she points out the absurdities we have unthinkingly come to accept. You won't find an electric can opener in this woman's house. In fact, you probably won't find many cans, as Joan has discovered ways to nourish herself, literally and spiritually, from her own backyard. If you are looking for a tale of courage and independence in a setting that is entirely familiar, read her story.

Available in: Paperback

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This Organic Life

Joan Dye Gussow

Paperback $19.95

Hemp Bound

Hemp Bound

By Doug Fine

The stat sheet on hemp sounds almost too good to be true: its fibers are among the planet’s strongest, its seed oil the most nutritious, and its potential as an energy source vast and untapped. Its one downside? For nearly a century, it’s been illegal to grow industrial cannabis in the United States–even though Betsy Ross wove the nation’s first flag out of hemp fabric, Thomas Jefferson composed the Declaration of Independence on it, and colonists could pay their taxes with it. But as the prohibition on hemp’s psychoactive cousin winds down, one of humanity’s longest-utilized plants is about to be reincorporated into the American economy. Get ready for the newest billion-dollar industry.

In Hemp Bound:Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Next Agricultural Revolution, bestselling author Doug Fine embarks on a humorous yet rigorous journey to meet the men and women who are testing, researching, and pioneering hemp’s applications for the twenty-first century. From Denver, where Fine hitches a ride in a hemp-powered limo; to Asheville, North Carolina, where carbon-negative hempcrete-insulated houses are sparking a mini housing boom; to Manitoba where he raps his knuckles on the hood of a hemp tractor; and finally to the fields of east Colorado, where practical farmers are looking toward hemp to restore their agricultural economy—Fine learns how eminently possible it is for this misunderstood plant to help us end dependence on fossil fuels, heal farm soils damaged after a century of growing monocultures, and bring even more taxable revenue into the economy than its smokable relative.

Fine’s journey will not only leave you wondering why we ever stopped cultivating this miracle crop, it will fire you up to sow a field of it for yourself, for the nation’s economy, and for the planet.

Available in: Paperback

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Hemp Bound

Doug Fine

Paperback $14.95

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights

By David E. Gumpert

Do Americans have the right to privately obtain the foods of our choice from farmers, neighbors, and local producers, in the same way our grandparents and great grandparents used to do?

Yes, say a growing number of people increasingly afraid that the mass-produced food sold at supermarkets is excessively processed, tainted with antibiotic residues and hormones, and lacking in important nutrients. These people, a million or more, are seeking foods outside the regulatory system, like raw milk, custom-slaughtered beef, and pastured eggs from chickens raised without soy, purchased directly from private membership-only food clubs that contract with Amish and other farmers.

Public-health and agriculture regulators, however, say no: Americans have no inherent right to eat what they want. In today's ever-more-dangerous food-safety environment, they argue, all food, no matter the source, must be closely regulated, and even barred, if it fails to meet certain standards. These regulators, headed up by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with help from state agriculture departments, police, and district-attorney detectives, are mounting intense and sophisticated investigative campaigns against farms and food clubs supplying privately exchanged food-even handcuffing and hauling off to jail, under threat of lengthy prison terms, those deemed in violation of food laws.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights takes readers on a disturbing cross-country journey from Maine to California through a netherworld of Amish farmers paying big fees to questionable advisers to avoid the quagmire of America's legal system, secret food police lurking in vans at farmers markets, cultish activists preaching the benefits of pathogens, U.S. Justice Department lawyers clashing with local sheriffs, small Maine towns passing ordinances to ban regulation, and suburban moms worried enough about the dangers of supermarket food that they'll risk fines and jail to feed their children unprocessed, and unregulated, foods of their choosing.

Out of the intensity of this unprecedented crackdown, and the creative and spirited opposition that is rising to meet it, a new rallying cry for food rights is emerging.

Available in: Paperback

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Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Food Rights

David E. Gumpert

Paperback $19.95

Organic Dairy Production

Organic Dairy Production

By Sarah Flack

Part of the NOFA guides. Includes information on:

  • Soils, the foundation of health (manure management)
  • Crop production and grazing management (forage species, pasture management, setting up a grazing system)
  • Livestock (selection, nutrition, winter and summer feed considerations, seasonal milking, habitat, herd health, milk quality)
  • Marketing (selling fluid milk, regulations, facility and equipment, selling raw milk)
  • Recordkeeping
  • The transition to organic

Featuring examples from various farms in the Northeast.

Available in: Paperback

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Organic Dairy Production

Sarah Flack, Jocelyn Langer

Paperback $12.95