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


The Holistic Orchard

The Holistic Orchard

By Michael Phillips

Many people want to grow fruit on a small scale but lack the insight to be successful orchardists. Growing tree fruits and berries is something virtually anyone with space and passionate desire can do - given wise guidance and a personal commitment to observe the teachings of the trees. A holistic grower knows that producing fruit is not about manipulating nature but more importantly, fostering nature. Orcharding then becomes a fascinating adventure sure to provide your family with all sorts of mouth-watering fruit.

The Holistic Orchard demystifies the basic skills everybody should know about the inner-workings of the orchard ecosystem, as well as orchard design, soil biology, and organic health management. Detailed insights on grafting, planting, pruning, and choosing the right varieties for your climate are also included, along with a step-by-step instructional calendar to guide growers through the entire orchard year. The extensive profiles of pome fruits (apples, pears, asian pears, quinces), stone fruits (cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, plums), and berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, gooseberries, currants, and elderberries) will quickly have you savoring the prospects.

Phillips completely changed the conversation about healthy orcharding with his first bestselling book, The Apple Grower, and now he takes that dialogue even further, drawing connections between home orcharding and permaculture; the importance of native pollinators; the world of understory plantings with shade-tolerant berry bushes and other insectary plants; detailed information on cover crops and biodiversity; and the newest research on safe, homegrown solutions to pest and disease challenges.

All along the way, Phillips' expertise and enthusiasm for healthy growing shines through, as does his ability to put the usual horticultural facts into an integrated ecology perspective. This book will inspire beginners as well as provide deeper answers for experienced fruit growers looking for scientific organic approaches. Exciting times lie ahead for those who now have every reason in the world to confidently plant that very first fruit tree!

Available in: Paperback

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The Holistic Orchard

Michael Phillips

Paperback $39.95

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

The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm

The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm

By Josh Trought

With practical examples of alternative building, renewable energy, holistic forestry, no-till gardening, hospitality management, community outreach, and more

The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm describes not only the history of the D Acres project, but its evolving principles and practices that are rooted in the land, its inhabitants, and the joy inherent in collective empowerment.

For almost twenty years, D Acres of New Hampshire has challenged and expanded the common definition of a farm. As an educational center that researches, applies, and teaches skills of sustainable living and small-scale organic farming, D Acres serves more than just a single function to its community. By turns it is a hostel for travelers to northern New England, a training center for everything from metal- and woodworking to cob building and seasonal cooking, a gathering place for music, poetry, joke-telling, and potluck meals, and much more.

While this book provides a wide spectrum of practical information on the physical systems designed into a community-scale homestead, Trought also reviews the economics and organizational particulars that D Acres has experimented with over the years.

The D Acres model envisions a way to devise a sustainable future by building a localized economy that provides more than seasonal produce, a handful of eggs, and green appliances. With the goal of perennial viability for humanity within their ecosystem, D Acres is attempting an approach to sustainability that encompasses practical, spiritual, and ethical components. In short: They are trying to create a rural community ecology that evolves in perpetuity.

From working with oxen to working with a board of directors, no other book contains such a wealth of innovative ideas and ways to make your farm or homestead not only more sustainable, but more inclusive of, and beneficial to, the larger community. Readers will find information on such subjects as:

  • Working with pigs to transform forested landscapes into arable land;
  • Designing and building unique, multifunctional farm and community spaces using various techniques and materials;
  • Creating and perpetuating diverse revenue streams to keep your farm organization solvent and resilient;
  • Receiving maximum benefits and yields for the farm without denigrating resources or the regional ecology;
  • Implementing a fair and effective governance structure;
  • Constructing everything from solar dehydrators and cookers to treehouses and ponds; and,
  • Connecting and partnering with the larger community beyond the farm.

Emphasizing collaboration, cooperation, and mutualism, this book promises to inspire a new generation of growers, builders, educators, artists, and dreamers who are seeking new and practical ways to address today’s problems on a community scale.

Available in: Paperback

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The Community-Scale Permaculture Farm

Josh Trought

Paperback $40.00

The New Farmers’ Almanac 2015

The New Farmers’ Almanac 2015

By Greenhorns

The theme of the second New Farmers Almanac is “Agrarian Technology.” With contributions from more than a hundred authors, artists and other contributors, the Almanac holds a civil, lived testimony from thoughtful agrarians across the continent whose work, life, and behavior patterns beamingly contradict normative values of the macro-economy called America.

Agriculture, in principle a pre-requisite for what we now call civilization, seems to have become a portal for deliberate, cultural and joyous retort against it. Historians cite very few agricultural societies that managed without servitude and hierarchy—necessary in order to maintain the irrigation, water-works and infrastructures. Exceptions in commons-based land governance abound in the literature, if not in the prime ecosystems of human habitation: the conical land-sharing of the Hawaiian aina, the 10,000 year corn culture of the Abenaki, the perennial water gardens and spiritual algorithms of paisley-shaped rice paddies.

Greenhorns are dedicated to the project of holding space for producer (not consumer) culture; this volume is the sequel to our commitment in this direction. Essays in this volume shoot out like spider-webs across the wide chasm of impossibility—the glorious rescue mission whose daily requirements keep us human, hopeful, and operating inside the scale of possibility. What future can we realistically build together? Will it need electricity? Will it need globalization? Will it continue to require the power of history on our side of exploitation? These practices we’ve found: biodynamics, permaculture, resilience breeding, state-change in the soil, reformats of ownership, reclaiming the value-chain, re-tooling for diversity, committing to lifetimes of partnership… How long before they allow us to reach steady-state? Do they require interns? Do they require servants making silicon chips? Do they require, absolutely require, the internet? Which technologies are relevant to, appropriate to, and gestating within the new agrarian mind? Through the threshold of our email-box, and into the pages of this volume, some answers have come to this question.

In this volume you will find answers to practical questions about institutional forms, and future-making:restoration agro-forestry, reclaiming high desert urban farmland, starting a co-op, pickup truck maintenance, pirate radio utopia, cheap healthcare, farming while pregnant, worksonging, farm terraces, and quite a few more…

Available in: Paperback

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The New Farmers’ Almanac 2015

Greenhorns, Severine Von Tscharner Fleming

Paperback $20.00