Every once in a while, I read a book so inspiring that it sets in motion a process of visioning, planning, and action. The Resilient Farm and Homestead by Ben Falk is such a book, one that has me re-imaging extraordinary possibilities for our homestead on a hill.
Imagine a homestead and research farm set on a hillside in Central Vermont. Now picture lush gardens, food and fuel forests, and innovative projects such as small-scale rice paddies, compost hot water heating systems, mushroom cultivation, and perennial food crop and grazing integration. Author Ben Falk’s homestead, Whole Systems Research Farm is such a place, and he takes what he has learned from years of experience on his land, coupled with a professional and academic background in landscape design and permaculture to write this book, a handbook of sorts for sustainable living in an age of uncertainty.
Water pollution, drought, climate change, a depletion of natural resources, a consumer-based economy, the threat of economic collapse – how can modern day farmers and homesteaders best plan for and adapt to these modern challenges? Ben Falk argues that we can best prepare for an uncertain future by creating regenerative and resilient systems that perpetuate themselves over time, and shares strategies and systems that have been effective in revitalizing his own land.
I loved so many things about this book, but to highlight a few:
– A thorough discussion of water and earthworks. As a homesteader whose only sources of water are a pond and rain water catchment, I found this chapter to be extremely useful and informative. Falk lays out a number of ways that homesteaders can store, sink, spread, or slow water to make best use of it, when it is most needed. For instance, creating earthworks such as swales, identifying plants and animals that work best in your bioregion, and storing water in farm ponds. (I wrote about our experiences with farm ponds and swales here).
– The incredible photographs of the Whole Systems Research Farm’s land and buildings. When I’m in need of a little homestead inspiration, I just flip through the photographs of this book. Lush gardens, a series of ponds and rice paddies, incredibly constructed buildings, mature perennial bushes…I could go on and on! It’s like a permaculture homesteader’s dream.
– The lists of design principles and homestead and self-assessment tools that are contained within the book and its appendices. These include an extensive list of principles of resiliency and regeneration design, a quiz for assessing resiliency, a skill list for emergencies, among others. In particular, I found the Assessing Resiliency Aptitude Quiz to be surprisingly useful, giving me a new awareness of my strengths and weaknesses.
– The many tools for assessing a site, creating a working master plan, and designing with an ecological approach. I really appreciated how frankly Falk shared what worked and didn’t work on his homestead, and how he might do things differently in the future. While the focus of this book is not exclusively on starting a homestead from scratch, there are so many resources within this book that will be of huge benefit for readers starting on a new piece of land.
I would have loved to see more of a discussion of homestead finances in this book. While I know that one author cannot address all areas of homesteading, my own personal experiences have taught me that every aspect of building a homestead takes energy, whether that be in the form of labor or money. Creating infrastructure, systems and permanent plantings of food and fuel takes money and time and energy, and I would have loved a glimpse into Falk’s expenses when creating his resilient homestead.
If you’re looking to take your homestead to the next level of self-sufficiency and resilience, I highly recommend The Resilient Farm and Homestead. It is the kind of book you’re going to want to pore over again and again because there is SO much information and inspiration between its covers.
*Edited 8.14.2014: This book is currently 25% off through September 7th! Click below to be taken to Chelsea Green’s website.
Ben Falk says
Donna Blair says
I already have a beautiful 130 acre farm, but I feel I could make better use of my resources. This book sounds like I could learn a lot from it to help me out!
Hi! My husband and I are ready to plan our first home- we would like to model it on the principles discussed here! We are into homesteading in many ways already, and would like to build our home around this kind of lifestyle. We would love this book as a resource!
I currently have it checked out of the library and it is a fabulous book. Ben Falk is doing the homework for us! And he Is not shy about taking some conventional wisdom and sharing how it doesn’t always match up with his experiences. Would love to own a copy.
This sounds alike an amazing, well rounded resource for our future homestead outside of the city. you had me at quizzes and beautiful photos. 🙂 Thank you for the opportunity!
My family and I recently decided that homesteading is something we would love to do on the land that we own. We could really use a great resource like this as we take this plunge!
I would love to pore over the book for useful information that I could use when starting my own homestead.
not a homesteader yet…waiting on land, but sixths book will help prepare 😉 thanks!
I’m trying to maximize the potential of my homestead-I always love to hear what others have done and what was successful and what was not!
Melanie J. says
Looks like a terrific resource. Thanks for the opportunity!
I love to read and especially love books about homesteading! This book looks like a great read and would be helpful to us on our homesteading journey.
Ashley Housley says
I love inspirational homestead books- would love to read this one!
Jeff Schwersinske says
live in the country,garden,hunt back yard,go fishing,be happy,Dream Life.Jeff
Thanks for the giveaway! my husband and i are buying a house with some land and hope to get a little homestead going! this book will help alot!
Sue D says
I would love the inspiration in this book to help us on our homestead.
LeAnna Totten says
I appreciate the opportunity to win this book because I want to learn all I can about homesteading from as many different homesteaders as possible. Thank you.
My husband and I are enjoying learning more about permaculture and living in sustainable ways! Would love a copy of Ben Falk’s book!
Ann Marie Mones says
As I plan to one day retire to a small farm and move off the grid, this sounds like a must read for me! Thanks for the chance to win!
Looks like a great book. Would help with our homestead.
This book sounds like it’s just what I’ve been thinking and dreaming about lately – some ideas to help where we are now, and some fuel for my dreaming! Thanks for the review & the chance to win a copy!
I would like to win this book so I can further my knowledge for my own homestead. Thanks!
Thanks for sharing your review of this book! I’m always on the lookout for great books and devour homesteading books – at least the good ones! Would love to score/win a free copy… 🙂
Sounds like helpful reading! We hope to move to a rural location soon, and I’m sure this book would be very helpful in planning our homestead.
This has been on my book wish list! We are in the process of purchasing our homestead, and I would like to spend the next year observing the land and planning, so the timing for this book would be perfect. Thank you for the chance to win!
ang hillier says
Looks so inspiring ..
Was just looking for ways (and books) to add a permaculture approach to our homestead! This looks amazing!
Rebecca Johnson says
I am so interested in the parts on water. All we have is a cistern…
jo n says
I have always been interested in the most basic approach and how to do it.
Thanks for sharing your review. I can’t wait to read it!
We dream of owning a homstead like yours and I love books like this so that when we finally get there I’m a little more knowledgeable.
The book sounds wonderful and I think I would enjoy it very much. I have a homestead on 10 acres with a creek being my southern border and a good portion of it wooded. I currently have 4 raised beds and plan on extending this next year to have a tiered bed on the east side of a hill where the house sits.
Thanks for the chance, looks like a great book.