One of Jack Lazor’s first pieces of advice in The Organic Grain Grower, his first book, is to find a mentor, someone already growing grain to offer support along the way. While Lazor’s primary goal is to resurrect the tradition of grain cultivation in the North-eastern United States, growers elsewhere in the world will find plenty to be gleaned as he shares every ounce of experience and knowledge accumulated during 35 years of farming.
Lazor begins with the basics of soil health and proper tillage, seed selection and planting, weed management, harvest, storage, and processing. Later chapters focus on cereal grains (wheat, barley, and oats), row crops (corn and beans) and oilseeds (sunflowers, flax and canola), and expands on these general concepts to include specific plant characteristics and requirements. Winter cereals (rye, spelt, and triticale) and 'minor grains' such as buckwheat are also included. Within each of these topics readers will find extensive and thorough descriptions of machinery, techniques and practices that Lazor has tried and recommends implementing, or has tried and recommends avoiding. His enthusiasm for his art (farming) and his medium (grains) is tempered with frankness about the challenges he's met along the way including infrastructure for processing grains on the farm or locally, working with modern and antique machinery, and climate change.
Lazor consistently advises readers to seek each other out in order to build a web of support and knowledge. Names from his own network of farmers, researchers, agricultural extension agents, and machine dealers in the United States and Canada are sprinkled liberally throughout these pages along with how they contributed to his growth as a farmer at Butterworks, his Vermont farm.
Lazor’s easygoing style makes readers feel they are sitting across from him at the kitchen table, yet there is much to absorb. Tales of his own trials and errors surround technical information and descriptions. While it seems difficult at times to believe that Lazor managed to own and operate all of these machines and experiment with growing all of these plants, these are not romantic rambles. Nearly every story ends with “The lesson to be learned from this is...”, and here readers need to prick up their ears. Like any classic, one reading won’t be enough.
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