Of course, making six figures farming isn’t generally impossible—with enough capital, enough land, in the right situation, theoretically anyone could do it. What makes [Jean-Martin] Fortier somewhat unique is that on his 1.5 acre vegetable farm in Quebec, for the better part of a decade, he has claimed that amount per acre.
Contrasted with corn or soybean farmers, for example, who may average somewhere between $400 and $600 an acre—or even the average CSA farmer who often brings in less than $40,000 per acre of vegetables—these numbers don’t just make farming look reasonable, but viable. They’re the sort of numbers that, no matter what kind of farmer you are, you drag yourself across state lines to see the guy who’s doing it.
I have been listening to a workshop of Fortier’s where he dwells - perhaps more than any other theme - on how to keep farming costs low and create efficiency. It makes for an interesting pairing with the Wendell Berry documentary Look and See, in which the most compelling portions to me featured conventional farmers talking about the astronomical costs (taken on through debt) required by modern agribusiness, and how those costs restrict their flexibility in their business and may even threaten their livelihood.
I don’t think Fortier’s approach is a silver bullet, but the extent to which his success has depended on keeping costs down and using cheaper tools suggests that Berry’s early emphasis on the dangers of debt for farmers has been right on.