The Suburban Micro-Farm Modern Solutions for Busy People Book Review

The Suburban Micro-Farm:
Modern Solutions for Busy People
- Amy Stross

Book Review

The Suburban Micro-Farm by Amy Stross is a complete reference for any home gardener. Her focus is on organic techniques that build soil biology. She does a fine job of introducing permacultural techniques and emphasizes edible landscaping within the suburban environment. Amy strives to infuse years of experience into this one publication, creating a resource that offers hours of reading material for any upcoming gardener.

The first two chapters set the stage, introducing you to the world of gardening. Amy really makes a good case for small-scale suburban farming. She points out how much more efficient such systems are than rural farms. She even cites the Victory Gardens from decades past. "At their peak in 1944, 20 million garden plots produced 40% of all produce consumed in the United States."

How can you grow food, manage your time and utilize your resources while producing something that looks good? Amy understands the full-time-job aspect of being a farmer along with the secondary-job aspect of preserving food. And then to overlay these with professional duties and other aspects of your life, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed. It's also challenging to not just grow but to also USE your produce. Her focus is on saving time with a few "life-hacks" to avoid "Garden Overwhelm Syndrome" as she calls it. Her book offers ideas on how to deal with less than ideal spaces. And how to utilize your front yard space "tastefully".

I LOVE the fact that she addresses the whole "green thumb" assumption. I agree that gardening is an ability - a skill that can be learned and improved upon through both knowledge and experience. In the subsequent chapters of the book, Amy takes you from A to Z. A complete education in gardening that undoubtedly testifies to her experience as an educator as well as a micro-farmer.

Having already refined my personal techniques in my own urban garden, I unexpectedly found myself drawn to a different aspect of this book. The Suburban Micro-Farm is very much a personal story, not just a how-to-manual. In the first two chapters there was this alternation between tips and anecdotes. It was Amy's unique journey that I was drawn into. For example, I really loved her insight on page 31 where she describes what it means to be a charismatic gardener. Taking an interest in others is crucial. An excellent lesson in dealing with neighbors and rousing their curiosity while also accepting differences in goals and values. This little gem of wisdom is not something you will find in a generic gardening tutorial!

As far as shortcomings go, my only real critiques with this book comes from my perspective as a graphic designer, rather than as a gardener. I examined the paperback book. At times it felt like a port from a digital version or perhaps a website. There is good structure as outlined in the Table of Contents. But navigation of the printed pages can be challenging. What would I do to streamline things? Place the page number in the page corner. Remove the book title from the top of each left page, replacing it with the chapter title for improved page scanning as you flip through. Widen the center margins, reduce the font size and increase leading between lines. Even a two column layout could be considered, to make it easier to read from left to right without losing your place. These refinements would simply improve upon a book that offers excellent content from someone who is quite passionate about the topic.

Amy Stross has done a great job in motivating prospective gardeners while helping them to maintain balanced expectations. The Suburban Micro-Farm has everything you need to get up and running. It's a great resource that merits a place on any gardener's book shelf!

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