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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Book Review "Small Scale Grain Raising" by Gene Logsdon

Logsdon is one of the great voices of the homesteading movement.  This is a review of his classic "Small Scale Grain Raising" originally published in 1977.  I am reviewing the book from 1977, not the more recent reprint.  One of the things that set all of Gene Logsdon's books apart is you can tell that he actually lives the things that he teaches.  Logsdon brings real life experience and candor to the discussion of a variety of topics in his books, and his books are always entertaining as well as informative.
Small Scale Grain Raising gives a huge amount of information on different grains and how the grains can be grown, even on a small plot.  One of the many interesting facts in this book is the amount of land needed to grow a bushel of a variety of grains.  A bushel or two of grain is more than enough for a small family to cook with for most of the year, and Logsdon shows how a few hundred square feet can provide those bushels of grain.  If you have 1/4 acre of land that you can grow grain on, you could harvest a bushel of corn, wheat, rye, barley, sorghum, and beans from that 1/4 acre.  This is more than enough for the average family to experiment with, and to provide their own needs for most of the year. 
Individual chapters focus on the main grains, such as corn and wheat, or group similarly cultivated grains together, such as rye with barley.  Logsdon gives details on choosing varieties, planting, weeding, harvesting, storing, and even recipes for cooking the various grains. 
The final chapters of the book are on crop rotation and on equipment.  These are great because they provide a starting point for figuring out how to provide a good crop rotation to keep your production up and to limit erosion and pests.  The chapter on equipment is wonderful because as many homesteaders begin as gardeners rather than farmers, they are not necessarily familiar with the equipment used in growing and harvesting grain. 
The disappointing thing about the book is that it doesn't provide nutritional information.  I would love to see nutritional information on what grains are best in for protein, what have the highest minerals, etc.; I think this would provide a huge resource to homesteaders who want to grow grains for their own consumption, and it would be useful to know what grains provide different levels of nutrition.  I am also a little disappointed that grains such as quinoa and amaranth are not included.  These grains are gaining great notoriety for their nutritional content, and could be a great addition to the book.  The last addition I would love to see in the book is a guide to the amount of grain needed to sustain animals or give certain rates of growth.  This could help a homesteader know the amount of grain needed to provide for their own animals, without relying on trial and error.
Perhaps these gaps in content are filled by the more recent updated edition, but I do not have that edition to make the comparison.  From what I have seen it is simply an updated version of the classic, with little additional content.
Overall I would recommend this book to anyone seriously considering growing their own grains.  While grains take more space than the average garden, and often the grains themselves are cheap if you can find them (say at a health food store or a farm co-op) for anyone interested in being truly self-reliant, or to grow specialty grains, this book is an absolute must.  There simply isn't a better book on raising grain for the home gardener out there.

The new edition can be found here.

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