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FarmED Books: The Farming Ladder by George Henderson

We have a rather special book of the week, this week, chosen by Jonty Brunyee, our Head of Regenerative Agriculture.

First published in 1943 ‘The Farming Ladder’ by George Henderson, inspired soldiers returning from WWII to take up farming, demonstrating how small agricultural holdings could be highly productive without lots of fertiliser and other inputs. It continues to inspire today. I was given a copy of the book 10 years ago by a friend and it cemented my belief in diverse agroecological farming.

Acclaimed American farmer, lecturer and author Joel Salatin, whom I spent time with when I did my Nuffield Farming Scholarship, credited George Henderson for influencing and informing his work. Graham Harvey, writer and agricultural story advisor on ‘The Archers’, was so impressed by what George achieved that wrote a play about him, ‘No Finer Life’ which first toured the UK in 2017. I was honoured to give a presentation at the performance in Stroud where I spoke about how ‘The Farming Ladder’ has helped shape my passion for farming with nature and how grazing livestock play an important role on my farm.

The book tells the story of how George, together with his brother Frank, took on a rundown Cotswold farm during the agricultural depression when other farmers were selling up. With little money and limited practical agricultural knowledge they managed to turn the small farm into a big success. The book became hugely popular, describing farming as a ladder where anyone with enough energy and enthusiasm could climb up, rung by rung. It’s a wonderful little gem, packed full of information that’s as useful and relevant today as it was nearly eighty years ago. It will resonate with anyone on a regenerative journey or looking at enterprise stacking.

George Henderson's granddaughter, Kate, recently visited us at FarmED. (Pictured here with me on the left and Ian on the right.) It was great to meet her. ‘So much of what my grandfather wrote about is what people are talking about again now,’ Kate told us.

The early editions of the book, published by Faber, are now quite rare and have become collectors items.

Amazingly, Kate brought us a box full, which her father, George Henderson’s son, discovered in a cupboard. We have several unread, pristine, (for their age), copies, for sale at £20, plus £2.96 postage and packing. Please DM or email us if you’d like to own one of these.


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