The Lean Micro Farm

How to Get Small, Embrace Local, Live Better, and Work Less

Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing

“Ben Hartman is a true innovator for the small farm.”—Curtis Stone, author of The Urban Farmer

It’s time to think big about small farms. Award-winning author and “green leader” (Grist) Ben Hartman shares practical how-to tips, personal stories, and surprising examples of cutting-edge farmers and innovators around the world to show us how.

In the early 1970s, US Agriculture Secretary Earl Butz infamously commanded farmers to “get big or get out.” In The Lean Micro Farm, author Ben Hartman rejects that disastrous suggestion and instead takes up the charge of the late agrarian thinker Gene Logsdon: “Get small and stay in.”

Taking inspiration from the groundbreaking ideas of E. F. Schumacher and Mahatma Gandhi, The Lean Micro Farm shows how small, hyperlocal farms can be both ecologically and economically superior to industrial-scale operations geared toward export and commodity markets.

The Lean Micro Farm details the author’s remarkable journey to downsize his farm from one acre to a third of an acre in an effort to prioritize family and community over work, all without taking a pay cut. In addition, Hartman profiles six innovative farmers from across the globe who embody this “get small” mindset. These pioneering farmers show all of us a path toward resilience in the face of supply chain disruption, globalization, and climate change. They model a gentler, more ecological approach to farming that produces less waste and uses less plastic, petroleum, and fertilizer.

Like his previous two books, The Lean Farm and The Lean Farm Guide to Growing Vegetables, Hartman’s The Lean Micro Farm doesn’t just explain why smaller is better, it shows readers exactly how it can be done with step-by-step guides on how to turn a profit from a tiny, but productive, parcel of farmland. Readers will find not just philosophical justifications for a minimalist approach to agriculture but also actionable information for starting your own profitable micro farm, including:

  • A description of the “deep mulch” method for building fertility
  • Instructions on two-step bed flipping to increase production on a small footprint
  • A guide for choosing essential tools and technologies “with a human face”
  • An easy-to-follow process for making your micro farm lean and efficient
  • A detailed plan for selling $20,000 worth of produce from your backyard


It’s time, Hartman makes clear, to pivot to a new kind of farming—one that builds upon ancestral knowledge, nourishes communities, and puts human joy, not technology, at its center.

“Hartman has revolutionized his methods, cut down his work hours dramatically, and shrunk the size of his farm, all while making a better income.”—Civil Eats

Reviews and Praise

  • “Oftentimes, the desire in farming is to open up more land, grow more crops, and get bigger. In The Lean Micro Farm, Ben Hartman doesn’t just illuminate the enormous potential in getting small—for communities, for the environment, for the profitability of farms—he lays out a roadmap for how to achieve it.

    “As Ben eloquently demonstrates, small doesn’t mean less, small can just as easily mean more. Small can mean better. Small can mean, in the immortal words of economist E. F. Schumacher, beautiful. More importantly, when the desire is to grow more and earn more, sometimes getting smaller is actually the answer.

    “I was delighted and a bit terrified to pick up Ben Hartman’s new book, because every time I read something Ben wrote, significant portions of my farm change. And The Lean Micro Farm is no exception. Chapter by chapter you see the ways in which shrinking their farm has led Ben and his wife Rachel to a happier, healthier, more sustainable, more localized farm without risking income. Each section is filled with examples and strategies for how they got small and what it looks like in practice. It’s well-written, thought-provoking, and potentially life-altering. I immediately found myself penciling out ways to make our farm smaller.

    “So fair warning, this book will change your farm.”

    —Jesse Frost, author of The Living Soil Handbook

More Reviews and Praise

  • The Lean Micro Farm is a game changer for farming and food production. With well-thought-out principles and innovative techniques for planning and maintaining profitable tiny farms, Ben Hartman opens the door to a future of micro farms everywhere, rather than fewer and fewer large farms in rural locations only. This easy-to-read book is full of time-saving and ecologically sustainable techniques, such as flipping beds of both short and tall-growing crops with minimal soil disturbance so that multiple crops can be grown well each year in a small space. Ben’s tested methods can be applied to gardens and homesteads as well as small farms. Thank you, Ben, for bringing the ideas of my hero, E. F. Schumacher, into the 21st century and showing that they are as relevant as they were when his book, Small Is Beautiful, was first published!”

    —Helen Atthowe, Woodleaf Farm, Montana; author of The Ecological Farm

  • “Ben is a shining example of the powerful ideas and efficient methods he describes. He has a way of making things simple and a simple way of explaining them! Small is beautiful and small makes sense, now more than ever. Ben’s one third of an acre is understandable, achievable, and hugely productive of nutritious food. It’s my pleasure to learn more about and endorse his approach. Here’s to health with Hartman.”

    —Charles Dowding, author of No Dig Gardening, No Dig Cookbook, and No Dig Children's Gardening Book

  • “We urgently need to be experimenting with new ways of producing food locally, keeping an eye on future uncertainties, present realities, and past wisdom. Few have done so with more thoughtfulness and rigorous practicality than Ben Hartman, as showcased in this excellent book. I wish its treasure trove of hard-earned insight had been available when I was starting my own small market garden. It’s sure to help a new generation of small-scale growers hit the ground running.”

    —Chris Smaje, author of Saying NO to a Farm-Free Future

  • “In the field, Ben never zags. The crops are in perfect alignment. Zagging would be wasteful motion. However, in a world that’s obsessed with scaling, whether the business is technology or ‘never-enough farming,’ Ben has zagged by getting small. For the sake of his family and community, Ben simply wants to live better and work less. Don’t we all? In this book, he explains how to achieve that goal by getting small with lean thinking. In other words, he explains how the philosophy of ‘just enough’ is a zag we should all consider putting into practice.”

    —Josh Howell, president and executive team leader, Lean Enterprise Institute

  • “I am immensely grateful to have come across this book and its older siblings—they have helped us so much on our farm. The mindset of doing better instead of growing more is the best advice a young farmer can receive. In this new book you will be immersed in the ideas of great thinkers like Schumacher, Pareto, Gandhi, as well as Japanese philosophy, while also receiving concrete steps to be productive and profitable. Clay Bottom Farm is the most productive small farm we have visited, measured in income by square meter, and we are still trying to catch up.”

    —Francisco Vio, Huerto Cuatro Estaciones, Aysén, Chile

About The Author

About Ben Hartman

Ben Hartman grew up on a corn and soybean farm in Indiana and graduated college with degrees in English and philosophy. Ben and his wife, Rachel Hershberger, own and operate Clay Bottom Farm in Goshen, Indiana, where they make their living growing and selling specialty crops on less than one acre. The farm has twice won Edible Michiana’s Reader’s Choice award. The Lean Farm, Ben’s first book, won the Shingo Institute’s prestigious Publication Award. In 2017 Ben was named one of Grist’s fifty emerging green leaders in the United States. Clay Bottom Farm has developed an online course in lean farming, which can be found at



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Books By Ben Hartman

Pages:272 pages
Book Art:Full-color photographs and illustrations throughout
Size: 7 x 10 inch
Publisher:Chelsea Green Publishing
US Pub. Date: November 30, 2023
UK Pub. Date: January 25, 2024
Paperback: 9781645022046

Available In/Retail Price

Paperback, 272 pages, $34.95USD, £30.00GBP