The Market Gardener’s Masterclass: A Review
If you heard the Jean-Martin Fortier episode of the podcast, JM offered to let us take a peek at his Market Gardener’s Masterclass and give our thoughts.
Over the past couple of weeks, Jackson and I cruised around the masterclass so we could give you an idea of what’s in it and what we think about it: the good, the bad, and the dirty.
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Accompanied by many stellar supporting PDFs and charts—as well as Q&As with JM—this is a video-centric course with an emphasis on (currently) 25 different crops. The course gets into irrigation on a basic level, crop planning in great detail, nursery and plant propagation, the fundamentals of working with living soils, tools, and a lot more. There is a discussion forum attached to each section to ask questions, and they are addressed personally by JM or by one of his crew members (primarily a bright gentlemen and crew member named Dany Bouchard). We are told they are working on tutorials for the next season (though some of which may not be ready until the fall of 2019). These are the some of the forthcoming courses:
Expanding the Nursery
Field Tomatoes (there is already a course on Tunnel tomatoes)
There is a course curriculum here that will give you the gist.
The videos are well-produced, but not overly produced, so there is not a lot time wasted watching fancy graphics or b-rolls. Indeed, the videos are entertaining to watch but are not explicitly entertainment. They are full of extremely practical information on growing food, and I applaud whoever edited the videos as almost every little side note that JM makes comes with a video clip showing a real-life example of it. To emphasize, when JM says spinach can survive a hard frost, a clip of spinach in a hard frost is on the screen. As a YouTube creator I can confidently say that these are well-beyond YouTube quality videos. Each one is much, much more well-produced, useful, and informative beyond what any one or two people could do on their own.
There is also an insane amount of knowledge casually peppering each video. You will be watching a video about arugula or carrots and JM will off-handedly give you a little hack about taking off certain parts of the rubber on his JP3 seeder to help him mark the rows. They are technical “Easter eggs” and there is—maybe—one or ten in every video. It makes each video that much more exciting to watch, even if it’s not a crop you necessarily aspire to grow.
I did not test out the mobile phone use-ability of the other courses I have seen inside of so this is by no means a comparison but The Market Gardener’s Masterclass is easily useable on an android and iPhone smartphone and iPad and I appreciate that as many of the classes I have “taken” in this course have been on the move, on my phone wherever I may be. Some, I have simply listened to while the video played in my pocket (more on this in the next section).
The supporting documentation, particularly on crop-by-crop production at FQT, is the best quality we’ve seen thus far. The emphasis of the course, in general, is crop planning and production for living soils. There are no this is how you should manage your employees or this is how you design a farm for maximum efficiency. The documentation is case in point. Each crop has between three (simple crops like arugula) and twenty five (like greenhouse tomatoes) detailed, step-by-step instructions that are straightforward, easy to read, and implement. More than just variety and spacing, JM outlines special considerations as well, like how beds are prepped for each crop, when to cover which crops to protect from certain pests, when to schedule cultivation or side-dressing, etc. The best crop practices alone may be worth it.
The price is what most people balk at about this course (or any of the courses, though JM’s is the most expensive of the market gardeners, to my knowledge). But honestly that $1,997 (also available at three monthly payments of $697), is not really something I feel inclined to criticize too harshly (though it is the reason I am not enrolled in any available courses—more below on that). This is a lifetime membership fee, so once you are in it, you are in it for life. And as we’ve said of other courses, it’s an investment in something that will only grow.
Does it have to grow to justify that price? It’s borderline for me. As I alluded to, that price is the reason I am not personally enrolled in this course (or any). I completely understand the number of folks employed required to maintain a course like this. which puts that price into perspective, but I am a relatively established farmer and haven’t had the budget for it as we continue to invest in infrastructure on our home farm. I am not alone in this.
I’ve known JM for a while now, I know how brilliant he is, but two grand is a big expense when you’re already building a farm. If you’re just starting out and can factor a masterclass or two into your start-up capital, great. You will be light-years ahead of yourself did you not have access to the course. If you already have debt and a farm, possibly kids, dreams of a vacation, that’s a little more challenging. However, having seen inside the course, I definitely see the value and the potential. It would certainly be nice to be in this masterclass during the building process. As the course grows, to be sure, $2000 will quickly become a steal. I didn’t know that before. I am fairly sure of it now.
But getting back to the criticisms, I want to be able to listen more easily (sans video) to the information. I want to be able to digest it in the field as I work almost like a podcast. Curtis Stone has done a good job of providing audio versions of each of his videos for his new From the Field content which has been one reason I have consumed so much of it—it’s just easy (full review coming soon). Videos are extremely helpful, but I don’t always have time to watch them. This will perhaps not be as big of a deal for those without young kids and who are just starting out, not yet full-time (or in the middle of Spring). For me, because so much of the course is in video (and should be, certainly) just getting through enough content to review it has been a challenge..
I should say, it’s also springtime here, to be fair. In the winter, I may have more time for the videos. Moreover, if I was listening to a tutorial and heard something I wanted to see, I still want/need to be able to refer to the videos.
Structurally and functionally this course is made to assist you. The viewer can consume the content from start to finish or jump around as desired. I found myself skipping around at first and then starting over and watching the videos (or reading the PDFs/spreadsheets provided) from the top as I started to discover more of those “Easter eggs” above.
I do not think this course is any more for beginners than it is for experienced growers—both will benefit equally. Yes, equally. I feel selfish for how much I have personally learned from reviewing this course... and I’ve been growing for nearly ten years.
I appreciate that, although this course is shot almost exclusively at La Ferme Des Quatre Temps, which is a truly (arguably literally) state-of-the-art farm, JM is not unaware of that and offers alternative options for bootstrapping on smaller scales.
Before you invest in this course or any, do your due diligence. On the course site, JM and his team recommend the same. They offer a money back guarantee but ask that you take your time, do your research, and choose the course that fits you and your goals best before signing up.
Who is this course right for? That’s a tough question to answer, but that’s because the answer is basically: anyone. If you are trying to do a full diet CSA, that may be a different story. There are no potatoes. No sweet corn tutorials. Nothing with animals. Otherwise, for most market growers, this course is going to be valuable.
I can see gaining a lot out of this course no matter your skill level, though even JM mentions in the intro that it is not meant to replace some amount of on-farm experience. We concur. This course should not be your apprenticeship. Start by getting your hands dirty—an internship, a job, something. This course is intended to be taken with some amount of experience and context. I will also reiterate that I’ve been growing for a fair while and can see how this course would elevate my game quite a bit in big and small ways—improving my irrigation, tunnel production, standardizing some of my crop practices, and so on.
JM brings a lot of experience and expertise to the table in this course while his production team brings it to life. Best of all, it’s only going to grow. It’s only going to get better. More people will contribute to the various forums. More courses will be added. It’s an exponentially expanding universe of material. It is, in true JM fashion, another really exceptional tool for the small-scale market gardener.
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