Seedsmen Hall of Fame
Honoring Horticulturalists

Eliot Coleman
by Mike Dunton

On a Saturday in February of 2000, I was fortunate to hear Eliot Coleman give a presentation entitled "The Four Season Harvest".  Afterwards I purchased a copy of his research document, "The Winter Harvest Manual" and even got him to sign my copy.

At the age of 26, Eliot Coleman read Helen and Scott Nearing's (the pioneers of the back-to-the-land "good life" movement) book, "Living the Good Life" and it changed the course of his life.  He planted his first garden in 1965 following the methods the Nearlings described.

In 1968, he sought out the Nearings and purchased sixty acres from them. This land was everything that he suggests not to farm - steep, stony, heavily treed, and very acidic. Gradually, he cleared acre after acre and his house had neither electricity nor a phone. For ten years, he and his first wife Sue grew and sold organic vegetables.

Mr. Coleman has written extensively on the subject of organic agriculture since 1975.  As a commercial market gardener and lecturer on organic gardening methods, he has practiced and perfected his methods and skills.

Although one of the primary people behind the early, grassroots organic revolution, once the federal government took ownership of the term through the USDA's National Organic Program, he declared:

"'Organic' is now dead as a meaningful synonym for the highest quality food. Responsible growers need to identify not only that our food is grown to higher, more considered standards, but also that it is much fresher because it is grown right where it is sold."

Mr. Coleman continues to promote small-scale organic farming practices and sustainable agriculture. One of his central principles is "small is better", advocating business growth through improved production and marketing, rather than physical expansion.  He also suggests that consumers forge direct relationships with farmers—"know your farmer".

In the early 90's, he bought back his Harborside, Maine farm from his ex-wife and began farming it again as the Four Seasons Farm.

Now married to fellow garden writer Barbara Damrosch, they raise lettuce, carrots, radishes and other salad vegetables throughout year round in his unheated greenhouses in Maine and market them locally.  Unlike the typical farmer, he cultivates six acres of land year-round in one of the country's coldest climates.

He is located on the Web at

Works by Eliot Coleman:

Books by Barbara Damrosch:

  • "The Garden Primer: Second Edition" is described as the most comprehensive, entertaining, down-to-earth one-volume gardening reference ever, and highly praised.

  • "The Four Season Farm Gardener's Cookbook" is two books in one. It’s a complete four-season cookbook with 120 recipes from Barbara, a master cook as well as master gardener, who shows how to maximize the fruits—and vegetables—of your labors, from Stuffed Squash Blossom Fritters to Red Thai Curry with Fall Vegetables to Hazelnut Torte with Summer Berries.

    And it’s a step-by-step garden guide that works no matter how big or small your plot, with easy-to-follow instructions and plans for different gardens. It covers size of the garden, nourishing the soil, planning ahead, and the importance of rotating crops—yes, even in your backyard. And, at the core, individual instructions on the crops, from the hardy and healthful cabbage family to fourteen essential culinary herbs. Eating doesn’t get any more local than your own backyard.



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