Joel Salatin: How to Eat Meat, and Respect it too.
Yes! Magazine - March 27, 2011
Joel Salatin is no simple farmer. When he speaks, he at times takes on the air of a Southern preacher, philosopher, heretic, businessman, activist, or ecological engineer. Since Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma and the film Food, Inc. brought him to fame as the man who raises meat the right way, Salatin has become a sought-after speaker. But he still spends most of his time on his rural Virginia farm—with the chickens, baling hay, moving cows from one paddock to another. He is a self-described “Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic” and has a penchant for perplexingly long catchphrases. It is perhaps Salatin’s unwillingness to compartmentalize that has made him such a compelling moral voice for the food movement. For Salatin, farming is inseparable from ethics, politics, faith, or ecology.
A local diet would have an indigenous flair. If you're along the coast, you'd eat more seafood. If you're inland, you would eat more herbivore and vegetables.
Salatin’s farm, Polyface or “the farm of many faces,” has been in his family for 50 years. At its heart is a practice called “holistic range management,” where cattle mimic the grazing patterns of wild herd animals. The strategy cuts feedlots out of the equation altogether and stores carbon deep in the roots and soil of Polyface’s lush perennial pasture.
There’s a missionary quality to Salatin’s farming. He speaks of his work as a ministry and as healing. He calls his animals “co-laborers” and “dance partners” and says he respects each animal’s distinctiveness. Who better to articulate an ethic of how, when, and whether we should raise and eat our fellow animals?
Madeline Ostrander: What do you think a sustainable diet should look like?
Joel Salatin: What would a sustainable diet look like? Oh, my!
Ostrander: Because it’s often talked about as a vegetarian diet.
Salatin: No, not at all. I think we need to go back to localized diets, and in North America, yes, we can really grow perennials, so there would be a lot of herbivore—lamb, beef—in a diet. And our fruits and vegetables, which have a high water content, would be grown close to home, preferably in our backyards. In 1945, 40 percent of all vegetables consumed in the United States were grown in backyards.
I think a local diet would have an indigenous flair. If you’re along the coast, you’d eat more seafood. If you’re inland, you would eat more herbivore and vegetables. If you’re in Florida, you would eat more citrus. Historically, it’s not about the relationship of meat to vegetables or whatever. It’s more about, what does this area grow well with a minimum of inputs?
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Green giants: the eco power list
The Guardian - January 16, 2011
We all agree that the planet is in a perilous position. But what is the best way to save it? We name the 20 activists, filmmakers, writers, politicians and celebrities who will be setting the global environmental agenda in the coming year
There's a certain rock 'n' roll energy about Joel Salatin of Polyface – a "multi-generational, pasture-based, beyond organic, local-market farm" in Virginia. The "lunatic" prefix is one he applied to himself (just in case you thought us unspeakably rude), because he is apt to come out with statements such as: "Industrial food never asks whether the pig is happy. The pig-ness of the pig never enters the conversation." But his surprisingly sane beliefs are finding plenty of traction internationally. The debate he has generated goes far beyond the usual "conventional versus organic" conversation (he deems "organic" irrelevant). Ultimately it's all about the soil. "The soil is the only thread upon which civilisation can exist. If a person could ever realise that our existence depends on literally inches of active aerobic microbial life on terra firma, we might begin to appreciate the ecological umbilical to which we are all still attached," Salatin told treehugger.com. "The food industry, I'm convinced, actually believes we don't need soil to live." Which is where the real lunacy lies.
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'Lunatic Farmer' to Preach the Word at Sustainable Food Conference
The Union - January 1, 2011
Joel Salatin doesn't mind being thought of as a lunatic. He revels in it, giving lectures on “The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer.”
Now, Nevada County audiences can share in the lunacy when Salatin speaks at the Sustainable Local Food and Farm Conference on Jan. 22, an event organized by Nevada County Grown to highlight sustainable farming and the importance of growing and consuming nutrient-dense food.
Salatin and his Virginia spread, Polyface Farms, vaulted into the international spotlight after being featured in Michael Pollan's book, “The Omnivore's Dilemma,” and in the movie “Food, Inc.”
Polyface has been widely praised by sustainable-farming advocates and foodies for its commitment to Earth- and animal-friendly practices, including rotational grass grazing, humane treatment of animals and local processing. Salatin now spends a great deal of time traveling around the world, giving speeches and presentations on how to copy his success; his son Daniel now oversees the day-to-day operations at the farm.
“It's really funny to be the ugly stepchild for 20 years and wake up one day and be chic,” Salatin said in a phone interview; he had just returned from a trip to New Zealand.
“I certainly didn't aspire to anything like this,” he said of his new-found notoriety. “I just wanted to farm full time. The bittersweet part is, it's a shame I'm uncommon.”
Salatin sees the hand of God guiding his life to this point, with the influence of his father's “out-of-the-box visionary savvy” and his mother's theatrics shaping him in childhood and a short stint as a reporter teaching him “how to leverage media exposure.”
He firmly believes he might not have been successful if he “had gone the (conventional) track and taken ag classes, gone a less flamboyant route ... I'm very aware it's the gift of communication. There are plenty of good farms out there. What's made us different is our desire to communicate.”
Diversity and transparency hallmarks of Polyface Farms
One huge difference — for a commercial farm — is the diversity of products. Polyface has an annual average population of 6,500 laying hens (for eggs), 24,000 broilers (for meat), 1,000 head of cattle, 200 hogs, 500 turkeys and 250 rabbits, according to its website.
“We've mixed it all,” Salatin said. “That diversity, and the scale that we operate at, is unique.”
Another big asset is Salatin's willingness to treat his farm as a viable business and hire sufficient help, he said.
“We're business people, not just farmers — but we run the business with a vision of healing the planet,” he said, before adding, “If your vision can be accomplished in your lifetime, it's too small.”
Farming can be a tough business to learn, Salatin acknowledged.
“A lot of people who are coming to (farming) think it has to be easy, but there's a lot of knowledge (needed),” he said. “Farming is all how to herd cattle and fix fence and run a chain saw ... People often are unprepared for the skills that are necessary to pull this off.”
Prospective farmers “are coming into a food climate that is better on one hand, because there's much more consumer interest,” Salatin continued. “But the negative is an incredibly bloated regulatory climate.”
Salatin believes farms need to highlight the fact that they are “local and transparent,” rather than “organic.”
“Now that the government owns the term (organic), it has become adulterated,” he said. “What is beginning to separate the players is transparency — and that's hard when you're a global entity. We have a 24-7 open-door policy; that's our degree of transparency. It makes us stay on our toes.”
Salatin fervently believes that smaller-scale farming is the necessary future for America.
“There are 35 million acres of lawn in the United States, if we want to just look at land (that could) produce food,” he said. “There are 26 million acres devoted to housing and feeding recreational horses. Those two combined are enough to feed the country. And we haven't even talked about the golf courses.”
Huge hurdles stop small farms from penetrating commercial markets, largely due to the “systemic hurdles of bureaucracy,” he said.
Salatin offered up Polyface as an example.
To sell his meat to a chain restaurant, he has to use the chain's commercial trucks. But to do that, he needs a product liability policy that he said is both very expensive and difficult to obtain — and has 17 pages of “rules” to abide by.
Many small farms choose to step outside the system — which means they lose their ability to leverage any economics of scale; that is what leads to higher costs to the consumer.
But all Salatin's costs are figured into his price to the consumer, Salatin said.
In contrast, the costs of cheap food are enormous and hidden from consumers: Pollution in the creation and use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers that boost production; food-borne illnesses; disease caused by poor nutrition or the ingestion of agricultural additives; displacement caused by erosion and deforestation; and even immigration, as farmers in poor nations leave the countryside in search of better lives.
“Those aren't paid for at the cash register, and that creates an extremely unfair price,” Salatin said. “We're very aggressive about telling people we have the cheapest food — you're just paying for it up front.”
And, he points out, his clients can buy a pound of his premium beef for the cost of a Happy Meal.
“If you buy raw food and fix it yourself, you can eat like a king,” Salatin said. “Processed food is expensive. ... It's a matter of priorities. Thirty years ago, Americans spent 18 percent per capita on food and 9 percent on health care. Today, that is reversed. It begs the questions of whether there's a correlation.”
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The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer
Permaculture Research Institute of Australia - December 1, 2010
by Kym Kruse
RegenAG, its providers and community partners are proud to be hosting a series of 2-day workshops and public talks with “the world’s best farmer”, Joel Salatin. The remaining 2-day workshops are now booked out, as are some of the public talks, however there is still a chance to meet the self described “lunatic farmer” at one of the remaining public events. Details below.
Four young families from across Australia have teamed up to create a not for profit organization called RegenAG.
We have a view to transform agriculture & community through educational programs in farm & community regeneration.
“Our charter within RegenAG is to provide the potential for people to be informed about the regenerative economy, whether it involves their work in agriculture, land management, corporate life, domestic services, manufacturing or other activities that are within the domain of humans…”
This year we will have had over 1300 farmers attend our courses throughout Australia and more than 2000 people attend our public talks with Joel. We certainly seemed to have struck a chord and farmers within our bio-regions are responding.
Joel Salatin of PolyFace Farms is a world-leading example of how a small family farm can become an extremely diverse and profitable local food producer, and how the benefits of local food systems can create resilience, stability and abundance for both local farmers and the wider community. Joel brings a lifetime of natural and profitable farming experience to this, his first Australian lecture series.
Featured in Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and in the films Fresh and Food Inc., Joel and his family at Polyface Farms exemplify successful small-scale farming and the growing relocalisation movement.
Today Polyface Farms arguably represents America’s premier non-industrial food production oasis. Regarding Nature’s design as the best pattern for the biological world, the Salatins learned to arrange the facets of farm life so they don’t operate as independent operations, but rather a system of intertwined cycles.
Disregarding conventional wisdom, the Salatins planted trees, built huge compost piles, dug ponds, move cows daily with portable electric fencing, and utilize portable sheltering systems to produce all their animals on perennial prairie polycultures.
An electrifying speaker, Joel is also the author of six books including "Family Friendly Farming", "Salad Bar Beef", "Everything I Want To Do is Illegal – war stories from the local food front", and his latest, “The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer“. He is a full time farmer of the highly successful Polyface Farms, and recipient of the Heinz International Award for Environmental Leadership.
The remaining public talks will be held in Brisbane, Cairns & Mudgee. At these talks, Joel will challenge participants to design and participate in pathways to relocalisation, both as producers and consumers. We also have the pleasure of having Costa, from Costa’s Gardening Odyssey on SBS coming to the remaining three events to introduce Joel.
Don’t miss the opportunity to meet the man who coined such classic phrases as "allow the chicken to express its ‘chickenness’!"
Read the original article at Permaculture.org.au.
Good Things Come in Small Farming Practices
Sydney Morning Herald - November 20, 2010
By Helen Greenwood
Fear and fertility are the two biggest stumbling blocks to Australian farmers shifting their agricultural model from industrial to artisan, writes Helen Greenwood.
''AUSTRALIAN farmers are looking for the same thing that American farmers need, and that is to farm profitably, and build soil and heal the land while farming.''
Joel Salatin, hailed by Time magazine for his prize-winning, pioneering work as a sustainable farmer, is in Sydney to convince farmers that small-scale food producers can be financially successful and rejuvenate the environment.
''That's not happening for many farmers,'' Salatin says. ''Many farmers are going out of business and there's a lot of land degradation. The fact is that industrial agriculture has destroyed a lot of land and destroyed a lot of the food and a lot of the health of people around the world.''
Salatin, 53, the patriarch of Polyface farm in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, and well-known for his Oscar-nominated film Food Inc, knows his message about small farming is up against conventional wisdom and the deep pockets of international agribusinesses.
''Our conventional farming neighbours [in Virginia] really believe that if we don't vaccinate and medicate, drug and corn-feed cows we are like Typhoid Mary, we are going to spread disease that will destroy the planet's food supply,'' he says. ''They're being fed pseudo science.
''The large corporate global agendas buy the advertising in the media, they buy positions in parliament and agriculture boards and everything else, and that message just pummels people every day until people actually believe it.''
Salatin says he understands the problems of local farmers. ''Australian farmers are facing low commodity prices and a lack of in-house or in-sourced fertility. In other words, fertility is something you buy from outside rather than fertility being generated on-site.''
Put simply, farmers are not composting. They are not doing what the rest of us are being urged to do in our backyards.
''Composting isn't as sexy as applying petrochemicals from a great big tractor with a boom and wearing a nice HAZMAT suit and gas mask,'' Salatin says.
More seriously, he says our industrial food system is based on chemical technology developed for weapons in World War II. ''The reason industrial food took off is not because we were short of food but because there was cheap left-over stock-piles of N P and K [nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous] after World War II, the materials we make bombs out of,'' he says.
Salatin, who has written seven books, including Everything I Want To Do is Illegal: War Stories From the Local Food Front, wants to change fundamental farming practices. ''Cows should not eat grain,'' he says. ''Yet up to 50 per cent of the grain grown in the world goes to these herbivores which aren't supposed to eat grain anyway.
''If you shift herbivores to a natural diet of perennial plants the way wildebeest on the Serengeti or Cape buffaloes in Botswana graze, not only do you feed the same amount of animals but you do it in a cyclical fashion. The electric fence allows us, for the first time in human history, to manage large herds of herbivores like nature managed them.''
Salatin argues that farmers can build economies of scale in local food systems and feed the planet while we ''shorten the chain of custody between field and fork''.
''There is no question that there are other ways to feed people on a mass scale. We generate plenty of nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus and other things throughout the world to maintain and regenerate soil fertility, and feed everybody on the planet.
''What happens is that through industrial agriculture, animals are concentrated in large and small facilities at a scale that their manure, which should be a blessing to the soil, becomes a liability.''
Despite the heavy opposing guns, this crusading farmer does not see himself as fighting an unwinnable battle.
''It doesn't matter,'' says Salatin. ''Truth is truth. Whether our side actually wins or not before the earth is destroyed, I can't answer that and I don't have a clue. Whether or not people accept it doesn't change the truth of the message.
''At the end of the day, it all comes back to the soil. You and I and every other human being … depend on literally a couple of inches of earth for our existence. The most dangerous notion is that we can continue creating fertile soil out of petrochemicals.''
Read the original article on Sydney Morning Herald's Website.
Force of Nature
G Magazine - November 15, 2010
A well-known renegade of the US farming industry, Joel Salatin, visits Australia to share his passion for letting nature do its own thing.
Celebrity chefs are a dime a dozen these days, but Joel Salatin is perhaps the world's first celebrity farmer. The charismatic star of recent documentary Food, Inc. is an outspoken advocate for small-scale sustainable farming and an unapologetic critic of government complicity in the demise of nutritious food and the rise of unjust factory farming in the United States.
Here is a man who outsmarted the authorities and, having found a loophole in the law, continues to butcher poultry on his own farm. People now drive hundreds of kilometres to buy his chicken, rabbit, pork and beef as he sells only from his farm gate and at a few farmers' markets near his property, Polyface Farm, in the Shenandoah Valley about 240 km south-west of Washington D.C.
He first caught the world's attention when Michael Pollan wrote about him in The Omnivore's Dilemma. Now Salatin travels the US, Canada and Australia, inspiring farmers to bite the bullet and commit to the hard-work, high-reward style of farming that has made him, in some circles, a household name.
Salatin sits today at a table in one of Melbourne's most fashionable restaurants. When asked where he'd like to eat he had quipped, "Anywhere but McDonald's". Dressed in a smart sports jacket and dark trousers he looks like a businessman or salesperson. "We are professional farmers," Salatin says in a folksy accent that belies a steel-trap mind. "We take a bath and comb our hair when we come to the city because now we're on their turf, our customer's turf. And we have to respect them. They have a pocket full of money and you don't pick someone's pocket by bad-mouthing them. You hug them first." As he says this, his face erupts in an impossibly infectious smile. "We must do this otherwise it will appear only the lunatic fringe, in their hemp shirts, can feed people, in this 'alternative way'. We are serious farmers who simply want to follow another course."
Read the whole article at G Magazine.com.