Kate Manchester of Edible Communities interviews grass farmer Joel Salatin about new enterprises at Polyface Farm, acorn-fed pigs, and the “Sheer Ecstasy of being a Lunatic Farmer” (the title of his next book).
Salatin is the loudest and one of the most eccentric voices in sustainable agriculture today. His Polyface Farm was held up as the exemplar for intentional, organic food production by Michael Pollan in The Omnivore’s Dilemma, as well as the producers of Food, Inc., a widely released documentary about our broken food economy.
Joel tells Kate about new ventures at Polyface, including finding ways to bring “porcine temporary disturbance and successional freshness” to more of his land. In English, that means he’s letting his pigs feed on acorns in the woods, where they aerate and fertilize the soil, and eat plants that would otherwise compete with trees.
In an economic innovation, Salatin has extended an offer to a former apprentice to form an autonomous veggie-growing enterprise distributed by Polyface. This sort of business incubation model is a tremendous opportunity for a young farmer. Hopefully other progressive grass farmers such as Mark Kimball at Essex Farm can provide similar opportunities.
Kate and Joel then take a moment to talk about people’s food choices. The two chide those who characterize the organic food movement as elitist, and Joel makes the point that people need to “stop being victims” when it comes to making better food choices.
Hailing from a food desert, I disagree somewhat. I recently moved to Vermont (the land of local milk and honey) from Jacksonville, Florida, which up until¬† three years ago was a city that took 40 minutes to drive across, held a population of close to a million, and had exactly zero local farms. In 2007, things changed when Brian and Kristin Lapinski started Down to Earth Farm.
Apart from these brave pioneers, there was nothing a non-gardener could do to get local food of any kind. Not to mention urban residents, who deal with a stereotypical slew of problems from industrial contamination to decaying houses–plus being unable to get decent groceries.
While it is always true that people can find new ways to be empowered, we can’t forget all the built-in challenges facing populations for whom choices are limited by factors beyond their control.
For the full interview, go to Edible Radio: “broadcasting edible stories from local communities”.