Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On the Farm with Joel Salatin

Found this in the Richmond Times while researching another story. Joel is a definately a pioneer in the local food movement and proof that we can grow food differently. This is a good read, hope you enjoy!

On the farm with Joel Salatin (Added: December 11, 2011)
Alternative farmer and author Joel Salatin says returning to the simple life is perfect antidote for today's fast-paced times. (more) 0 Ratings | 276 Video Views Post a Comment or Rate this Video
» View More Videos
Next Image > < Previous Image Credit: BILL LOHMAN Alternative farming pioneer Joel Salatin raises pigs, cattle and chickens, among other things, at his Polyface Farm in Augusta County. Alternative farming pioneer Joel Salatin raises pigs, cattle and chickens, among other things, at his Polyface Farm in Augusta County. Credit: BILL LOHMAN The Polyface Farm in Augusta County owned by alternative farming pioneer Joel Salatin where he raises pigs, cattle and chickens, among other things. Credit: BILL LOHMAN Alternative farming pioneer Joel Salatinhas written a new book, "Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People and a Better World." Credit: BILL LOHMAN 1 By: Bill Lohmann Richmond Times-Dispatch Published: December 11, 2011 Updated: December 11, 2011 - 12:00 AM » 1 Comments | Post a Comment SWOOPE -- Last summer, Joel Salatin and his wife, Teresa, were eating breakfast at their farmhouse in Augusta County when they realized they were not alone: a couple with two children — strangers — were standing on their back porch. "They're peering in the kitchen window, saying, 'Here's where they live! Here's where they live!' " Salatin recalled with a laugh. Salatin is far from an A-list celebrity, but in some circles — farmers and foodies, in particular — he's as famous as they come. His Polyface Farms is on a quiet country road west of Staunton, but many people find their way here, usually to buy fresh meat or eggs, or to see how he does what he does. Rarely, though, do they come to watch him eat breakfast. Salatin, 54, has become the face of the alternative farming movement, the plain-talking antidote to industrial agribusiness. He has been cast as hero in food-related documentaries ("Food Inc.") and books (Michael Pollan's "Ominvore's Dilemma"). He gallivants around the world — he's on the road 140 days a year — talking about his pastured chickens, grass-fed cattle and the pigs he sends into the woods to forage for acorns. Like a pied piper, he encourages others to come along, for the good of their food, their families and their planet. It's heady stuff for someone who self-deprecatingly characterizes himself as "a peasant with a pitchfork" whose primary crop is grass. Whatever fame he has achieved goes in the closet with the suitcase when he returns home. Influential as he is on the road, he's just one of the crew at Polyface, toting feed, digging postholes and cutting wood. The dirt under his fingernails represents a badge of honor as, in a way, does the "Steve" patch stitched to his ancient work shirt. Steve? "It's just a shirt from down at the thrift store," he said during a late-November interview at his farm. "We don't care what names are on them. They cost 50 cents, and when they wear out you just use them for rags." To Salatin, that's just normal, which also happens to be the thrust of his new book, "Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People and a Better World." It's his eighth book, but the first one he's not self-published. Center Street, a New York publisher with a Park Avenue address, is betting the folksy but outspoken Salatin will appeal to a broad audience longing for simpler times. * * * * * "I enjoy the theater" of media interviews and the speaking circuit, Salatin said as his all-terrain vehicle bumped along a dirt road on his farm. "But, man, do I enjoy getting out there and just grubbing and sweating. "My calluses are still plenty good and hard." Salatin is not an easy man to categorize. He's a champion of the local food movement, natural farming and self-reliance; he's no fan of pesticides and man-made fertilizers, government regulations and the wasteful ways of modern society. A graduate of Bob Jones University, a conservative Christian institution, he is welcomed warmly as a speaker at liberal outposts such as the University of California-Berkeley. His faith is deep, his politics well to the right and he's something of a tree-hugger. He's gregarious, but not in an acquiescent way. He's blunt and opinionated; he says more of us should raise chickens instead of parakeets. For those struggling to label him, Salatin saves them the trouble, describing himself as "a Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer." "I have a really odd constituency," he said. "I'm loved and hated by everybody." Matthew J. Lohr, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which represents farmers large and small, sometimes agrees with Salatin, and sometimes doesn't. "We absolutely agree on many core values, chief among them the importance of home-grown agriculture," Lohr said. "His low-impact methods appeal to many people who prefer food grown under certain production practices. Joel has raised the consciousness of many people across this nation about the importance of farmers and of buying locally and eating seasonally. We thank him for that." * * * * * Salatin was 4 when his parents moved to Swoope, acquiring a farm that was overused, under-loved and visibly worn out. Shale poked through where lush grass should have been. But the Salatins couldn't be too choosy. They had come from Venezuela, where they had tried farming — his father worked for an American oil company as an accountant, which is how he wound up in Venezuela — but they lost their farm and their savings to political unrest, and returned to the United States for a fresh start. Though his parents never made a living from farming, they nurtured the property back to health by focusing on soil development and composting. His father developed a portable electric fence system that allowed him to move grazing animals from one patch of pasture to another, proving beneficial to the animals and the land. Joel Salatin took to farming immediately. At age 10, he managed his first flock of chickens and started an egg business. He wanted to farm, but wasn't convinced he could make a living. After college, where he majored in English and honed his debate skills, he returned to live at the farm but took a job in town as a newspaper reporter at The News Leader of Staunton. In 1982, having saved a small sum from living with his parents, he and Teresa took a leap of faith: He quit the paper and gave full-time farming a try. "It was about three years until we looked at each other and realized, 'This is going to work,' " Salatin said. "We weren't making much money. Just enough to live on. But it was working." National attention was about the furthest thing from his mind, but it started knocking at his door. In the late 1980s, a writer from the Stockman Grass Farmer magazine attended a field day at Polyface, liked what he saw of Salatin's approach to farming and wrote about it. Before long, Salatin was writing a monthly column for the magazine. Then came invitations to make public speeches. There seemed to be a genuine hunger for information about the sort of small-scale farming he was doing. He started getting phone calls from farmers and would-be farmers. He wrote a manual, thinking that might stop the calls. He cranked out 40 pages on his typewriter about raising pastured poultry, made photocopies, clipped together booklets — and sold 1,000 of them. All that did was lead to more speaking invitations and more books. "Joel Salatin is the alternative food industry's true pioneer," said Allan Nation, editor of the Stockman Grass Farmer. "He has never been afraid to leave the comforts of the fort to expand the frontier for everyone who is following him. When things go wrong he's quick to warn others, and when things go right he's never been afraid of spurring competition for himself by telling others about his success. He is one truly exceptional person." Salatin still farms the way he always has, but he's no longer small-scale. Besides the 550 acres of Polyface, he leases eight other farms to accommodate his multitude of chickens (20,000 broilers and 3,000 to 4,000 layers) and 1,000 head of cattle. His son, Daniel, manages the day-to-day operations, and Polyface apprentices run the satellite farms as subcontractors. Polyface has become an economic engine driving business to other small farmers in the area, Salatin said. The Salatins refuse to ship their food long distances. They prefer selling direct to customers at the farm or through buying clubs across Virginia, although their products are in select stores. He finds farmers markets too inefficient for his taste. Too many "nibblers," as he calls some shoppers. He wants to see people "really buying their food" at farmers markets, not just "little ribboned bottles of condiments and cute bow-tied mini-breads," and seriously move away from supermarkets. Salatin and his wife live in the house he grew up in, his mother lives next door, his grown children live on the farm, and his grandchildren roam the place as he did. Four generations at Polyface is perhaps Salatin's happiest harvest. * * * * * Polyface is open to visitors, who are welcome to shop, look around the farm, even watch the processing of poultry if they wish. Salatin says it's a wonderful idea for people to have a "visceral connection" to their food. He says people must take a greater interest in their food, where it comes from and what it takes to grow. He says they should get to know a farmer, grow vegetables and stock their pantry. Salatin says Americans should change their eating habits — starting with not eating as much processed food and clamoring for out-of-season fruit and vegetables — and become more self-sufficient. "I've met people in the middle of pretty big cities who have a freezer and a large pantry," he said. "They show you their dried goods and all the things they've gotten locally. It's available. You have to plan for it. You have to think about it, and you have to prioritize your life. "It's a mind-set that says, 'Our family is going to re-establish normalcy in our life.' "

No comments:

Post a Comment