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Can Small-Scale Sustainable Farming Feed the World?

Farmer Champions ‘Moral Farming’ as a Better Way to Raise Food

This one comes to us from the Farm to Consumer Blog (Check it out HERE.)

Pasture raised chickens feedingBy David Grant | ABC News

Meet the best, loudest (and only) Christian-libertarian-capitalist-environmentalist-lunatic farmer on the face of planet Earth.

Joel Salatin, self-professed owner of that lengthy honorific, has a personality bigger than the Grain Belt and a genius for farming that has made him a glib, brilliant prophet to a growing movement of back-to-nature farmers from California to Swoope, Va. (pop. 1,326), where his 550-acre Polyface Farm rests at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Mr. Salatin’s agricultural preaching has influenced food author and journalist Michael Pollan (“Omnivore’s Dilemma”) and earned him a prominent spot in the documentary “Food, Inc.,” making waves worldwide.

What makes Salatin so powerful on the farming scene is a unique mix of ingenuity, faith, and business savvy.

Whether making farming lectures feel like religious revivals or handling customers’ questions at the family store, it’s this blend of agricultural potency and inspirational vision that enables him to gross roughly $2 million annually and stand at the front of a growing community of farmers that may look like quintessential American rustics but whose techniques are anything but traditional.

Farming Ecosystem Built on Christian Principles

On a foundation of Christian principles, Salatin has built a farming ecosystem where cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and rabbits interact ecologically in a way that goes beyond conservation.

“What we’re looking at is God’s design, nature’s template, and using that as a pattern to cut around and lay it down on a domestic model to duplicate that pattern that we see in nature,” Salatin says.

What that means for Polyface in practical terms is that the cattle graze different areas of pasture every day. Then chickens pick through the same fields, eating bugs and spreading cow manure before clucking back to mobile coops.

The farm’s pigs generate fertilizer by rooting around the floor of the barn, lured by sweet corn into aerating the mix of hay, cow manure, and wood chips. The finished compost is spread on fields. This process not only takes almost nothing out of the environment, it puts nutrients back in.

“We believe that the farm should be building ‘forgiveness’ into the ecosystem,” Salatin says. “What does that mean? That a more forgiving ecosystem is one that can better handle drought, flood, disease, pestilence.”

‘Is There a Righteous Way to Farm?’

Salatin concedes that when his father bought the farm in 1962, the family’s initial emphasis on sustainable farming had more to do with environmental concerns than faith convictions. But as the business evolved, Salatin began to see himself situated at a unique place in America’s moral conversation.

“We should at least be asking, Is there a righteous way to farm and an unrighteous way to farm? … The first goal is to at least get people to appreciate that how we farm is a moral question,” he says. “Once you get to that point, then you can actually discuss: What is a moral farm? What is a moral way to raise a chicken?”

How farm animals are treated on the majority of farms today dismays Salatin.

What Americans do to pigs, chickens, and cows speaks ill of the nation’s moral health, he says. “A culture that views its life from such a manipulative, disrespectful stance will soon view its citizens the same way and other cultures the same way. It’s how we respect the least of these that creates a moral-ethical framework.”

Don’t be confused: Salatin is no crunchy-granola transplant to Appalachia. He graduated from archconservative Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C., with a degree in English. While he appreciates the “bearded, beaded, braless, Woodstock revolution” set who make up the bulwark of environmentally conscious farming, he’s delighted that half of those coming to visit his farm nowadays are involved in the home-school movement.

It’s this broad appeal that makes Salatin unique, says Teresa Heinz, the American philanthropist whose foundation recently awarded him a $100,000 award for his work. “Salatin is a person who is accessible conceptually and conceptually acceptable to a huge number of people – not just the Massachusetts guys, but people from anywhere,” Ms. Heinz says.

What breaks Salatin’s heart is that the rest of the religious right has been largely uninterested in picking up the banner of environmental stewardship.

“I think the whole religious right community should be very apologetic and repentant that we – who should have carried the banner of Earth stewardship – got co-opted on that message,” he says.

How farm animals are treated on the majority of farms today dismays Salatin.

What Americans do to pigs, chickens, and cows speaks ill of the nation’s moral health, he says. “A culture that views its life from such a manipulative, disrespectful stance will soon view its citizens the same way and other cultures the same way. It’s how we respect the least of these that creates a moral-ethical framework.”

Don’t be confused: Salatin is no crunchy-granola transplant to Appalachia. He graduated from arch-conservative Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C., with a degree in English. While he appreciates the “bearded, beaded, braless, Woodstock revolution” set who make up the bulwark of environmentally conscious farming, he’s delighted that half of those coming to visit his farm nowadays are involved in the home-school movement.

It’s this broad appeal that makes Salatin unique, says Teresa Heinz, the American philanthropist whose foundation recently awarded him a $100,000 award for his work. “Salatin is a person who is accessible conceptually and conceptually acceptable to a huge number of people – not just the Massachusetts guys, but people from anywhere,” Ms. Heinz says.

What breaks Salatin’s heart is that the rest of the religious right has been largely uninterested in picking up the banner of environmental stewardship.

“I think the whole religious right community should be very apologetic and repentant that we – who should have carried the banner of Earth stewardship – got co-opted on that message,” he says.

Continue reading this article at the Farm to Consumer blog HERE.

Comments

  1. Very excited to see Nutiva – our favorite coconut oil – have an article on Joel Salatin! We actually raise chickens now following the wise advice in his book. If we had more land we’d have a Polyface farm, too! This guy just blows me away and gives me hope. The world could use a few thousand more men who think and farm like he does! God bless ya, Joe, God bless us all! Happy Holidays to everyone.
    Thank you, Nutiva!!!!!!!!
    Roxanne
    TIN SIGNS and THINGS 4 U

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