sustainability #1

“How much evil throughout history could have been avoided had people exercised their moral acuity with convictional courage and said to the powers that be, 'No, I will not. This is wrong, and I don't care if you fire me, shoot me, pass me over for promotion, or call my mother, I will not participate in this unsavory activity.' Wouldn't world history be rewritten if just a few people had actually acted like individual free agents rather than mindless lemmings?” – Joel Salatin 

I was fortunate to hear Joel Salatin speak this last weekend in Cambridge at the Ancestral Health Symposium at Harvard University.

For those of you that have not seen the movie Food, Inc, Joel is a farmer and author. He runs a farm called Polyface Farms in Swoope, Virginia, a region of the country called the Shenandoah Valley. Joel raises his livestock using a holistic method of farming and animal husbandry. His animals are free of chemicals, antibiotics and raised in a manner opposite of what most farms are doing in America.

Polyface Farms is a 550-acre farm in Virginia. The farm has been featured in the movies Food, Inc and Fresh and the book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma.

His philosophy: raise animals on healthy grass on which they can thrive and live in a harmony with nature. Cows are moved from one pasture to another rather than be centrally feed. The chickens are raised in portable coups placed on the pastures where they dig through the cow dung for fly larvae and helping to fertilize the land with their droppings.

Salatin has been extremely critical of America’s raising of animals and food supply and has been a beacon for sustainable farming. He produces what he calls “beyond organic” meats, which are raised using environmentally responsible agriculture.

sustainability #2

His talk was an interesting blend of sermon and lecture and felt more like Sunday school then a conference at the prestigious Harvard University. I agree with many of his points, biggest being there is more harm in not letting kids play in the mud and get dirty than keeping them indoors playing video games. Kids need to learn about life and what better way than a kid's garden. 

The theme of his talk was simple: a return to "farm values" and a desperate need to create sustainable farming…they seem intimately linked. He made several noteworthy points, but I felt his best contribution was the quote I started this with.

His quote can be best summarized by Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

This seems to ring true today more than ever. 

Posted in Talk to Me Johnnie | Tagged , , | 33 Comments

33 Responses to Sustainability

  1. Ingo B

    Word (80’s lingo for “I agree wholeheartedly, my friend”).

  2. Phil

    Joel Salatin has greatly influenced how I look at food and the accountability and responsibility as a consumer to learn as much as possible about how food I consume is produced. His actions are do not seem to be motivated by profit, but rather what his farm and staff can manage with the highest standards possible. Do not take more than you need, and do not waste what you have. Thanks, John, for promoting someone who is leading by example.

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  4. Anna Locke

    So, so true. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Tim

    The coolest thing about Joel’s approach to farming is its effect on the environment. With vegetarians and vegans screaming the evils of raising animals for food while agriculture is the single most destructive force on the planet, Joel’s methods actually enhance the natural ecosystems in play on his farm. In omnivores dilemma he talks about how through his was of farming he turned his land from near barren ground to the lush pastures and bounty it produces. Pretty cool

  6. RAK

    Thanks for sharing. I wish I knew that had been going on right down the street. I would have loved to attend. Michael Pollan’s account of life and work on Polyface Farm was fantastic in his book Omnivore’s Dilemma and really opened my eyes to lots of things. I wish more folks would open up their eyes and pay attention.

    John, thanks for the great programming and community you are building. I’m coming up on my one year anniversary with CFFB and couldn’t be happier with the results and the experience as a whole.

    Jason RAK

  7. steve g

    Was a good talk to hear..

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  9. Travis Jewett

    I live in rural Iowa and am fortunate enough to buy fresh meats and eggs locally off several farms. Saves me big bucks as well. Our farmers market is loaded with this stuff.

  10. Good stuff John, you write real good fer a big fella. All BS aside, great article.

  11. Thank you for sharing this with us. i teach on a farm and truly believe that children need to get back to land base values. it’s nice to know that there are like minded people out there!

  12. Joel is the reason I have about 60 layers, 50 meat birds, and 7 pastured hogs roaming my property.

    Have you eaten pastured pork? It’s red, like beef. And so, so tasty.

  13. Harvey

    This is exactly where we need to head. Unfortunately at this point the cost of meat raised in this superior manner is simply to expensive for most families, mine included. We keep our budget extremely tight, but still cannot afford to feed five people pastured meats. What can we do to bring the cost down so that it is mor online with current wages?

  14. george burroughs

    Its a shame Joel’s biblical views are to much like a “mindless lemmings”. I am in total agreement with his views and work on sustainability but I had heard some not so positive dealings with Polyface and specifically Joel in our VA-MD-PA organic grass feed community. Then a friend of mine who raises awesome grass fed beef experienced him and his religious beliefs first hand. As a libertarian and supporter of the sustainable farming community I find him to be too much like a politician from the District of Columbia and hope his biblical babble doesn’t drive more people away on a national as it has done in our region.

    John- I have been a long time follower of the blog and I will continue to follow. Thank you for this priceless resource.

  15. RK

    A “Hippie” approach to sustainable living, backed up by physical strength gained through hard work and conditioning and defended by a self-reliant and appropriately aggressive mindset might just be what it takes to save this place we call America.

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  18. the pastuered pork sounds interesting, how can i give that a try?

  19. Joel is definitely one of our huge inspirations for starting a pasture-based ranch in SoCal. The guy is brilliant and we have a ton of respect for his outreach. Definitely agree that you feel like a kid in Sunday school listening to him rant and rave. I have never heard anybody disagree with the guy’s principles though – it’s just not really arguable. Nice post.

    • When are you dropping chicken by the gym? Personally, I am not a fan of those rodents with wings but after listening to Joel speak, I might reconsider.

  20. We’re as big of red meat fans as anybody John but you have to switch things up every once in a while (at least until we get some cattle out grazing). We’ll bring some by after our next harvest Sept 8ish. We’re sold bone dry until then (personal stash included).

  21. JD Kimbrell

    I have been studying Joel’s Farm Model for a few years now and have been making great strides to adapt what he does to drought stricken Southwest Oklahoma. We are succeeding with poultry, (Egg Layers, and have a good plan for Broilers). I often use his quote, “my animals don’t do drugs.” Thanks for writing this article. very nice.


    JD and Regina Kimbrell
    Kimbrell Family Farm
    Lawton, Oklahoma

  22. JD Kimbrell

    Needed to post another comment because I forgot to check the notifications below.

    Shalom Y’all.

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  24. While I was growing up, my grandfather raised beef cattle. All grass-fed and pastured. The first time I tasted grain-fed beef wasn’t until I was 14. I almost spit it out – it didn’t taste right. For those who say there isn’t a difference, they’re wrong – you notice it when you eat grassfed your whole life. Anyway, this guy is on point.

    And another thing, I learned more about discipline, responsibility, leadership, ethics, values, virtue and virtuous living while working on my grandfather’s farm than just about anywhere else.

    Good post.

  25. Strooz

    I do love me some Joel. That open air meat production line is the best scene.

    Lucky for me a true sustainable pasture BISON Ranch is never more than 30 minutes away when you live in WISCONSIN baby! Love those delicious muscle bound behemoths and the free jerky the rancher gives me every time I clear him out of 97% lean ground bison…

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  28. Good stuff John, I added some of my own thoughts on how subsidies distort sustainability and some thoughts from Lierre Keith’s “Vegetarian Myth”. Link in name.

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