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Farming Pioneer Joel Salatin’s Secrets to Reconnecting With Your Food

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Farmer in a field
A farmer plows his recently harvested field as the hot summer sun beats down on Monday, Aug. 17, 2015. Jason Hoekema/AP/File

Joel Salatin is the owner and Farmer of Polyface Farms in Swoope, Virginia. In 1961, the Salatins bought and restored an old farm in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley. Mr. Salatin is a third generation farmer whose farm helps to support three thousand families, fifty restaurants, and ten retail outlets through various programs and buying clubs. He is the author of several books about sustainable farming including Folks, this Ain't Normal and is featured on documentaries such as Food Inc.

FT:  Joel, can you tell me more about permaculture and some examples of how you use it on your farm?

JS: I use the concept of stacking enterprises such as the grazers followed by the egg mobiles. The grazers and the egg mobiles run on the same acre during a single season. We allow the animals to do the work here and do what they do best. The "pig-ness "of the pig, the "cow-ness" of the cow and the "chicken-ness" of the chicken. Because the animals do the work, I have no need for herbicides, fungicides, pesticides or antibiotics. The chickens are my pasture sanitizers – they eat all the worms and flies in the cow pats and disperse it, so the pasture is ready to grow more grass. Everything is based on grass. We also use a water system that is highly integrated. We have ponds up in the hills that capture snow melt and rain water and then we use gravity to water our animals and grow our crops. This is all based on permaculture.

FT: What are some of the challenges that you have faced when using permaculture and biodynamic farming?
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JS: Well….really I can't think of one. These systems are based on nature, and they work. I don't need to improve upon it. I am not trying to force nature to do what it doesn't want to do. All of these things are synergistic – it's about multiplicative simplicity.

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