Joel Salatin: The man who inspired me to start farming

If you need a primer on sustainable agriculture, look no farther then the writing and interviews of Joel Salatin.

I first learned about Joel by reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. Then watched Food, Inc. and really became inspired by his views on agriculture. I think in early 2012 I watched every YouTube video Joel had ever been in.

Here’s a quick video:

I would love to someday visit Polyface Farms, and learn in more detail the systems they use to raise livestock.

For example. They graze cows through a pasture, moving them from paddocks each day. Three days after the cows go through a paddack, fly larvae start to hatch in the cow pies.

Most farms would view this as a nuisance, but not a Polyface. Bugs are free feed. So they run egg laying hens though the pastures at this time to eat the bugs. While doing that, they scratch through and spread the manure, leaving much less work for humans and machines.

Another example of how Polyface uses animals to work for them is their Pigaerator. When the ground and grass are snow covered and frozen in the winter, the cows are brought into a barn to be fed. Unfortunately, a few hundred cows eating in the same spot produces a lot of manure. Several feet deep by the end of winter.

Manure is heavy and smelly. Moving it is a lot of work.

To prevent the smell, Polyface regularly covers the manure with a carbon material: nut husks, saw dust, wood chips, etc. And they occasionally sprinkle corn into the manure/carbon bedding.

As the manure piles up, the feeding troughs are raised to keep them level for the cows. At the end of the season, most farmers would send their kids or a tractor in to shovel and aerate the several feet of manure bedding to turn it into an aerobic compost.

What does Polyface do: send in the pigs. Since pigs love to dig and root in dirt, they have a blast digging through manure to find fermenting corn.

Pigs are appreciating assets, (unlike humans and machines) meaning over time you get to sell them as meat. So putting them to use is a win-win.

Its these clever systems that inspired me so much about Joel Salatin and the team at Polyface Farms. The fact that farms like this Polyface are so rare tells me that there is huge opportunity for young farmers wanting to raise livestock using holistic methods.

If you’d like to read more, I would seriously recommend
Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World

“Despite all the hype about local or green food, the single biggest impediment to wider adoption is not research, programs, organizations, or networking. It is the demonizing and criminalizing of virtually all indigenous and heritage-based food practices.”

Joel Salatin quote

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