The Culture of Agriculture According to Joel Salatin

“Today’s movement will create tomorrow’s opportunity.”  – Joel Salatin

He’s been called America’s most influential farmer. The high priest of the pasture. A forward thinking social entrepreneur. And by my experience, he’s a farm philosopher and ambassador of nature. Plus all the three above.

He’s also known for his passionate speeches that have taken him around the world. And fortunately for hundreds of people who were in line for an hour, including myself, he came to speak in Chico and saved us all from the cold. And saved us from the bleak of our own unnatural relationship with food. Here is part one of a two-part post on the speech he gave recently in Chico.

I’ll just say it; I loved him. I loved his passion. I loved his practices. And I loved his humor.

I’m a fan. And it’s safe to say, from the standing ovation, most people in the room loved him too.

The night started off with an introduction to Chaffin Family Orchards out of nearby Oroville, who hosted the event and who are big supporters of Joel’s philosophies. As a five generation farm, the Chaffin family has created an ecosystem that is very well diversified and matured. Everything on their farm, including the cattle, goats, sheep, and chickens have a job that is natural to their own characteristics. The ecosystem in place is a cycle that uses all variants in the most effective way possible, doing solely what nature intended. They use a combination of “Non-toxic, Permaculture, Natural, and Biodynamic farming methods,” according to their website. Much like how Joel Salatin manages his own ecosystem at his family’s Polyface Farms. After a show of beautiful photos and information on Chaffin’s natural infrastructure, the man we were all waiting eagerly to hear was introduced.

When he stepped up to the podium with a slide show of photos on the projector, Joel Salatin looked like any other farmer. But we knew he wasn’t.

He carried himself in a confident way, yet was humbled from hours of sweat and hard work seen in the toughness of his hands. He was proud of what he was doing and held a conviction that was always apparent. But when he spoke, there was such a wealth of knowledge and experience, and a reverence of passion for sharing that with us. He was simply captivating!

He talked long about how all we need to do, and how he’s turned his farm from a barren land to a thriving ecosystem, is learn from nature.

Nature works perfectly in creating ecosystems that sustain themselves without human interruption. He claimed that what he has learned to do is mimic nature. He uses animals to do what they naturally do to maintain the cycle of life on his farm. He lets animals be animals and do the work, while he merely “acts as the choreographer.” The cows mow the naturally grown grass in herds that are moved everyday by using solar powered, portable electric fences. The cows mow to grass to prepare the ground to be fertilized. Then, the chickens follow the cows in their unique, mobile hen houses and serve three purposes. They lay eggs, keep the bug populations low, and provide nitrogen fertilizers from their poop.

The pigs on Polyface Farms also have a purpose. They upturn the mixture of waste, hay, and sludge from the cows built up over the winter in the feeding barns. By rooting through it all to find the strategically place corn, they till the organic fertilizer so Polyface farms doesn’t have to. Imagine digging up three to four feet of crap by hand! By spring, it has turned into compost that is then spread over the fields that the cows have mowed and the chickens have debugged. The soil is now rich of nutrients and ready for planting.

It really is incredible how it all works. How it all works naturally.

With no sprays, no chemicals and no waste. Nothing is wasted on Joel’s farm. Everything serves multiple purposes, even the equipment. When it comes to his farm, he is big on the philosophy and morals of the natural balance of ecology. Joel believes that “we are the destiny we seek.” And that by bringing “back the culture of agriculture,” we can reconnect ourselves to our food and farmers.

Check out Joel Salatin’s website for more information and look for the second part to Joel’s speech next week, including a few interviews.




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