Spotlight: Joel Salatin

To break up the monotony of my engineering courses one year, I signed up for a “Small Animal Production” class with my university’s College of Agriculture. Partway through the semester, the professor showed us a video about Joel Salatin’s “Polyface Farm” that used some unusual farming techniques, such as rotating his cows to a new field every day, following his cattle with “chicken tractors”, and wintering chickens and rabbits together. Though he never said the word, I instantly recognized Salatin’s use of permaculture.

Photo Credit: nick v, Creative Commons licence.

Salatin’s Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia produces delicious, nutrient-dense protein by raising happy, healthy animals. He starts by caring for the soil–returning nutrients through animal manure and avoiding overgrazing by rotating his cattle. In turn, the soil provides rich forage for his animals. Salatin respects each animal’s natural instincts (“the pigness of pigs,” as he says) and works with, rather than against, their innate behaviors. He values his customers and works hard to provide the clean, nutritious meat and eggs that they’ve come to expect. Salatin has created a farm that’s sustainable, both financially and ecologically, and that his children want to continue.

Along with farming, Salatin teaches and writes. Over the summer, I read two of his books that explain how to make a profit through farming in an ethical and sustainable way: Pasture Poultry Profit$, which focus on raising meat chickens, and You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Start & Succeed in a Farming Enterprise. Throughout both books, Salatin argues that ethical, sustainable farming not only produces healthier food for the consumer but can be more profitable, exponentially more enjoyable, and more psychologically fulfilling for the farmer. I’ve never felt more hopeful about the future of agriculture. Every agribusiness curriculum in the country should include Joel Salatin’s books.

Joel Salatin has accomplished more than I can ever fit into a blog post. If you want to learn more about Salatin and his farm, you can visit his blog, The Lunatic Farmer, or the Polyface Farm website. You can also find plenty of videos featuring him on YouTube. I’ve listed some of his books below.

Joel Salatin’s books: