Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's Hard to Recognize Joel Salatin Without His Hat!

It's the same, for me, with many professions!  The hockey or football player is more familiar with helmet on, the way I'm used to seeing them!  Would I recognize Queen Elizabeth on the street, without a crown or fancy hat?  And who was that guy on stage yesterday at the Manitoba Conservation District Association conference in a navy blazer, dress shirt and tidy slacks?  Where was the Farmer Dude with the big hat and suspenders?  Ah, but when he started to speak, I knew I was in the right place!

We were glad to have a chance to see Joel Salatin speak yesterday.  What he writes resonates greatly with us!  We've got a couple of his books: 'Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal' and 'Pastured Poultry Profits'.  He's been on the forefront of the movement for healthy, natural, local food for many years now.  His books tell the often funny tales of his run-ins with commercial agriculture and government bureaucrats as he just tries to produce good food!  His methods are both old-fashioned and cutting edge, and full of common sense!

I wonder how many of yesterday's crowd had previously heard of Joel Salatin?  The MCDA is a provincial association of people and groups involved in watershed issues; they are a diverse group representing municipalities, utilities, businesses, habitat conservationists and more!  Mr. Salatin talked about the uncontrolled run off that had stripped most of the soil from his Virginia farm over the decades, the loss of the precious resource of spring run-off that he avoids by building natural ponds.  His natural way of managing his cattle on pasture precludes the need for manure retention ponds and the danger of leakage into ground water and water systems.  He spoke of how his family has been slowly rebuilding the lost soil using sustainable methods that don't require the use of fertilizers, which are expensive and can leach into water systems causing algae blooms.  I hope he brought some new ideas to the table!

I love that Joel Salatin's and his business, Polyface Farms, are about what he calls the 'whole-ism' of ecosystems.  He wants to let a chicken be a chicken, a pig be a pig and pasture should be what it was meant to be: perennial grasses.  In nature, the bison moved into an area, ate the grass down and moved on, allowing the grass to re-grow.  Why did someone figure that it is was better to pen them in tiny corrals and feed them unnatural grains and corn?  Not for better food, that's for sure.  It was for profit and convenience.  Mr. Salatin called himself a 'bio-terrorist' because he allows his chickens to cavort with wild birds!  If you don't raise poultry, you may not know about the issues of the avian bird flu scare.  Some in the industry claimed small producers, like Aagaard Farms, were vectors for bird flu because we didn't immunize and feed antibiotics to our birds and we allowed them outside where wild birds can carry the flu.  Poultry, like pigs and cattle, are suppose to be outside, we believe, eating what they're suppose to eat.  And their lives interesect on many levels: pigs root around trees, opening land.  Chickens eat parasite larvae from cow patties so that the cows don't get re-infested.  Cow patties fertilize the land, allowing fresh, healthy re-growth of food plants.  And so on!

We were fortunate enough to have two presentations from Joel Salatin yesterday.  Both were of great value to us, who are trying to 'grow good food for our neighbors'.  At this time of year, when we reflect on the past year and plan for the new year, it's just great to have been touched by the enthusiasm and vigor of someone like Mr. Salatin!  And as he said, to paraphrase, if it didn't go well, keep trying!  And we will!  And we're wishing that everybody gets a copy of one of Joel Salatin's books in their stocking this Christmas.  We think every single Ag student should have to read one!

1 comment:

  1. I laughed at the title 'Everything I want to do is Illegal' but it was with some irony. I don't know the book but I can imagine what it might entail. We've recently become very aware of run off and the effect on our water. Our well water has become contaminated and it seems likely this is due at least in part to run off from farm fertilizers. It seems crazy to me that we would pollute our own water and not even question our practices. The world has become very strange.