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Article i saw: "Natural Farming - Inspiring passionate stewards"  RSS feed

 
Bill S.
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http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/healthscience/2011/May/Farming-Gods-Way-Inspiring-Passionate-Stewards/

SWOOPE, Va. - Joel Salatin is an outspoken, alternative farmer who wants Americans to think about what they eat and where it comes from.

And he thinks the Church should be leading the way.

His fresh approach has been featured in documentaries like "Food, Inc." and books like The Omnivore's Dilemma.

Salatin's Polyface Farm in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley is not showy or high tech. Its very simplicity is actually revolutionary given the state of agribusiness today.

Salatin does not confine his animals in cramped and filthy living spaces. Nor does he inject them with hormones or offer them chemically enhanced food. Such conditions are typical for most American farms today where efficiency and corporate demands dictate much of the animals' existence.

One of Salatin's main missions is to mimic God's creation. That's why all his cattle eat grass, not grain.  There are no pesticides, no fertilizers, and no hormones. Everything is natural.

Animals Living Together

"We move the cows every day to a new spot which allows the grass time to recuperate and go through its what I call 'the teenage growth spurt,'" Salatin said.

On his fresh pastures, Salatin feeds his cows, hens and broiler chicks what he calls a 'salad bar.' It's simply a mix of all kinds of grasses which provide rich nutrients for the cattle and the other animals to follow.

Salatin's innovative cycle builds all kinds of synergies from the different animals he raises. As opposed to corporate farms which promote a "monoculture," such as all corn or all beef, Salatin pursues a polyculture.

The farm's name "Polyface" promotes this idea of animals living together to leverage their God-given traits in such a way that produces maximum advantage for the farmer.

For instance, Salatin puts broiler chicks on the land where the cows previously fed. The shortened grass encourages their ingestion of fresh, tender sprouts.

Next, Salatin brings in what he calls the "eggmobile," a sort of hen house on wheels. He drives it to a new spot each day and opens the doors so the hens can literally have free range on their pasture.

Along the way the hens dig through the cow patties to eat protein-rich larvae. Their droppings in turn fertilize the field all over again.

Theological Farming

Salatin believes the model creates healthy animals and ultimately, healthy people. And he believes it's an approach that makes theological sense as well.

"It is how you respect and honor the least of these that creates a consistent ethical framework on which you honor and respect the greatest of these," he said. "It starts by honoring and respecting the pigness of the pig and the chickenness of the chicken." 

Respecting these animals and their innate needs not only is good farming but foundational to a "God-don't-make-no-junk" philosophy of life, Salatin said.

Salatin explains his views in-depth in seven self-published books. He's a sought-after speaker on college campuses where he promotes local food and tears down anything hinting of corporate production.

Not surprisingly, he's viewed with skepticism by many associated with agribusiness.

Salatin's Congressman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va. is vice-chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. He said Salatin is a good friend but he doesn't agree with much of his philosophy.

"In my opinion, it's not necessary to produce food the way he does it," Goodlatte told CBN News. He added that Salatin's prices are unaffordable for many consumers.

Salatin maintains good food is worth it. He also countered that processed food is often more expensive.

Plowing Future Fields?

There are those in Washington who think Salatin might just be on to something.

Jaydee Hanson, a policy analyst at The Center for Food Safety, said he'd like to see more research on Salatin's approach.

"We need the U.S. Department of Agriculture to put as much money into studying how Joel Salatin does, so they can teach folks, as they do subsidizing the big operations," Hanson said.

Around the country. Salatin has earned a loyal following.  At the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill recently, his lecture sold out and fans quickly formed a book signing line afterwards.

Steve Gisselman was one such fan. As an assistant strength and conditioning coach at UNC, he's read several of Salatin's books and said Salatin has changed his thinking,

"I've really thought about where does my food come from?  Where am I getting it from?  Is it sustainable?" Gisselman said.

UNC food studies major Lauren Wilson said Salatin is influencing many young people who are considering farming.

"He's a person out there showing it can be done and he's been successful in various ways--environmentally, economically and socially" she said.

Inspiring 'Loving Stewards'

If Salatin's plans succeed he'll help build up a new generation of farmers who subscribe to an all-natural approach. That's why he's so quick to denounce the negative stereotypes.

"We've got this cultural mentality that you've got to be an idiot to be a farmer" he told students at UNC.

Instead, he believes, the best and the brightest should be considering it.

"If we are wanting to take care of and steward our landscape, then we are going to need more loving stewards on that landscape," Salatin said. "If it is to be done well, it is going to need excellent practitioners and more practitioners."

Every year Salatin turns away hundreds of applicants wanting a shot at his rigorous apprentice and intern programs. Daniel Pike made the cut last year.

"I always wanted to farm but I didn't think it was a real possibility," Pike said. "You know, I need to go work in an office, work with computers and make money, make a living."

Then Pike started reading Salatin's books and began to see his dream as a viable option.

"There's this alternative farming where people are making money," he said. "Where it's respecting of the animals and it goes in line with how God set up all the systems."

Salatin said the good news is that many in the faith community are beginning to re-think their attitudes toward food and farming. And it's home schooling families he says that are leading the charge.

"When a person is freed up to examine and then make an opt-out change as a strategic decision and then finds it soul-satisfying -- 'Wow, our kids are responding, our family is harmonious'-- then they say, 'Well, what else should we opt out of?'" he explained.

Creator, Not Creation, Worship

But Salatin still believes the church has a long way to go to fulfill the Biblical approach to literally eat and drink for the glory of God.

"It really disturbs me that the environmental movement has been co-opted by creation-worshippers instead of being encouraged by the Creator-worshippers," he said.

The work on his farm has already inspired countless Americans to think more carefully about what they eat.

And if Salatin's dreams come true, it will also energize the Church towards greater environmental stewardship and raise up a new generation of passionate farmers.
   
 
Tyler Ludens
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I like this website along the same line as Salatin's loving stewardship idea: 

http://creationcare.org/

Personally I don't think Salatin needs to be so worried about "creation worship."   

Today I visited a small permaculture farm run by a couple of Dominican nuns. The nuns are moving this summer and selling the land, but the new owner plans to continue the permaculture.
 
                    
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H Ludi Tyler wrote:

Personally I don't think Salatin needs to be so worried about "creation worship."   



Yea the little I've heard about Salatin, his message always seems to have christian conditions. He might be a good dude and have great ideas etc, but the whole co-opting of his methods with christian dialogue skeeves me out. It makes me think that his 'mercy missions' are more 'missions' than mercy. It reminds me of the way christianity has been bound up in globalization, industrialism, and the 'our monotheism' is smarter, better, and truer, than anything your primitive culture has come up with. So if you want our aid, come to our churches and we will take you under our wing and develop your horrible lives into something more respectable.

He isn't necessarily one of these people, but that is largely the way it has occurred over the last few hundred years, and its spent a lot of time destroying.

If it was different though and Salatin was like Fukuoka, who does a similar thing with crossing the dialogue in agriculture with buddhism, I wouldn't feel that way. Primarily because I am buddhist and being well versed in the history of religion, buddhism never hurt anyone or was used to destroy their culture.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Yes, the idea that "environmentalism should be Christian" is kind of    Personally, I think Christianity should be environmental! 
 
Brenda Groth
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it is similar to how our WILDLIFE feeds on our property, they eat what is growing wild and don't get any hormones or penned up..if we choose to hunt them to keep them under control we can do that and have naturally fed food..if I was to have domestic animals I would probably treat them just as I do our wildlife with maybe a few strands of wire or fence to keep them off the neighbors land ..they wouldn't appreciate them
 
maikeru sumi-e
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Likewise, I have a lot of respect for Salatin, but this aspect of his beliefs comes across a bit overly strong.
 
Isaac Hill
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Yeah, the whole "christian" thing is sort of a turn off for me, but it's great that this sort of thinking is making it's way into fundamentalist christian circles! Seemingly the least likely to be a fan of anything "green". HUG THOSE TREES YA DAMN LIBERAL!
 
Jeff Mathias
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A different take:

I had read similar things to what many are saying about Joel Salatin on other forums before I decided to get a few of his books. I was worried I might be put off from what I heard about him as well.
Now I have read most of the Polyface books; just finished The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer for a second time. I have not seen any of his interviews though so perhaps there is more to it there. But I do not find much of what is posted here to be true regarding his use of religion to support his ideals. Beyond that it shows up so little in the books that I read that it is truly insignificant to the material. Generally to me it appears that when someone tells him something is based in science and it doesn't fit with his beliefs he goes with his belief. An example: An Ag. department head once told him that the best available science showed that it was perfectly acceptable to feed cows up to 48% chicken manure. (I think it was 48%, going off my head here.) He explains that to him and his beliefs that it was never intended for a cow to eat that much chicken crap let alone any really and so he will not be doing that.

In general I find he is a man with a christian belief and christian background who uses those personal ties to explain what he does and why he does it, much like a Buddhist might explain ahimsa to a non-buddhist to better explain their personal choices and actions. I find you could replace "your personal belief system" or even just the word nature in place for his use of Christianity/God and everything still works out fine. He often actually takes Christianity in general to task for the apparent disconnect between their mainstream beliefs vs. what appears to be their practices in general, or worse their willingness to overlook their own personal beliefs when it is convenient. I believe he practices "home church" because of his disgust regarding the messages of mainstream Christianity.
As a self proclaimed "Christian-Libertarian-Environmentalist-Capitalist-Farmer" I do have to wonder what people expected? Should he somehow hide his views and his reasons for doing what he does because someone might be turned off by reading them. I think that would be counter to who he is as a person, much like asking a Buddhist to "step on that bug". But maybe that is the libertarian in me speaking...

In summary I decided I would not let my potential personal bias keep me from his information and I was glad I did, he is a very entertaining writer and has a lot of information and personal experiences to share. For people with strong personal beliefs or bias I could see how he might be hard to take sometimes. His stance on gun ownership for example I could see would put someone who is anti-gun off. Also his stance on public education might put a strong supporter of public education off as well, but to me that is a part of the diversity that keeps things interesting, one big poly culture of people where much like in the natural world diversity makes the system more resilient rather than less.

Jeff
 
Tyler Ludens
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Jeff Mathias wrote:
A different take:

As a self proclaimed "Christian-Libertarian-Environmentalist-Capitalist-Farmer" I do have to wonder what people expected? Should he somehow hide his views and his reasons for doing what he does because someone might be turned off by reading them. I think that would be counter to who he is as a person, much like asking a Buddhist to "step on that bug". But maybe that is the libertarian in me speaking...


Personally I don't think he should hide his views.  But there's nothing wrong with people not agreeing with or not liking his views, and it's possible he might lose some audience by proclaiming them.  On the other hand, there is an entire other kind of audience he will reach who would be turned off by neo-paganish or new-agey tree-huggery. 

 
Leila Rich
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I went to a workshop of Joel Salatin's in NZ, the home of the moveable electric fencing he's so fond of!
I don't share any of his religious  beliefs and disagree with quite a few of his political and social attitudes, so I was a bit nervous.
I do think he's a great ambassador for good farming and I just switched off when he brought up things I don't agree with.
 
John Polk
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I think his proclamation put him on the same page with the majority of conventional farmers in this country.  If that encourages a few of them to buy his book(s), and try his systems, I see that as a huge step towards a change in the way America farms.

Farmers can be stubborn.  They will seldom embrace a new method, or practice until they have seen it work elsewhere.  If one farmer in a community tries something new, you can be certain his neighbors will be watching every step along the way.  If he succeeds, they will all want to borrow his book!
 
Troy Rhodes
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You could do a lot worse than copy Joel Salatin's methods.

My favorite book is, "Everything I want to do is illegal" which describes why our stupid crazy oversized government is making it tough and expensive for the small independent food producer.

And seriously, hardly anybody comes to the table with no underlying religious assumptions.

If you want to improve your land, use the useful stuff, and strain out the christianity/gaia/paganism/new-age stuff from whatever people have insight into how to fix your land.  I don't think we can afford to be too picky about where our wisdom comes from.

Finest regards,

troy
 
John Polk
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Perhaps if the church had been fulfilling its responsibility this past century (providing for the impoverished and infirm), our government would not have become so large and powerful.  Today, we have millions dependent upon the government, not the church.  Is it any wonder that the church is loosing its power over the people?
 
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