Last night I had the pleasure of getting out for an evening with Aaron (!) and the privilege of seeing Joel Salatin speak. I first saw Joel in the movie Food, Inc. (which I highly recommend, by the way) and I was captivated by his passion for sustainable farming. He operates a family farm in Virginia called Polyface Farm and has been featured in Michael Pollan’s book The Omnivore’s Dilemma and also in the documentary Fresh. Here is a clip of Joel from Fresh:
Joel’s family raises pasture-fed beef, pork and poultry on their once totally depleted, almost soil-less farm which they completely revitalized without sowing any seed. Refining methods introduced by his father, Joel rotates his herds through his land using portable electric fences to allow the land to replenish itself naturally, without fertilizers. The animals eat grass and roam in the open air. This is the exact opposite of the feedlots and industrial food system.
Salatin argues for the local food movement, for transparency in the food production system, for a re-integration of our rural and urban lifestyles where we respect our food producers and include them in the communities where we live and work. He urged us not to expect change overnight but to do what we can every day to change our food system. Ideas included turning the millions of acres of lawns in North America to edible food gardens, reinstating the kitchen as the heart of our homes where we make our food from scratch from real ingredients (not unpronounceable ingredients that come in packages), buying from local farms that allow us to tour the premises and of course, gardening with our children.
With sparkling eyes and a big grin, he is a compelling, even mischievous speaker, as he said last night, “I definitely recommend that you break a lot of laws.” This was in response to the question at the end of the night from a man who stated that everything he wants to do is illegal so what laws should he break first. Of course, Joel is referring to the over-regulation of ordinary citizens who want to make their own choices about the food they eat: whether it’s to buy eggs from the neighbour, have backyard chickens or drink unpasteurized milk.
I was already sold on his message, but I was further enamored when with a roll of his eyes he stated that our disconnect with food began back in the day when people decided that breastfeeding wasn’t good enough for our babies. He went on to tout the virtues of La Leche League, Lamaze and having dads in the delivery room as examples of ways the pendulum is starting to swing back towards an acceptance of the sanctity of life, even the sanctity of life of the least among us (the animals and plants we eat).
Maybe it’s because I’m a hormonal pregnant woman but when he ended his speech by saying, “May your children call you blessed for they have inherited a better earth than we had,” I had just a little tear in my eye.