Healing People & Honoring Creation: Joel Salatin on Sustainable Agriculture

I was pleased to open up my copy of Sojourners this month and see an interview with one of my heroes, Joel Salain, founder of Polyface Farms.  Some sweet excerpts:

 

Jeannie Choi: What’s the vision behind Polyface farm?

Joel Salatin: Healing—healing in all dimensions. We want to develop emotionally, environmentally, and economically enhancing agricultural prototypes throughout the world. We want to heal the relationships of the people involved with the farm and our business and our family. We want to heal the land, soil, air, water, and, ultimately, the food system.

From what disease is our current food system suffering?

Well, when is the last time a farmer went and asked for money from a banker and the banker said, “Well, that’s all well and good. I’m glad you’re going to be able to grow a corn crop. But what is that going to do to the earthworms? Or to the topsoil? Is that going to go down the Mississippi and add to the Rhode Island-sized dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico that’s been created because of erosion and run-off chemicals?”

We don’t measure those kinds of things, and yet each of us intuitively understands that those immeasurable or non-quantifiable parts in a business plan are actually the most precious resources we have.

How can we revolutionize the food industry?

Healing the food system would fundamentally flip-flop the political and economic powers of our culture. Wendell Berry says that what’s wrong with us creates more gross national product than what’s right with us. It’s a fantastic observation. Right now, our culture thrives on things being sick. Dead soil brings more people to chemical companies because they need chemical fertilizers, which makes people sick. When people are sick, obviously the medical establishment thrives. If a neighborhood or community’s food system is sick, then of course you need to import food from a foreign country, which stimulates global trade. So when you start talking about healing the food system, we need a fundamental realignment of all the power and money in our culture, and that’s why there is a tremendous amount of inertia against healing the system.

So what can we do? If you want to dream out of the box for a minute, here’s an idea: If every American for one week refused to eat at a fast-food joint, it would bring concentrated animal feeding operations to their knees. What can one person do? We have a sick, evil system, and a healing system, and the question is, which one are you going to feed? Have you gone down to the farmers market or patronized local livestock farms? Or have you had candy bars and cokes? Whichever one you’ve fed is going to get bigger, and the one you’ve starved is going to get smaller.

How does your faith inform your work?

It makes me want to farm like Jesus would if he were here right now, in charge of this place. God actually loved us and provided a salvation experience for us that shapes the way we should, with the same grace and appreciation and respect, honor the creation that God made. It’s in respecting and honoring the “pig-ness” of the pig that we create our ethical and moral background for respecting and honoring the “Tony-ness” of Tony and the “Mary-ness” of Mary. And so it’s how we respect and honor the “least of these” that creates a theological and philosophical framework for how we respect and honor the creation that God made. It’s in respecting and honoring the “pig-ness” of the pig that we create our ethical and moral background for respecting and honoring the “Tony-ness” of Tony and the “Mary-ness” of Mary. And so it’s how we respect and honor the “least of these” that creates a theological and philosophical framework for how we respect and honor the greatest of these.

Our culture simply views our plants and animals as so many inanimate piles of protoplasmic structure to be manipulated however cleverly hubris can imagine to manipulate it. I would suggest that a culture that views its life in that respect will be a culture that views its citizens and the citizens of other cultures in the same manipulative and arrogant way.

For the entire interview article, go here. And for an expanded audio interview with Salatin, go here.

His books are well worth reading (Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal is illuminating and outraging), as are these other articles about Polyface Farms.

Finally, I leave you with a video of Salatin and Chipotle founder Steve Ells, a food activist superstar in his own right.

1 Response to “Healing People & Honoring Creation: Joel Salatin on Sustainable Agriculture”


  1. 1 1ozmom December 2, 2009 at 12:56 pm

    I LOVE Joel and have his books. You’re right, EIWTDII IS outraging. I think it should be required reading at the White House. *g*

    And, Joel is a rock star. On a few boards I belong to I mentioned his books and it turned into a squee fest of how awesome he is-with a few people even bragging that they buy weekly from Polyface which made those of us too far away incredible jealous. Good on him to be sharing the merging of his belief system and business.


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