Take the next step on your journey
Informal interviews with homesteaders, cooks, gardeners and employees will help you take the next step on your journey to a simpler life. Escape the chaotic, stressful world for about seven minutes and learn how to live a satisfying life, enjoying time with family and friends.
Joel Salatin of PolyFace
Author, farmer and speaker, Joel Salatin of PolyFace Farms joins us to talk about growing up on a farm and learning about how the Earth will work with us if we let it. He talks about how his farm runs and the principles of a simpler life that he uses every day.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: Welcome to Solutions for a Simpler Life. This is Glenda Lehman Ervin with Lehman’s on the square in Kidron, Ohio. We’re glad you joined us. Welcome to Joel Salatin famed author, farmer, and as I like to call him pastor of the pasture. Joel, can you give us a one minute recap of your journey to the simpler life?
Joel Salatin: My grandfather was a charter subscriber to Rodale’s Organic Gardening and Farming magazine and so he had this great big garden in Anderson, Indiana. My dad got it from him. I got it from Dad. You know I’m at the stage of my life where the older I get the smarter dad was. And so I really appreciate his understanding that the chemical approach, industrial approach, was like a treadmill. We can’t get off of this addiction if you will. And so I grew up on Adelle Davis and Mother Earth News and making compost piles and portable infrastructure. It was just always that way.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: So for you, you had the generational knowledge behind you. What about somebody whose parents and grandparents didn’t for example somebody under 40. What do they not know that you think people should know today?
Joel Salatin: I think that what they need to know is the way ecology works fundamentally. How soil is built, how water… How the ecosystem holds water. What builds soil? What holds water? What’s the foundation of life? And I think that in our culture we just don’t think about those things. You know if there’s you know, beverage in the refrigerator and football on TV, and the Kardashians on the front page of People Magazine, all is well in the world and that’s all that matters. And we become an extremely shallow dis-intentional kind of culture.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: Interesting. You write a lot about a food production oasis. How does PolyFace Farm fit into that and what exactly is a food production oasis?
Joel Salatin: Well I consider this a collaborative, communal food cluster or a place where a lot of food is produced with as little input as possible with a lot of people involved. So one of the most striking things about how our farm is when you visit, and I hope you will, there are people! Lots of people. The average American farm doesn’t have very many people on it. And so when we talk about the food oasis, we’re talking about a place that is fundamentally leveraging and making more commons, more air, soil, water, and people equity. It’s fundamentally regenerative as opposed to extractive.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: I’ve heard you talk too before about when something goes wrong on the farm, it’s your fault. You can’t blame the weather. You can’t blame the chickens. You can’t blame the cranky cow or whatever you have. Talk to me a little bit about that why it’s always your fault.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: We believe that nature’s default position, if nature has a default button, it is that it’s fundamentally well. And that if it’s not well it’s probably something that we did that upset the habitat, upset the immunological terrain if you will. Generally, nature moves towards some sort of homeostasis, long term balance if you will. OK. And so when things are out of whack our first reaction is, “Uh oh. What do we do?” What do we do to allow the immunological train in this cow to break down or in the soil to allow this weed to proliferate. Or any of those kinds of things.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: So farming could be seen as an intervention into nature but you’re saying it’s more of a partnership. You’re working with what nature wants to do which is to create a healthy balance.
Joel Salatin: Yes it is. And in fact the extractive, exploitive, I call it the conquistador mentality.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: To conquer?
Joel Salatin: Yes to conquer toward nature is essentially views nature as a reluctant partner that we must coerce. You know we’ve got to we’ve got to wrestle with nature and make it. I’m going to make you do [wrestling noises] right? And actually we view nature as just a blessed gift from God that is like a loving partner. OK. And so the thing is not to force or push. The thing is to caress like a lover out of this abundant creation the full sufficiency provision that it wants us to have.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: On a lighter note what would you be doing if you weren’t managing PolyFace Farms?
Joel Salatin: I would probably either be in some big corporate sales position, marketing or whatever. Or I might be a preacher.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: I could see both. Well preaching and marketing is both the power of persuasion. You know you’re very persuasive.
Joel Salatin: I tell people, what do I do? I’m an idea marketer. I market ideas.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: All right. And what do you admire most about the Amish? Or those living off grid in general?
Joel Salatin: Right. Well what I admire most about the Amish is the fact that they they will care for each other whether it’s health, fire, catastrophe, whatever it is that there is this community of support including Social Security. You know I tell everybody I wish I wish I could not have to pay that 15 percent tax to Social Security but I’d have to join the Amish to do it. And I don’t want to wear that uniform. But I deeply appreciate that they have developed such a protocol and a model that’s so compelling we actually home churched for a while. And one of the things that I did was we started having monthly work days. The families had to submit a work day project and we’d all show up to begin to try to recreate some of this frolicking. We even made an index of expertise so that when your car broke down or you had a button off your shirt or a plumbing problem, we a church directory of expertise. So the first person you went to was somebody in the church, not outside. And it was my very fledgling and simple attempt to try to recreate this communal atmosphere in a non-Amish setting. And it was it was very very difficult actually.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: Yeah well they have generations of doing it and honestly this has been fantastic. Thank you so much.
Joel Salatin: Thank you.
Glenda Lehman Ervin: This is Glenda Lehman Ervin with Lehman’s, where we stand for a simpler life. Thanks for listening. For more visit lehmans.com.