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The Church of Joel Salatin


Joel Salatin on Polyface Farms

“Festivaling with my Mom” had not been on my bucket list of things to do but after this weekend, it had a speedy induction and then swiftly checked off. It wasn’t a music festival but an earth festival. One we could both appreciate. Together we attended the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, PA. My mom was the first to teach me about healthy eating and growing food so to share this experience with her was a mother-daughter trip of a lifetime. One to remember!

The 40yr. old magazine comes to life once a year hosting one fair on the west coast in Washington and a second on the east coast in Pennsylvania. In only its second year, Pennsylvania’s attendance has doubled from 10K to 20K visitors. A testament to people’s hunger for planetary knowledge. Mother Earth News is the largest and oldest, environmental magazine. The festival is a 3D version of the print copy and gives readers a chance to interact with experts and leaders in sustainable living through workshops, presentations and demonstrations. It was a major download of information and a exuberant upload of inspiration.

One of the keynote speakers was farm evangelist, Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms (as seen and heard in Food, Inc. and Omnivore’s Dilemma). Having seen Joel speak before, I was ready with pen and paper to scribe some of his “Joelisms.” He has a deep command of the English language which commands a crowd’s attention equally.


He began his speech with an open invitation and detailed directions to his farm in Swoope, Virginia. It immediately diffused any naysayers because it demonstrates his transparency and his integrity. Pointing to the ground, he shakes his hands like a preacher reminding us that there is more life below our feet than there is above ground and that it is largely responsible for our survival. It draws a profound and spiritual connection to the role soil plays in our lives. He should know. Joel is in the soil business. Or “land healing ministries” as he likes to call it. With the help of his “teammates and co-laborers,” the cows, pigs and chickens, he runs his soil through an “exercise program.” Animals and land are treated fairly and with respect for the abundance they provide. He “massages the ecosystem through a choreographed dance with his co-workers to create healthy soils and a forest of perennial grasses.”

Here’s a look at his rotational grazing method…The cows “dump goodies” on the ground from their backsides. As they rotate onto the next pasture, the chickens arrive in their “Goobley-Go,” a chicken coop on wheels (egg mobile). They pick out the larvae spreading the manure around with their beaks – yummy! “Pigaerators” then move onto 1/2-acre paddocks disturbing the land mimicking nature’s biological cycles just as wildfires do in forests and on prairies. He describes his pigs as being “four-wheel drive plows” using their snouts and hooves to root and stomp the ground to “the next succession in his accumulation of biomass,” a.k.a. grass. According to Joel, and I agree, there is not ONE reason why we need a single CAFO in this country considering the natural technology that Joel and others like him have designed. We know we will arrived he says, “when soccer moms exclaim in jubilation that little Johnny wants to be a farmer,” just as they would now when told he wants to be a doctor or lawyer. With new models like Joel’s and new markets for local food, we will get there.

Here is a sampling of Joel’s lexicon with my best-guess definitions:

  1. Constipation of Imagination = failure to use ingenuity in conjunction with nature’s biological processes.
  2. Portable fermentation tanks = cows
  3. Carbonization diaper = the layered bed of manure, hay and sawdust that is collected when the cows are in the barn.
  4. Bankruptcy tubes = corn silos
  5. Pasture sanitization program = rotational grazing
  6. Wheel of Fortune = the cone used to slit a chicken’s throat
  7. Rent-a-Chicken = Joel’s chicken take-back program – at the end of summer, customers can bring back the egg-laying hens they purchased earlier from Joel if they have no way to winter them.
  8. Germinating = young farmer apprenticeship program
  9. Grass farmer = Joel Salatin


These aren’t the best videos so treat them more like podcasts with optional viewing capacity. I was about seven rows back and wanted to be discrete with my camera. Most of the videos are under two-minutes, so not very long but definitely worth checking out. Get a glimpse of Joel’s gospel with two or three of the following:

  1. Prioritize your purchases and we can all afford sustainably grown food
  2. We can feed the world with edible landscapes and pasture-raised livestock practices
  3. The Pasture Principles  – mimicking wild herd behaviors when raising happy cows and healthy grass
  4. Before we can demand a better food system, we need to start at home and reclaim “family time”
  5. Mechanical vs Biological – the land can heal itself, machines can’t (this one goes a minute too long. I was hoping he was going to bring it back around but he didn’t. i don’t know how to edit film footage yet, so just stop at 2:25)
  6. Move and we will dance – Joel’s closing remarks.