What happens when you combine entrepreneurial savvy, the appreciation for technological innovation, dirt-under-the-nails farming know-how, and an intense “let’s change the way the world eats” vision? You get the enigmatic Joel Salatin and the legendary Polyface Farm.
Michelle and I recently traveled to Swoope Virginia’s gold standard experiment in sustainable farming to attend (and speak) at a fundraiser for the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit dedicated to keeping the government off the backs of small family farms, and the consumers who want unfettered access to sustainably raised food.
Nestled in the rural Shenandoah valley, Polyface Farm provided a spectacular backdrop for the fundraising event. Together with Paleo community luminaries such as Robb Wolf, Dallas Hartwig, Charles and Julie Mayfield, and Diana Rodgers, we – along with a HUGE turnout from the Paleo/Real Food community – got a first-hand education on how sustainable farming can be both profitable and nurturing for the land and animals.
The Three “M’s”
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The bedrock of Polyface Farm’s success lay in Joel Salatin’s “3M” farming system, consisting of their ability to implement:
The farm utilizes portable, lightweight, electric fencing. This allows for the controlled, cordoned, and sequential migration of livestock. The rotation ensures that no land parcel is ever overgrown, overgrazed, or over disturbed.
Coops, fencing, water – nothing is in a fixed location. Most everything can be moved, stationed or redirected by a single person.
The farm employs a lot of labor. But it can sustain and justify that labor pool because it is so profitable. Salatin leverages expertise for pay through an intern/apprenticeship program at Polyface. What better way to learn the craft than to apprentice under the master himself? And I can tell you that every intern I spoke with was stoked to be a part of the program.
The Three M’s totally revolutionize the way modern farming is done. No need to fertilize, inoculate, or augment feed by sources aside from what can be reaped from the land. Reliance upon petro fuel sources is next to nil. As an entrepreneur, I couldn’t help but to see the vast similarities between Brian Franklin’s masterful work, The Last Safe Investment, and the manifestation of those ideas on a real, working, and profitable farming enterprise.
And, as always, Joel Salatin is one of the most affable, home-spun wisdom founts you’ll come across. Just a couple of his many pearls from the weekend:
- On marketing: “you can be a nudist, or you can be a Buddhist, but being a nudist-Buddhist is just too niche.”
- On leveraging expertise versus goods: “Knowledge can neither be taxed nor sequestered.”
- On the government’s reluctance to alter policy that is ill-suited to the good of the people (farming subsidies, laws that impede consumers easy access to sustainable, locally-raised goods): “There’s exponentially more GDP produced resulting from illness than in health”.
- On conscientious land management: “The land will respond, flourish and provide abundantly when loved and caressed, but will withdraw when wrestled and raped.”
These pearls of wisdom show that Joel would have been a great addition to Paleo f(x)™ 2016’s The System is a Lie panel. Sidenote: this panel was by my and Michelle’s workshopping with Brian Franklin, and the subsequent reading of his transformative Last Safe Investment. After reading his book, Michelle felt so compelled to create the panel, and it was one of the favorites from 2016.
There’s a common theme coalescing around this Paleo/Real Food, soul and sustainability movement, and we at Paleo f(x)™ are proud to be at the forefront of that charge by supporting operations like Polyface and the FTCLDF.
Knowledge in and of itself does little to change the course of events. Knowledge put into action, however, carries with it the momentum to change the world.
Lastly, can I say that the meals we ate at the farm were nothing short of spectacular? Wow. There is simply no comparison to food made with compromised ingredients, even with the best chefly magic.
I implore you to read more about the farming practices utilized at Polyface Farms. Vote with your dollar (the most immediate form of democracy there is!), and support farmers who practice these, and similar, sustainable farming techniques.
Also, please support the tireless and dedicated work of the fine people at Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund. We at Paleo f(x)™, in partnership with our charity sponsors, are proud supporters of the FTCLDF via our annual Paleo f(x)™ event charity dinners. Please consider attending this event at Paleo f(x)™ 2017, and please consider a personal membership to support their much needed work.
Fight the good fight! Don’t let access to wholesome, sustainably raised food be regulated away from you and your family.
Heal thyself, harden thyself; change the world!