Photo: Participant Media/Food, Inc.
Joel Salatin, 53, is a fulltime third generation alternative farmer in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. His farm services more than 3,000 families, 10 retail outlets, and 50 restaurants through on-farm sales and metropolitan buying clubs with salad bar beef, pastured poultry, eggmobile eggs, pigaerator pork, forage-based rabbits, pastured turkey and forestry products using relationship marketing.
In addition to open pasture, Polyface has 450 woodland acres, that Salatin refers to as a “forest farm.” Besides selling firewood and lumber, the farm’s pigs are finished on acorns for a month before slaughter, which saves money on grains and feed. Salatin claims that running pigs in the woods (George Washington did so with his own swine herds), and being able to manage and control this technique, will eventually make confined animal feeding operations (CAFO) obsolete.
Salatin also talks about the farm crisis: demographically, the average farmer is approximately 60 years old, and in the next 15 years 50% of America’s farmland will change hands. Unfortunately most of this land will be passed onto children who don’t want to farm the land. But the good news is that a generation of young farmers (who don’t come from a farming background or family) are slowly becoming the new rock stars of the food world, and there is going to be land available for them everywhere.
Salatin holds a BA degree in English and writes regularly for Stockman Grassfarmer, Acres USA, and American Agriculturist. The Salatin family farm, Polyface Inc. (“The Farm of Many Faces”) has been featured in Smithsonian Magazine, National Geographic, Gourmet. Profiled on the Lives of the 21st Century series with Peter Jennings on ABC World News, his after-broadcast chat room fielded more hits than any other segment to date. It achieved iconic status as the grass farm featured in the New York Times bestseller Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.