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Joel Salatin advocates a better way to raise food

Farmer/lecturer Joel Salatin champions 'moral farming' as a better way to raise food. 'What is a moral way to raise a chicken?' he asks.

Farmer, author, and lecturer Joel Salatin on Polyface Farm in Swoope, Va., in the Shenandoah Valley. His approach is a mix of environmentalism, Christian values, and savvy.

Virginia Montet/AFP/NEWSCOM

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Meet the best, loudest (and only) Christian-libertarian-capitalist-environmentalist-lunatic farmer on the face of planet Earth.

Joel Salatin, self-professed owner of that lengthy honorific, has a personality bigger than the Grain Belt and a genius for farming that has made him a glib, brilliant prophet to a growing movement of back-to-nature farmers from California to Swoope, Va. (pop. 1,326), where his 550-acre Polyface Farm rests at the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Mr. Salatin’s agricultural preaching has influenced food author and journalist Michael Pollan (“Omnivore’s Dilemma”) and earned him a prominent spot in the documentary “Food, Inc.,” making waves worldwide.

What makes Salatin so powerful on the farming scene is a unique mix of ingenuity, faith, and business savvy.

Whether making farming lectures feel like religious revivals or handling customers’ questions at the family store, it’s this blend of agricultural potency and inspirational vision that enables him to gross roughly $2 million annually and stand at the front of a growing community of farmers that may look like quintessential American rustics but whose techniques are anything but traditional.

On a foundation of Christian principles, Salatin has built a farming ecosystem where cows, pigs, chickens, turkeys, and rabbits interact ecologically in a way that goes beyond conservation.

“What we’re looking at is God’s design, nature’s template, and using that as a pattern to cut around and lay it down on a domestic model to duplicate that pattern that we see in nature,” Salatin says.

What that means for Polyface in practical terms is that the cattle graze different areas of pasture every day. Then chickens pick through the same fields, eating bugs and spreading cow manure before clucking back to mobile coops.


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