Chris Martenson: Welcome to Peak Prosperity. I am your host, Chris Martenson, and today we have the pleasure of speaking with Joel Salatin, one of the most visible and influential leaders in the Organic Food and Sustainable Farming Movement.
His family owns and manages Polyface Farms, which has featured prominently in such modern food movement masterworks as The Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan and the documentary film Food, Inc. He is America's resident farmer-philosopher.
We last spoke to Joel in 2011, and that podcast was very well received, widely listened to, and sparked numerous, excellent conversations. Joel's unconventional but highly innovative farming practices are inspiring millions to increase their nutritional and community resiliency by seeking out local sources of chemical-free food raised using natural process-based farming practices.
Joel, welcome back.
Joel Salatin: Thank you, Chris. Great to be with you.
Chris Martenson: Well, today I want to cover a million things, and Joel; I know you are up to that task. In case we cannot get to them all, my main priorities are to discuss the intersection of modern farming and the current drought in the U.S. What people can do about increasing their food resilience in their local communities, if not yards? What source of bright spots you can share with us from your speaking and travels? What we should be doing individually, nationally, maybe even globally to prepare for a more durable future?
Is that a decent lineup?
Joel Salatin: Well, that is just the first five minutes. Then, what are we going to do?
Chris Martenson: I do not know. I will think of something.
Well, let's start with the drought. First, this is being compared to the droughts of 1988 and 1956, and so I guess these sorts of things do happen. In your view, what are the main issues that are being exposed by this particular drought?
Joel Salatin: Well, it is a great, great question. First of all, hydrology and hydration; there are several things. There are several vulnerabilities coming out and anybody who knows me knows that I am a big believer in ecological participation. I am not a big believer in environmentalism by abandonment. That is, unfortunately, the mantra of the radical environmental fringe which believes that the best environmental policy is one of human abandonment.
So I look in the mirror and say, "Well, why do I have this big brain and these opposing thumbs? What am I here for?"
What I am here for is to participate in the environment as an active player to massage this ecological womb into more forgiveness. How do you build a forgiving landscape, a forgiving system?
First, it is important to realize that perennials are far more forgiving than annuals. Perennials live year to year; do not have to be planted. You do not need the moisture to grow the seed. They are much more resilient from year-to-year than annuals.
Of course, U.S. Farm Policy is all about annuals and not perennials. Perennials can be anything from nut trees to vineyards to -- obviously my big deal, is perennial grasses, the perennial prairies.
Those are far more resilient under stress than are corn, soybeans, small grains, and annuals. Even, for that matter, vegetables.
So, the first thing is to return to a perennially based system rather than an annual-based system. The U.S. even subsidizes annuals in production, which creates an inordinate pricing structure and masks many of the weaknesses, over time, of the annual type production.
So, what that means is that the cattle need to be taken out of feed lots. They need to be put on perennial prairie poly-cultures. But we are not talking about two-hundred-year-ago infrastructure. We are talking about using computer microchip electric fencing, polyethylene black plastic pipe watering systems. We can actually mimic the kind of production that was here six hundred years ago even better than it was then.
In fact, there were more pounds of red meat in what is now the U.S. five hundred years ago than there are today even with all the annuals and all the petroleum fertilizers because the perennials were so voluminous and so resilient. Number one.
Number two is hydration. See, one of our problems in our culture is that we were colonized. Native Americans would say taken over. The fact is that our culture is based in European culture and when you look at Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland, places like that, their water -- when you talk about water there, it is all about drainage.
We have to drain it, drain it, drain it. Here the problem is not drainage; it is hydration. How do you hydrate the landscape? This is true. Sure, there are a few places where drainage is an issue. But for the most part, certainly in the lion's share of the continent, hydration is the bigger issue. So how do you hydrate this?
And I would suggest that the number-one way is to build farm ponds. Not Army Corps of Engineer dams, and not Tennessee Valley Authority dams or whatever; what I am talking about are millions and millions and millions of farm ponds.
If the amount of earth that was moved to today to till, to move soil and till it to grow annuals, we are focused instead on moving soil to build farm ponds to keep the raindrops as high on the landscape as possible for as long as possible; we would fundamentally alter the hydration, the base flow, the aquifers, the whole situation in the country.
The problem is that between burning out the organic matter -- and that brings me to the third point --- you go to Australia, even in an urban setting, every house has a couple fifteen-hundred-gallon cisterns under the gutter downspouts.
Chris Martenson: Yes.
Joel Salatin: In Colorado, it is illegal to have a rain barrel. That is how nuts we are in this country. We have to really focus attention on keeping water as high on the landscape as possible for as long as possible.
The third thing is that with chemical fertilization and tillage we have taken the organic matter out of our soils. One pound of organic matter holds four pounds of water. So, when we burn out the organic matter with either tillage or with chemical fertilizer, which stings the soil life and makes it start to cannibalize the soil life to stay alive, when that happens, then the water-retentive capacity of the landscape fundamentally changes.
One of the reasons that the Mississippi floods so dramatically so frequently in recent decades is because the organic matter of all of the area feeding the Mississippi river is down by about four times.
In other words, it has gone from an average 6-7 percent organic matter down to, in some cases, 1 percent organic matter in the last seventy or eighty years. That actually creates a huge loss of water retention in the landscape.
Chris Martenson: So that is as if billions of sponges suddenly dried out and were silenced.
Joel Salatin: Yes. Yes. Absolutely. That is exactly the way because organic matter is like compost. It is real soft, resilient, and spongy.
Chris Martenson: Yes.
Joel Salatin: And when you take that sponginess out, not only can the soil, when it does rain, it cannot absorb the water as fast. It also cannot hold as much so you are working against yourself in both directions.
Whereas, in the native prairie where the organic matter was very high and there was this tremendous carpet of thick vegetation on the soil surface, it protected the soil both from erosion and from organic matter burnout.
Of course, the root and the biomass are what fed the soil, which did not burn out the organic matter. In fact, it actually built the organic matter.
You take those three elements, the annuals and the lack of hydration and the chemical fertilization. You have three strikes and you are out.
A lot of people, even conservatives are looking at this and say, "This is why we need crop insurance." Crop insurance to protect these farmers. Well, you know, I think that taxpayer subsidized crop insurance simply props up this continued assault against the ecological profit and loss statement.
If farmers had to actually bear the cost of assaulting nature, maybe they would begin looking at some of these other parts of the equation and change some of their practices.
Chris Martenson: Right. If I could summarize, then, you are suggesting that unlike the droughts of '56 for sure, maybe even 1988, because there has been some erosion of soil quality even since then. Modern agribusiness practices have then exacerbated this drought.
Joel Salatin: Yes. That is correct. Certainly, 1988 we were already way down the road in the destruction that we are today. It is not that long ago. 1956, again, it was the tilling up, the inversion, the destruction of the prairie that fundamentally altered things.
Now, there were certainly droughts long before this.
Chris Martenson: Yes.
Joel Salatin: But the resiliency of the landscape and the ability of the landscape to weather droughts was what was better. And beyond that, I would simply say that if we Europeans with our cleverness and our machinery, if we had started on day one in hydrating that landscape and building ponds so that the flood waters did not, when there was excess moisture, it did not flood out everybody downstream but we caught it up high in these ponds.
Lewis Bromfield, in the 1950s in his foundational books for the Ecological Farming Movement -- Out of the Earth and Malabar Farm -- in these books he talks about dreaming that the entire Ohio River Valley would have millions and millions of farm ponds like small cattle hoof prints up in the headwaters.
And this was in the 1950s. And he said the whole notion that we can control water and floods and things by doing grandiose projects at the end of the pipe is stupid. You have got to control the flow at the beginning of the pipe. Man cannot do anything at the end of the pipe. You have got to do it at the beginning of the pipe.
Chris Martenson: Well said. I certainly get that. When I have looked at some of the farming practices in Australia, where they do key lime plowing and other things like that where they have to manage aggressively for very, very low amounts of water, they found ways to subsistent farm successfully in places with twenty inches of rain or even less.
I note that in the U.S., typically, our response to that is just dig a little deeper pump from an aquifer, the Ogallala or some other place.
Joel Salatin: Yes, that is right. Think about -- I do not know if you have -- I was just recently in New Mexico, and in fact, I was in Texas too, recently. Anyway, you go out through there, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada; you are driving down and you look down and you are driving across a big, concrete bridge that is maybe a hundred feet long. You look underneath and there is this huge, dry riverbed. It has dirt bike tracks and ATV tracks up there. You ask the guy that is driving the car, say, "What is this? Are these sunken paths for off-road vehicles? What is this for?”
"Oh, those are the arroyos."
And about five days a year, they completely fill up and even flood out. And so, even in environments like that, if we would build ponds up in those areas and catch all that surface runoff water, not only would we protect the people downstream, but we would actually see springs come back, trees grow, rain cycles run better just from hydrating the landscape.
Here on our farm in Shenandoah Valley, we are in a thirty-one-inch-a-year rainfall area and we have a significant drought event, oh, about once every three years. These are significant droughts. Wells go dry. Springs go dry, that sort of thing.
Every couple of years, every time we scrabble together another thousand dollars, we go up in the highlands here on the farm and build another pond. It might cost four, five thousand dollars. Six thousand would get you a pretty big pond. We build these ponds.
So now, as I sit here talking to you today we are in the middle of the summer. And we have multiple ponds that gravity feed through a network of five miles of polyethylene black plastic pipe that gives us eighty pounds of pressure water over the entire farm.
We have millions of gallons stored up in these high swales, these high valleys that were accumulated back in the winter. They kept the Potomac from being at flood stage, obviously. This is a small amount.
But the point is if this were duplicated instead of farmers buying silos and Monsanto seed corn, building seed lots, pouring concrete and buying the latest truck and white picket fences; if that were the thrust instead, to create forgiveness and water resilience in the landscape, suddenly we could re-create Eden here. We would be flood-proof, drought-proof, and re-create Eden.
So the tragedy of the conversation is not that we are lazy because most people are not lazy; the tragedy is that we have invested all this time and money and energy being busy working at the wrong thing.
Chris Martenson: Well, that is the lure of technology. If your first technology fails, you just go on to a better one and keep moving along. Sometimes that requires a re-thinking. You are saying that if we just re-thought the hydrology, we could put ponds in.
Obviously, this is something that I think is already being successfully demonstrated; practiced with enough experience under its belt, you could say, it works…
Joel Salatin: Oh, yes.
Chris Martenson: …it is profitable, it is ecologically…
Joel Salatin: Oh, absolutely. Yes.
Chris Martenson: …makes sense. Financially, it makes sense. It makes sense in all sorts of dimensions. And we are not doing it because?
Joel Salatin: Well, we are not doing it because it is not promoted. In fact, now the USDA discourages farm ponds because they make places for wild fowl to land on and have their babies on, and the wild fowl, of course, according to the common thought, are going to bring Avian Flu, which is going to destroy the planet with sick chickens.
Back in the 1950s, the USDA actually encouraged farmers to build ponds, and now it is actually discouraging farmers from building ponds because it is a liability instead of an asset. That is how ridiculous our Ag policy has become.
Chris Martenson: I can tell you in my own state of Massachusetts, where I am calling you from, to touch any sort of wetlands is a major no-no. It is a pretty stiff regulatory set of hurdles you have to leap over. And to create a pond where there hasn't been one, I am not quite clear on that; I would believe that involves more than one permit as well.
So, it is not easy…
Joel Salatin: No. That is right. That is right.
Again, we go back to the top of the conversation where I said one of the biggest problems in our culture is that we are looking at environmentalism as something that we do based on abandonment rather than participation.
Chris Martenson: Yes.
Joel Salatin: And so we have this notion that the best thing we can do for the ecology and the environment is to abandon it, walk away, have no human footprints. What we should have been doing with this -- I will call it the blessing of petroleum -- we should have been leveraging it on these kinds of hydration projects to run track loaders and front-end loaders and things that build these ponds and put in the piping.
If we had invested in that instead of bigger plows and bigger discs and GMO grains or whatever; if we had invested in that instead, today we would have a very, very forgiving, resilient landscape.
Chris Martenson: I agree. I do believe that if humans are ignorant and just blunder around, they can actually make things worse…
Joel Salatin: Oh, absolutely.
Chris Martenson: …and I do believe some movements out there just have no faith in humans and say, let's just stop them from blundering around. But the point I love that you are making is that we also are intelligent and creative, and we have the opportunity to enhance what nature's already doing.
Joel Salatin: Yes.
Chris Martenson: We can speed it up. We can create a hundred years of soil in a year if we want. We can do extraordinary things; make food sheds ten times more productive than they currently are.
Joel Salatin: Yes. Absolutely. There is nothing inherently environmentally damaging about human participation. Yes, I admit it. Repent in sackcloth and ashes for all of the human devastation that has been caused throughout history. It has been caused long before the USDA, long before America, long before a lot of things.
It does not have to be so. In fact, we are not only the most efficient at destroying it; we are also the most efficient at healing it.
Chris Martenson: Yes.
Joel Salatin: And that is why this program is so important to help people to understand that we need to ratchet up our humble massage participation. We can actually be a real healer to the landscape, rather than a harm.
Chris Martenson: I love that message. It is absolutely right.
So, before we move on from this drought, one last question on it. Is it too early to start worrying about next year's crop? Are droughts -- do they get bad enough under modern agribusiness that it goes into what I would call the subsoil, down deeper, where some sort of rehydration might take a long time? Where does this become an annoyance at current crop prices and become something a little bit more serious?
Joel Salatin: Well, sure. A drought cycle, yes, you get into it, and we do not know where it ends. Ask the people in the Sutlej or the Rajasthan Desert in India which archaeologists have now found huge granaries made of a kind of lime precursor to concrete, huge granaries in what is today a desert. Yet, climatologists have gone in there, pitched out the livestock, and in a couple of years it greens up and the rains fall.
This is not just a U.S. -- it is worldwide, this lack of appreciation for nature's profit-and-loss statement. Whether you are nomadic or whether you have property ownership or tribalism or republican forms of government, the fact is that nature's balance sheet supersedes all of those social, political, economic systems.
And so, what people need to do is to realize that part of our mandate, I will just say our Creator's mandate is to use this creativity that we have and address it on the landscape to make the landscape more resilient.
So yes, there ought to be more cisterns. There ought to be home gardens so you are not dependent on food shipped in from somewhere else. All of those kinds of things that you can do for yourself to extricate yourself form the vulnerabilities of a culture gone mad with hubris is a positive thing.
Chris Martenson: I have a very personal question about this resilience, then. I was very clever; three years ago I put in about twenty six fruit trees and nut trees. This was all in the interest of increased food resilience and eating tree-ripened fruit. I had the whole fantasy, got it really well laid out. And this year I got a single plum from one tree. The reason was a whole lot of early warmth that forced the earliest recorded bloom in our region on record right now and then a regular April frost.
And it suddenly occurs to me that neither of my food goals is being met this year. Is this just a case of, welcome to Farming 101, Chris? Or does food resilience now require that I invest in, I do not know, different varieties, greenhouses, anti-frost technology? If this pattern persists, I no longer live in an area that is amenable to fruit trees.
Joel Salatin: That is a great question. My quick response is, “Welcome to farming.” The fact is, they are happening. To be absolutely honest, this is one of the single biggest arguments of the industrial food globalists' anti-local crowd that scoff at the notion that local food systems actually work.
Here is the thing you have to understand. We have not gotten where we are overnight, and we will not get out of it overnight. And the truth is, very possibly, some of your varieties were not acclimatized or bio-regionally adapted to your area. You got them out of nursery catalogs, whatever, other places.
Secondly, anomalies do happen. That is why in old days, people stocked a larder. And in our case at our house, Theresa usually cans, keeps about two years' worth of food canned in the pantry, so when we have a bumper crop of tomatoes or plums or apples for apple sauce, we can it and put it by.
I think beyond that, it is just variety. Typically you do not have a complete loss. A year that is bad for plums might be good for mulberries. A year that is bad for, like this year, this year we are having a bumper strawberry and blackberry crop. We had that early season too.
And our apples did not do very well, did not do nearly as well as they did last year, but we picked what, I do not know, twenty gallons of blackberries. So, Theresa froze a bunch of blackberries. We had blackberry cobbler and things.
Very seldom does everything go by. Fascinatingly, if you go to the early planters, go to Mount Vernon. Go to Monticello; Thomas Jefferson. Mount Vernon, of course, was George Washington. You go and you look at the recipes, the index to the larder that was there. My goodness, there are all these amazing fruits, quince and currants and gooseberries.
Like around our area up in these mountains, the old timers say the neighbors used to get together -- this is before the government owned all the forest land -- and they used to get together and agree to burn. They would burn about ten acres on the mountain every year and that is where the whole community went and picked blueberries.
They burned about ten acres every year and the blueberry bushes would come in the first year. They would bear the second year and about the fourth year, that area would turn from blueberries into blackberries.
Then within another couple of years, then it started being over-storied by trees and it went back to forest. So you had this kind of patchwork quilt idea. I think even in our backyards and your nut, your fruit trees, you need to think about patchwork things.
For example, we are having a fantastic grape crop. Our grapes are as good as they have ever been, even though we did not get any apples and it does not look like we got any paw paws. Most of the time, everything does not go down at once.
This diversity deal, this spreading your risks, this is all part of it. The fact is it takes time to build up those things to do that. We are early on this re-discovering and re-application of some of this backyard dependency. There has been a lot of information lost. There has been a lot of genetic adaptability lost in the centralization of seed stock, centralization of nursery stock.
As thousands and thousands of us begin doing exactly what you have done, we will find our Massachusetts cultivars. Even for whatever your county is. Those cultivars, we will find. We will re-discover those because that is exactly the kind of food system that has sustained civilizations throughout history.
Chris Martenson: I agree. My grapes are doing great this year. They also got zipped by the frost because they forced early. But grapes apparently like punishment, so they are just having a great year this year.
Joel Salatin: Yes, the grapes are probably one of the most resilient things you can do. Then, of course, some of the other things you can micro-manage. For example, strawberries. You can lay Reemay on them easily and help a lot. Reemay is a floating row cover. Or even a light dusting of straw.
One of the things that we have done is we have a floating garden and a pond. We built a pond here for irrigation for the garden so if it got dry we could always irrigate. That cost us a couple thousand dollars, but now we have five hundred thousand gallons of water sitting there forty yards from the back door of the house that we can use for irrigation.
It is soft water. It is not cold well water. It is truly our water because it fell on our place. We captured it from our place and we are gradually letting it go downstream and using those raindrops multiple times on their way to the ocean.
Anyway, we actually have a floating garden out there on six-inch PVC pipe, a raft that we fill up with compost and plant on. And the water acts as a heat sink to make ambient temperature better, and it just works beautifully.
Solariums on the side. We have a solarium on the house. This is like a greenhouse on the southern exposure of the house. Every single house above Alabama and probably southern Georgia should have a solarium on the southern side of it. You can heat your house with it in the winter, and while you are heating your house, you can grow all your mesclun mix and broccoli and carrots and beets and cool-season stuff in there all winter.
That is the kind of resiliency I am talking about. Living roofs. Hook your exercise bicycle up to a pump. Collect your roof runoff in a cistern. Put your exercise bike up to the pump. Pump the water up on to the roof. The roof has vermiculite and compost up there, and you are growing squash and cucumbers cascading down. You can pick your plants from the second floor window.
This is being done. It can be done. All it takes is for us to want to participate. Our weak link is not lack of money, lack of resources, lack of knowledge; our weak link is constipation of imagination.
Chris Martenson: I love these ideas.
First, what is growing in that floating garden?
Joel Salatin: The first thing we grew in it was broccoli this spring, and it was completely bug free. No sprays, no nothing -- completely bug free. The stuff that was growing twenty feet away in the garden was -- we really had a lot of trouble with bugs. But the stuff in the floating garden on the pond, the bugs couldn't get there because as they tried to get there, the fish would eat them from the pond.
And I think right now we have a bunch of squash, a bunch of zucchini, and crook-neck squash in there right now.
We need to be designing our homesteads in our yards with microclimates in mind. For example, we have these hoop houses that we put the chickens in the wintertime. Of course, they are on a southern slope, kind of stair-stepped in or terraced in. Instead of just having a bunch of steep little spots with lawn that we have to mow, we got a bunch of concrete blocks and we built a terrace to take advantage of the moisture coming off the hoop house. Okay?
Chris Martenson: Yes.
Joel Salatin: It faces south. The concrete blocks act as a heat sink so we can grow fig trees. We have fig trees growing in little enclaves surrounded by concrete blocks as a heat sink out from this southern-exposed terrace that collects the extra rain coming off the hoop houses.
To me, this is real ecology. Not just walking away from it and oh, please do not let me touch it, like it is some sort of a sacred idol that you cannot touch or anything. Rather, this is actually the sheer ecstasy of coming in as a team player, as a co-laborer in this ecology and playing ball with it. That is what I am talking about.
Chris Martenson: You are talking about being a participant in the flow of creation rather than a bystander or an observer of it.
Joel Salatin: Exactly. Exactly. Assuming that whatever the natural order -- not natural order -- whatever is there in nature is A) static, unchangeable, and B) best left alone.
Anyone who studies ecology knows neither one of those is the case. I mean, look at the fires from Yellowstone to Colorado and all this stuff. These fires are a direct result of a non-participatory ecology. If you went in there and cut the dead and downed trees, and if you went in there and did mob stocking or herbivorous solar conversion, lignified sequestration, fertilization, grazing on these areas, there would not be the biomass load to burn and catch fire.
This whole abandonment notion actually carries a huge cost. Now, I am not interested in pillaging it or raping it, okay? But there's a lot of wiggle room between abandonment and raping.
Chris Martenson: Well, when you are doing nothing, you are still doing something. It is just not very much controlled or directed.
Joel Salatin: Yes. That is true. Nature is doing something, too. Nature is doing something; trees grow and die and they fall over. Either you can use them for lumber, or you can let their carbon dioxide just go off in the atmosphere in decay and create a fuel source for the fire coming through and send more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
Wouldn't it be a lot better to go ahead, mill that lumber into boards, and lock it up into buildings that would lock it up and get that fuel out of those areas? That is critical.
I know that cattle have done a lot of damage. But judicious grazing of cattle now using electric fence technology and the water delivery systems that we have, we can actually build soil way, way faster with electric fences and piped water and cows, than the buffalo and the wolves and the Native Americans and fire built soil five hundred years ago.
Chris Martenson: I love that message, and I want to turn now and tap your position as ambassador, as an emissary of sorts.
You are on the road quite a bit. You give talks. You meet people. What is the good news? What can you tell us about increasing awareness of the issues that are outlined in your book, Folks, This Ain't Normal? What sorts of actions are people taking that make you smile?
Joel Salatin: Well, I will tell you about a couple places I have been, and these are pretty. One is a guy -- and I wrote about this in the book -- Colin Seis in Australia. He has developed a system called Pasture Cropping. One of the big problems with crops, with annuals, grains and things, is the tillage problem. That is a big problem. Of course, in our country we have developed the no-till approach, which substitutes herbicides for the plow.
I do not want to get into that debate right now, but what I do want to make people aware of is what this pasture-cropping idea has done. It is taking off even across the world. What it does is it combines livestock -- very tightly managed, grazed livestock -- with a minimum disturbance system.
So here is how it works. The grass grows up. You graze it off. Then instead of waiting until the grass returns to its physiological expression, its full growth, you come in on purpose and graze it too early. Again, this is where you are moving a mob of animals every day in a very tight, controlled, paddock situation.
And you graze it too early and actually on purpose weaken the grass. Then you go in with a very light shoe. It is almost like a lawn aerator with a seed box attached. You go in there and you minimally disturb little grooves, you lay in seed. And because the grass, the forage, the perennial has been set back, weakened a little bit by the quick re-graze, it gives time for the annual to germinate and sprout and get up ahead of it.
Imagine you have timothy, rye, barley, or even corn up seven or eight inches ahead of the grass. As the annual builds up its head of steam it starts to shade out the grass, which helps to retard this forage, the perennial that is underneath it.
The annual goes ahead and makes its seed and it is combined off. As that annual gets combined off, the seed gets harvested off. By that time, the plant, of course, has turned brown and started to desiccate, which opens up the canopy to let the light get back to the perennial.
By the time the seed head is combined, you have a nice twelve-inch sword of pasture of perennials already ready to graze under the crop. Not only do you get your grain crop, but you also get your grazing as well, and there is no herbicide usage; there is nothing.
All you are doing is you are strategically using high-tech electric fencing, extremely beneficent management on that landscape to use animals as a tool to prep the seedbed, create the crop. Get it in, get it out without any fertilizer, because the perennial fertilizes the annual. Amazingly, the production per acre on the seed, on the annual crop is exactly the same as it is on a chemically fertilized, herbicided, pesticided, conventionally grown crop.
It is really, really astounding. The only drawback is, of course, that you cannot do this every year. You can only do this once in five years, because it takes four years in between for the perennial to build the soil energy that was expended in that grain crop. That is how soil-debilitating grain crops are, so you only do it once in five years.
If you quit feeding herbivores grain, which you know cows are not supposed to eat grain, if you integrate the rest of the food system so that pigs eat whey from cheese making; chickens eat kitchen scraps the way they have historically done; so that you drop your grain requirement to just a tiny percentage of what is currently grown. Let's just say maybe twenty or thirty percent.
Suddenly, then you can produce all the grain needed in the world without any tillage, without any herbicide, without any petroleum fossil fuel fertilizer. It is just a marvelous system. It leaves you speechless when you see how simply elegant it is.
So that is a very exciting thing. I have been there. I have seen it. I have talked to the man, and it is nothing short of astounding.
Chris Martenson: So this is pasture five years out of five. But, in one of those years you can do a grain crop on it as well.
Joel Salatin: That is correct. You got it. You got it exactly. It is called -- if anybody wants to Google it or whatever -- it is called Pasture Cropping.
Chris Martenson: Pasture Cropping.
Joel Salatin: Pasture Cropping. Yes. It is quite amazing.
Chris Martenson: And this will work at scale?
Joel Salatin: Yes. Yes, Colin's doing it in 300 acre fields. Yes. Absolutely. Yes. All to scale.
Chris Martenson: Wow. When you go out and talk now, are people becoming more aware? I know there has been a huge food movement. There is slow food. There is slow money. There is a lot of local investing. There is a lot of anxiety around the global economy, so people are starting to focus, rightly I think, more on their own back yards a little bit.
As you go out there, how would you measure more receptivity? Either you are seeing different sorts of people in the audience, the audiences are larger; we are seeing the age ranges of the interested folks change. What is going on?
Joel Salatin: All of the above. All of the above. You know, I think for sure what is happening to me as a -- you know, I do a lot of traveling and speaking -- and what's happening for me is I see a tremendous additional penetration, where I am doing a lot more college-campus speaking. I am doing economic development, Chamber of Commerce type, just -- goodness -- and Hyatt Hotels.
I mean, just everything from corporate to just -- a local group; Edible Landscape Magazines, you know, they might host a deal; schools; there is just a tremendous amount of stuff going on.
And yes, I call it a local food tsunami, and I am riding the wave. And it is really fun to have been the ugly step child all my life and suddenly wake up one morning and I am chic. I call it my Cinderella experience.
Chris Martenson: Well, I have a smaller experience with that, but I have the same experience. There was a moment in my life where I was saying things that were deeply unpopular -- involved this thing called a “housing bubble” years before it was a fashionable thing to talk about.
But there is something in the air. I really want to first thank you so much for your time today. I absolutely can encourage everyone to read Folks, This Ain't Normal. I am sure you can find it everywhere.
I know that you can also follow Joel's writing and activities at the Polyface Farm page on Facebook. Joel, where else?
Joel Salatin: Well, that is probably the most comprehensive place, the Polyface Farm's. I mean, we have a web page and you can follow -- you can see where I will be if you want to come and hear me yack, do my dog and pony show. My schedule is on the website, PolyfaceFarms.com. Just Google Polyface Farms and the schedule will come up.
If you want to see pictures of what we are doing; if you want to see my latest whatever, writings or things like that, we try to keep it current and posted there as well.
Yes, there really is a lot going on. It is a busy time for the local food movement. We need to be busy because there is a tremendous amount of pushback from the industry and the entrenched food system that is not happy losing market share to people like us and losing people to their dependency on Velveeta cheese and Coca-Cola.
And so that is why voting with your food dollar whether it is to find your farmer, grow your own garden, or go down to farmer's market or to the roadside stand or whatever, any of these things.
The thing is, we need to just kick the supermarket addiction. Treat it like a bad habit and get in our kitchens. The number one thing you can do is get in your kitchen and cook from scratch. Because that takes the dollar away from all the food processors and all that distribution-food-processing network that is all devoted to taking the life out of food and making sure food will not perish or will not rot, extending the shelf life.
The longer the shelf life is on food, the less nutritious it is. So re-develop your larder. Enjoy culinary, domestic arts, and begin -- one bite at a time -- extricating yourself from the agenda of people that if you knew what they actually believe, it would curl your hair.
Chris Martenson: Oh, I know. Apparently, there are fewer laws and penalties governing deep-well injection of hazardous chemicals than there are for selling raw milk, say.
Joel Salatin: Yes. Absolutely. And the fact that we have given over to the government, which thinks the safety of our food -- I mean, we are talking about people who think it is much safer to feed your kids Twinkies, Cocoa Puffs, and Mountain Dew than raw milk, compost-grown tomatoes, and pastured poultry.
This is just unprecedented in the history of the world, and we are a culture of guinea pigs. Nobody has you by the throat. To make the changes that we described today do not take an act of Congress. They do not take a change in the legislature. They do not take a change in the tax law. What they take are individuals to make committed, participatory, convictional decisions and change the landscape of our culture.
Chris Martenson: There it is. I have goose bumps. I really do. That is exactly the right message. I love it. And I am certainly voting with my own dollars. And I do it not just because I want to get back at a system; I do it because it is healthier. It feels good. I am supporting these wonderful, bright, shiny young kids who are coming up behind me who are interested in farming.
I see the land getting improved. All of these things are just intuitively right. They are intellectually right. Spiritually they feel right. Everything feels good about this. So, fight the marketing, I guess.
Joel Salatin: Yes. That is right. You got it. What is there not to love? The only people that will be out will be the bureaucrats and the Monsantos.
Chris Martenson: Could not happen to a nicer crowd. I hope they find good jobs, whatever they do next. That would be…
Joel Salatin: Oh, they will. They will. I mean, this absolutely creates a much more dynamic culture, a much more fun place to live, believe me.
Chris Martenson: Oh, fantastic. Well, thank you again, so much, for your time. As always, this has been uplifting and illuminating. Mission accomplished.
Joel Salatin: Thank you. Thank you, Chris, and blessings on all your efforts. Take care.
Chris Martenson: All right. Thank you and goodbye.
Joel Salatin: Bye.