Podcast

Joel Salatin: We Are the Solution, as Well as the Problem

A call for "ecological participation"
Sunday, July 29, 2012, 2:01 PM

There is nothing inherently environmentally damaging about human participation. Yes, I admit it and 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.

So states Joel Salatin, one of the most visible and influential leaders in the organic food and sustainable farming movement. Joel returns as a guest to discuss "ecological participation" - methods by which humans can create a much more resilient landscape than current mass agricultural practices allow for.

Among other topics covered in this podcast, Joel and Chris focus the current drought gripping much of the US (and other countries). How unusual is it in its severity? What's causing it? What can be done to reduce our vulnerability in the future?

Joel's basic point is that there is a wide set of solutions that are possible to implement today, at scale, that can have an enormously restorative impact on our ecology without sacrificing crop production yields. Some of these involve returning to practices common in past generations before modern factory farming, others arise from new innovative thinking and technologies.

The only obstacle to implementing these solutions is our own intransigence. Our politics and economy are deeply wed to the heavily depleting and input-dependent practices of modern mega-farms. So there are big interests concerned with protecting the status quo, even though it is simply not sustainable in the long term. 

Which is why Joel is a big believer in action at the individual level. The more households and local communities begin implementing these sustainable solutions, more momentum will build to change perception and thinking at the state and national level. Plus, our local foodsheds and watersheds will be better off from these efforts - so why not get started now?

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 and 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 -- 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 polycultures. But we are not talking about two-hundred-years-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.

They 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.

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 cried 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.

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.

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.

And the fact that we have given over to the government 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.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Joel Salatin (47m:09s):

Transcript: 

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.

About the guest

Joel F. Salatin (born 1957) is an American farmer, lecturer, and author whose books include Folks, This Ain't Normal, You Can Farm and Salad Bar Beef.

Salatin raises livestock using holistic methods of animal husbandry, free of potentially harmful chemicals, on his Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley. Meat from the farm is sold by direct-marketing to consumers and restaurants.

In high school, Salatin began his own business selling rabbits, eggs, butter and chicken from his family farm at the Staunton Curb Market. He then attended Bob Jones University where he majored in English and was a student leader. He graduated in 1979. Salatin married his childhood sweetheart in 1980 and became a feature writer at the Staunton, Virginia newspaper, The News Leader, where he had worked earlier typing obituaries and police reports.

Tired of “having his stories spiked,” he decided to try farming full-time after first getting involved in a walnut-buying station run by two high school boys. Salatin’s grandfather had been an avid gardener and beekeeper and a follower of J. I. Rodale, the founder of regenerative organic gardening. Salatin’s father worked as an accountant and his mother taught high school physical education. Salatin’s parents had bought the land that became Polyface after losing a farm in Venezuela to political turmoil. They had raised cattle using organic methods, but could not make a living at farming alone.

Salatin, a self-described “Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist-lunatic-Farmer” produces high-quality “beyond organic” meats, which are raised using environmentally responsible, ecologically beneficial, sustainable agriculture. Jo Robinson, the author of Pasture Perfect: The Far-Reaching Benefits of Choosing Meat, Eggs and Dairy Products From Grass-Fed Animals (2004) said of Salatin, “He’s not going back to the old model. There’s nothing in county extension or old-fashioned ag science that really informs him. He is just looking totally afresh at how to maximize production in an integrated system on a holistic farm. He’s just totally innovative.”

Salatin considers his farming a ministry, and he condemns the negative impact on his livelihood and lifestyle of what he considers an increasingly regulatory approach taken by the agencies of the United States government toward farming. Salatin now spends a hundred days a year lecturing at colleges and to environmental groups.

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30 Comments

JAG's picture
JAG
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Awesome!

Fantastic podcast!

Thank you....Jeff

Doug's picture
Doug
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Chris

If it's any comfort, we planted 20 some trees, shrubs and vines last year and about the same number this year.  We've got one pear this year, no apples, no nuts and no peaches.  Our 15 year old cherry tree, which produces prolifically every other year, produced nothing this year because of the warm March and normal April.  One promising tree is the quince we planted last year.  It's producing a lot for the size of the tree.

I think part of our problem this year is the drought and part was the warm March.  Also, we are going to be a lot more careful where we plant in the future.  The trees we planted in clay soil aren't doing well at all whereas the ones we planted in better soil that retains moisture are doing well.

Doug

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earthwise
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As good as it gets........

......for me, anyways.

Let me explain. As I was finishing listening to this interview, my wife calls me to breakfast. A breakfast consisting of omeletees with eggs laid yesterday by my chickens, pork sausage from my pigs, cheese made from milk from my goats, salsa made from tomatoes, chile and onions from my garden; cold milk from same goats, and orange juice freshed squeezed from my neighbor's trees (he's got waaaay too many orange trees). Tonights dinner is pork steaks, taters and veggies all home grown.

And the two people most responsible for my transition from unsustainable to (more) sustainable? That's right, Chris and Joel, preachin' the same gospel that got me to join the choir. Hallelujah and amen!!

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kingroc
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i'm totally digging it!

I'm totally digging this guy, digging the concept big time!! I really started growing my own food in 2010 and it was ABSOLUTELY LIBERATING!!

thank you for having this podcast and I look forward to learning more and growing more of my own food!!

dig it!

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NZSailor
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A great discussion....

and it reminded me to worry a bit less about what's going on in the EU and focus on what positive changes I can make on the farm!

Wow, a two year home stocked larder.... there's a goal to work towards.

Thanks Chris and Joel!

Chip

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dan allen
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sponges crying out

I love the far-out imagery, Chris! ... "So that is as if billions of sponges suddenly cried out and were silenced." ...What was the last thing they said before they were silenced?

jk...typo in transcript above? -- [d]ried out  :-)

robie robinson's picture
robie robinson
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a great farmer as well

however contrary

www.contraryfarmer.com

robie

JAG's picture
JAG
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Drought & Fruit Production

Last year, during our 100 year drought in Texas, my citrus trees only produced about 20% of their typical yield. I didn't water them at all during the summer, and all the trees made it through just fine, but my blood orange harvest (which comes every other year) was dismal in the late Fall.

I'm think of planting some low-chill apple varieties that probably won't set fruit here unless we have an unusually cold winter, hopefully offsetting a loss in citrus production in such a year.

Best....Jeff

P.S. LMAO at the sponge joke...the Death Star is blowing up organic matter....too funny.

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joemanc
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Doug wrote: The trees we

Doug wrote:

The trees we planted in clay soil aren't doing well at all whereas the ones we planted in better soil that retains moisture are doing well.

Doug

Same issue with my Apple trees. I'm trying to rectify it by spreading mulch around a wide circle of the trees. As it breaks down, it should work in to the soil, or so I have been told.

I have more fruit trees to plant in the fall - will be replacing/mixing the clay soil with some loam.

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MarkM
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mulch

Joe,

I am in North Texas, zone 7. I have fruit trees in clay soil. They are on drip irrigation. The trees were planted three years ago. Last summer (during our generational drought) I mulched about a 15 -20 foot diameter area around the trunks to about 4 inches deep with wheat straw. The response in vegetative growth was amazing, even in the scorching heat. I agree that the breakdown of the mulch will help improve the soil. However, there is a tremendous benefit from the moderation of soil moisture and temperature.  Mulch away.

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Wyo Cowboy
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Rain Collection is NOT Illegal In CO

Red herring for the most part. It is not illegal to have rain barrels in Colorado. In fact, legislation from 3 years ago cleared up a lot of grey areas that were present regarding water shares and rights. See here - http://nyti.ms/Pwape1

Also, having grown up in Wyoming, I can tell you first hand that the red meat he speaks of from 500 years ago was hunted out by the railroads, not poor ranching. You may have heard of a little beastie called the buffalo? http://bit.ly/OCtSeE

Not that I disagree with each person taking ownership and getting their hands dirty in the garden and such. Just think that folks should get the full story and not sensationalized misinformation.

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Participation is "Stewardship" - and it must be Loving

Thank you Joel for your great advocacy of sustainable agriculture and for its exploration and demonstration at Polyface Farm.

And thank you Chris for once again digging out the crucial information and experts that matter.

I think a better way to conceive of our "ecological participation" (versus ecological “abandonment”) is “Stewardship of the Earth” - Loving Stewardship of the Earth.

Stewardship is our natural role in Nature as human beings and so, for us to actively participate in Nature is actually our duty and a sacred Trust - to enhance the beauty of the Earth and the prosperity and happiness of all life forms.

We know that Stewardship is our natural role in Nature by the construction of the human body which is an amazing machine for engineering the physical environment. And we know that this must be Loving Stewardship by the joy that we feel when we tend a garden, when we relieve suffering and deprivation, and when we create beauty and abundance.  The need and mandate for Loving Stewardship of the Earth is programmed into the Human Heart.  It is  deepest instinct of the only creature of Nature capable of and charged with the tending of the Earth Garden, including the welfare of the innocent children of life - the sentient creatures who depend on us, and who help us and keep us company, and who delight us with their innocence and purity and trust, just like children.  The animals are the Children in the Family of Life.

Joel is a great warrior for ecological participation, helping to show that the hand of Man can enhance Nature, not just degrade Her as has been the sad overall effect of our actions especially in the last 200 years. But I think his advocacy of meat agriculture is misplaced because meat eating and meat agriculture violate our Trust as Stewards of the Earth.

The meat diet and supporting Agriculture, even following the Polyface Farm model, still results in the betrayal and horror of the slaughter of our helpless and innocent charges, and companions and partners in life’s sojourn – the animals.

The meat diet is not as efficient as the vegetarian diet in food production. Land cultivated for a plant-based diet can support more people sustainably than land used to feed people with meat. This is so even if we use un-arable lands to produce meat - the nutrition potential of arable lands alone when cultivated with Natural Organic Agriculture to sustain a whole plant-based diet is massive, unbeatable by meat production.

The meat diet is a leading contributor to Diabetes and a primary contributor to the three top causes of death in the United States:  Heart Disease, Cancer and Stroke - this is true even for the organic meat produced at Polyface Farms. The whole plant-based diet not only prevents these diseases but can reverse them.

The meat diet is responsible for more fresh water use and pollution than all others sources in the US, including human consumption and industrial activities. This massive water use and pollution in meat agriculture could be reduced by organic management of grazing and fodder lands but organic plant culture still requires much less water per unit of food produced and entails no water pollution.

The meat diet is responsible for more Global Warming than the entire world's transportation combined due to the release of methane gas from the animals gut and their waste. Plant culture, especially when conducted on small, organic, low-input, labor-intensive family farms near the markets – as needed for the rising New Paradigm, requires fewer liquid fuels in farm work and transportation, and requires little if any energy for refrigeration, and so produces fewer carbon dioxide /greenhouse gas emissions.  And if we adopt Biochar production for the creation of Terra Preta in these farm fields and our home gardens, organic plant agriculture will begin to reverse Global Warming by permanent carbon sequestration in the soil, and this while naturally and sustainably enriching the Earth more quickly than Nature’s unenhanced processes.

The whole plant-based diet, with its compassion for the animals, its health-giving effects and its resource efficiency is a crucial part of the New Human Ecology if we are to eliminate the ills of the Old Paradigm and make the life of the New Paradigm more ideal. In a future of contracted resources and energy, and of Loving Stewardship of the Earth - which includes the welfare of the innocent animals -   the plant-based diet with supporting Natural Organic Agriculture is the only appropriate human food ecology.

What is needed now is a New Human Ecology (how we maintain our bodies) and a New Human Value (how we pursue happiness) that is in Partnership with Nature and in Harmony with the Heart – the natural expression of Organic Understanding (How life works) and the great universal truths of the Heart: Unity and Universal Love (Why life works). This is the only way to cure ALL the ills of the Old Paradigm and end ALL the manmade Global Crises converging on Civilization and the Earth, and the only way to fulfill our natural role in Nature as human beings, the absence of which has led to so much misery and destruction: Loving Stewardship of the Earth - loving Stewards of a Loving God - Agents of Love and Beauty, and Mercy and Creation, Only.

Most of us would agree that Love is the highest ideal. Love is the highest intelligence, the greatest wisdom, the greatest good. If we think how that traditional taste of meat gets to our plate, how can we think this has anything to do with Love? Or how any good can come of it?

Indeed, the meat diet is a profound violation of Love - a travesty of the Heart committed again and again because it is infused in the foundation of our earthly life if we eat meat as part of the daily maintenance of the body.

And no good comes of it.  We need only look to our hospitals and cemeteries, consider the toll in unhappiness and disability and pain, gaze through the slaughterhouse door, look upon the tormented environment and witness a deteriorating Climate to realize the bane of meat eating and its supporting agriculture, however sustainable that agriculture may become.

The Meat Diet is arguably the single greatest curse of Civilization and the Earth. It is a savage and inefficient and unnecessary part of the Old Human Ecology, born of ignorance and convenience and a denial of the Heart, that has led to great sorrow and degradation and so it cannot be part of the evolved New Human Ecology. It is unworthy of the Stewards of the Earth and it has no place in the rising New Paradigm - the Bright New World of Loving Stewardship of the Earth, Benevolent Sustainable Living and Earth Community.

In our quest for resilience, organic living and greater harmony with Nature we should not bloody our hands and harden our Heart by meat eating and adopting even sustainable meat agriculture. We should not copy the stone age cultures thinking that those unevolved societies had a greater understanding and more positive relationship with Nature. The "noble savage" was not noble because of their savagery but despite it. What nobility they had, and some degree of harmony with Nature, arose out of their close proximity to and direct dependence on and interaction with Nature for their daily life support, not from their betrayal and violence and cannibalism committed against Her innocent children and their "brothers", the animals.

Farming and gardening, including non-violent, loving partnership with animals for mutual benefit, provides more communion, harmony and understanding of Nature than meat production, and peacefully, without savagery, and this brings a higher nobility, greater awareness of the unity and harmony of all life, understanding of how life works and why, and higher realms of companionship, love and spirituality. Any committed organic gardener or farmer has experienced these truths to some degree.

Joel Salatin is no doubt one of our most courageous and creative leaders in the exploration and promotion of a sustainable human ecology through sustainable agriculture.

But there are other leaders of humanity who help us to understand the whole reality - the bigger picture - and to perfect our new-found Organic Understanding with Unity and Universal Love - action in harmony with the Heart - without which we cannot escape the ills of the Old Paradigm. It is Organic Understanding guided by our Heart – our natural and inherent compassion and love, not guided by dispassionate mind that is concerned only with "biomass", that will turn the Earth Garden into the Eden of its full potential, and enable us to fulfill our natural role in Nature of Loving Stewardship of the Earth. If we follow the guidance of these other leaders, which is really the guidance of our own Heart, which is the throne of Truth, we will see a New Springtime of Civilization and the Earth where the Bounty and Beauty of the Earth and the Security and Happiness of all Life Forms blossoms in abundance:

Albert Einstein: “A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of Nature in its beauty.”

Neal Barnard MD, Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine: “The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of the 20th Century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined. If beef is your idea of "real food for real people" you'd better live real close to a real good hospital.”

Leo Tolstoy: "Thou shalt not kill does not apply to murder of one's own kind only, but to all living beings; and this Commandment was inscribed in the human breast long before it was proclaimed from Sinai.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson: "You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity."

Leo Tolstoy: "As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields."

Mahatma Gandhi: "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

Thomas Edison: "Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages."

Paul McCartney: “If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian.” “If anyone wants to save the planet, all they have to do is just stop eating meat. That's the single most important thing you could do. It's staggering when you think about it. Vegetarianism takes care of so many things in one shot: ecology, famine, cruelty.”

Albert Einstein: “Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a Vegetarian Diet.”

gregroberts's picture
gregroberts
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The Jones Plantation

Woodman's picture
Woodman
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taking responsibility for your food

I like Joel's emphasis on individual responsibility and participation.  I grow all my own vegetables and fruit and keep hens not because of impending crisis but because it's a better quality, more rewarding lifestyle. The more we teach ourselves about different choices the better choices we can make for ourselves.

John Lemieux's picture
John Lemieux
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Vegetarian Diet

Good post.. I'm not as far along in understanding as you are. But the deeper my understanding gets in regards to the collective economic/environmental/social "mess" were in, I'm coming to realise that the root cause of it all is our disconnect and separateness from the natural world. We really do need to hit the reset button and adopt a new worldview in terms of our connection to one another and the planet if humanity is to survive I think. It's clear to me that we cannot dodge the climate change and other enviromental bullets. And that we need something like a "New Paradigm" as you call it. But I would call myself a realistic pessimist when it comes to our chances of solving enviromental crises such as global warming and other serious crises like over population. But nevertheless I do believe that we have a moral obligation to try. So for me the choice of becoming a vegetarian was straight foreward. Because it was the simplist lifestlye choice for me to make. And your post pretty much explains my reasoning to stop eating meat. Giving up my car would be a similiar choice in regards to moving in the direction we all need to go. But that would be a much greater personal sacrifice. And I would have to find another way to support myself. My work depends on having a vehicle to get to job sites and to move my tools. But my Grandfather was also a carpenter and he never owned a car or power tools till near the end of his working life at 75. But hey, I guess when someone is willing to pay me by the hour (or feed me?) to use hand tools and walk to work I'll have a better idea of what the New Paradigm really looks like!

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ohu812
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Vegetarian diet

I spent 12 years vegetarian.  As much organic as we could find since it was the 90's and I was in my 30's and was earning a lot in those days...  I read everything about it, knew all the "famous" people that chose this lifestyle.  We even lived down the street from the "vegetarian" McCartney's when they had their home in Tucson.  We were surprised when Linda died from cancer but dismissed it as a fluke.

In 1999 I had a major surgery that I could not recover from.  In time I ended up speaking to a metabolic nutritionist who convinced me that humans needed some meat to reamain metabolically healthy.  Long story short, I started to choke down some grassfed beef and within weeks was fully recovered.  Just anecdotal I know, but to me it was pretty awesome.  At the same time it upset my belief paradigm in vegetarianism. 

Since that time I read a lot about our evolutionary meat based diet or what is referred to as the Paleo Diet.  I now consider this to be self evident as our true physiological evolutionary path.  There are some really well researched books out there... "Against the Grain" being one of the best at decribing the decline in human health since begining to consume grains just 5000 years ago. Look at the gluten intolerance that is so prevalent and can manifest in so many ways or the obesity since we embarked on a low fat, high carb lifestyle.  

In 2002 Dean Ornish and Gary Taube discussed Vegetarian vs Paleo(youtube) and it was clear to me that a balanced diet without grains or dairy was optimum for human health.  Also, being sure to get plenty of vitamin D from sun exposure... the garden is a perfect place for this!   Which guys looks heathier Taube and Oz or Ornish?  Just something to think about. As we all devote tremendous time to economic issues,  similar effort should be spent on health.

Jeff

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VeganD
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omnivore, paleo, vegan,

omnivore, paleo, vegan, vegetarian, cannibalistic... :)

I honestly think this debate is about belief systems and I have stayed out of it until now as much as possible out of respect for Chris' guidelines on avoiding discussions based on belief systems. As much as I cherish being Vegan I feel defending one diet over another in this context is about beliefs and borders on religous fervor with some. I am in excellent health on a vegan diet but have learned the hard way that certain essential supplements are necessary (b12, iodine and omega 3 fatty acids in particular) due to the loss of nutrients inherent through even the very good ways that we process water (which eliminates b12) and raise our greens(which can result in low levels of omega 3's).  One can be sick or well on a variety of diets. I will never eat organ meats again unless I am facing starvation.   Nonetheless I like Salatin's philosophy and respect it. Kindness towards those creatures we kill to sustain ourselves is certainly less devastating than the horrors of the kill lines in most factory farms. 

To each his own. Anyone looking for a healthy way to pursue vegetarianism can look at Dr. Michael Greger's websites. I now withdraw from the discussion. Be well.

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meat industry and the environment

For me the decision to avoid eating meat was a rational, and certainly not a religious choice. I believe that if we could eliminate much of the industrial meat industry that there would be great benifits to our environment in terms of reducing c02 emissions, reducing water use and it would result in better stewardship of our farmland. The waste products from the meat industry is also a huge environmental issue. It's an issue worth discussing in terms of it's negitive impact on the environment, but it is certainly a health and resiliancy/sustainibility issue as well. And there are many variations of vegitarianism. Personally I am not a strict vegitarian as I eat fish and dairy products. Although I do try to avoid dairy because these products add to my problems with nasal congestion I think. Ethical treatment of animals was not my primary reason for avoiding meat but I consider that to be another benifit of this decision. I would call myself a rational pessimist in terms of us solving our environmental problems. But nevertheless when all things are considered and compared to something like the issue of transportation, diet seems to me that it is one of the easier lifestyle choices we can make to reduce our dependance on fossil fuels and to help the planet heal.

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Exceptions to the Vegetarian experience, and the Big Picture

Must have been an awful experience, Jeff.  And also a somewhat bitter disappointment. 

I have met and heard of other vegetarians who gave up the vegetarian diet, usually the more austere macrobiotic diet, who also had health problems.  I wonder what their background, diet and underlying cause for ailment were?  And I wonder if some other change in your individual  vegetarian menu might have done the trick for you?  Maybe vitamin B12 defficency, which some vegetarians can be prone to depending on the menu and the health of their bowels?

Vegetarians are certainly not immune to cancer nor heart disease but the occurence of these diseases is significantly lower in vegetarian populations as clinically and statistically confirmed by the 26 year "China Study" and corroborated by numerous other peer-reviewed scientific studies  - really, "spectacularly" lower incidence of these diseases.   This is why the American and Canadian Dieticians associations have now endorsed the whole plant-based diet as not only good nutrition but good for some disease prevention and treatment.

Everyone is different of course so there are bound to be some exceptions.  Me, for one. I take some orgainc milk products in small quantities because I feel and observe the need for it for my metabolism and life style.  I started this diet  42 years ago and at age 64 have excellent stamina and energy, optimal cholesterol grades and the first colonoscopy I had at age 59 revealed the gut of a 40 year old according to the evaluating physician. 

Some proponents of the vegetarian diet are purists and do indeed look like pretty thin, especially the all-raw diet proponents, and this is raw diet is not for the high-calorie burning lifestles.  But there are numerous examples of top vegetarian athletes with loads of muscle mass and their recovery time between athletic events is sometimes shorter than their meat-eating peers, and in general vegetarians are an optimal weight and strength, energetic and healthy.

I watched the begining of the Charlie Rose You tube interview.  Ornish looked healthy to me but he wasn't as handsome or athletic looking as Taube but I suspect this has to do more with body types and difference athletic life style than diet.

I agree it is appropriate to discuss human health as it is closelly linked to the human diet, and human diet and its supporting agriculture is a significant player in the Three E's  - ecology, economy and energy.  My sense is that if we humans change the human ecology for optimal health and liberty of ourselves through the optimal diet for our species, then this will be good for the economy and the planet and ease our energy problem.  This will go a long way to ending the converging Global Crises because they are human made Crises, caused by wrong Human Eoclogy of which the human diet and supporting agricuture are a significant part, and wrong values which do not take into the welfare of other creatures. 

As Paul McCartney rightly observed  "It's staggering when you think about it. Vegetarianism takes care of so many things in one shot: ecology, famine, cruelty.”  To this he could have added "economic adversity" because the vegetarian diet is more efficient and cheaper in terms of human and enviromental costs, and financially liberating because it is possible to grow all one's food if you have about a half acre.  One acre of land cultivated with bio-intensive natural organic agriculture can support 8.7 people taking a whole plant based diet (see the "grow biointensive .org" online  - the work of Alan Chadwick and John Jeavens.

Anyway, it's your chioce, and mine.  But as we know now that the Paradigm Shift is accelerating, our basic human life-support decisions affect so many aspects of the Paradigm and other players on the stage of life.

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anecdotal evidence

Having spent most of my life with a circle of friends, some of whom are vegetarians, some of whom are not vegetarians and some of whom have waffled back and forth with vegetarianism, the only real trend I can see in healthfulness is that those who get regular exercise are by far the healthiest, regardless of diet.  One of my closest friends has been a vegetarian his entire adult life (he's now 60) and is very healthy, but also takes daily long walks and has a generally active lifestyle.  He now says that he finds no real justification for his vegetarianism, but continues with it because he likes it and he is pretty versatile around the kitchen.

Doug

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how does one keep

a small carbon footprint,as relates to vegetarianism, in some of the worlds seasonal climes.

personally, we eat seasonally which means i'm largely a vegetarian 6mos of the year and increase meat consumption in late fall winter and early spring. this style of diet(i'm a farmer)fits with low food storage/energy needs and gives my body a variety of foods through out the year, a body evolved thru thousands of years of similar patterns on the archipelago of whats now the UK.

robie, a poor and reluctant typist 

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Seasonal vegetarianism

I think that this is an important topic in terms of it's relevance to the three E's. (and other important environmental and ethical issues). I'm also certain that I have only a fraction of Pioneer's knowlege on this subject (he also writes far better than I do). So I feel that I can only speak for myself on this topic. But Pioneer did mention that a vegatarian diet needs to be flexible for a number of reasons. For example persons that are very active would not be healthy or able to work/exercise if they were eating just vegetables.

This is dairy based (but I'm not a purist), so I do take protein powder daily. This is because I was concerned that I was only getting about half of my daily protein needs when I stopped eating meat. I also increased the amount of nuts, beans and other sources of protien in my diet. And I do eat some canned fish and a little bit of meat sometimes when it's hard to avoid. I also take some supplements such as a multi vitamin, omega 3 and extra D in the winter. I'm strong and I feel good. I paddle whitewater, cycle, hike, dance and I work hard as a carpenter/renovator. I'm 50 and most people don't believe it, they think I'm in my early 40's. I have likely inherited "good" genes, but it is the combination of a healthy diet and exercise that's most important I think.  

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Base of our Structure

Every Society to Survive and Prosper, must place JUSTICE above all else, otherwise such Societies must fail.

All previous Societies rose on opportunity, changed and then curtailed opportunity. via Lack of Justice.

Each grain of Knowledge, contains within,  a grain of responsibility, you may choose Evil by not embracing that Responsibility or choose to accept that grain of responsibiliy and be rewarded.

We have chosen to take the knowledge, and reject the responsibility.  Thus our punishment will be ever more severe.

Individual achivement, from a Society point of view, has no value, unless it improves that Societies Justice.

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robie robinson
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our an sisters

learned seasonal supply by the mother of invention. i'm doubtful protien powders were or will be available in the future. My family follows a seasonal diet with very low physical, our body,energy needed for preservation as that energy is used for many other agricultural/good time pleasures.

please do research, while you can, on local cultivars of fruit(pomme and stone) trees, caning andnut producing plants/herbs. nature cannot be anthropomorphized successfully as is her value system is efficiency or else...

wishing you the best, robie

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belief systems, the New Paradigm and the Veggie Diet

Well, I kind of see your point about belief systems but my sense is that human values are not a religious consideration but at the core of human motivation, human behavior and so are a critical reason for the ills of the Old Pardigm created by human behavior and so a change in those values are essential to the healing of these ills and the resulting New Paradigm.  To care about Nature  - the source of all wealth - is essential to coming out with a better world on the other side of the Shift.  I guess we could call this a "belief system" but I think it is really a "guidance system"  - the motivation which directs human action beyond just the survival imperative and redefines our relationship with Nature and each other which has been amiss and caused so much peril.  We have viewed Nature as a mere object of utility and so, with organic ignorance and greed, have nearly destroyed the golden goose on which we depend.  We would not have done this if our values or believe system or whatever we call it had embraced Nature as our partner and companion in our struggle for survival and happiness.  This is at the heart of the matter and very relevant, in my view, and so is essential in a discussion of successfully navigating the Paradigm Shift  - the change in the three E's.

Aside from belief systems, my examination of the ecological  facts tells me that the animal-based human diet is a very practical and primary cause of the degradation of Nature which is the source of our life support  - one of the major concerns we have in all the change taking place that Peak Prosperity is helping us negotiate realistically.  It is wrong human ecology born of wrong values /wrong relationship with our fellow beings, with Nature, that has gotten us into the trouble we're in and the human diet with supporting agriculture is the main part of human ecology which has caused the trouble  - this is an ecological fact, not based on a belief system, which discovered not as a practicing vegetarian but in an objective exploration of the reality.  Energy has empowered us to eat meat on the scale that is destroying our life support system, the Environment. A human ecology which includes meat eating on a massive scale is the main reason these two E's are a factor in the change that is taking place.

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seasonal eating of local food - we can do better now

Good point Robie.  My sense is that the New Paradigm will still allow us to eat the optimal diet for the human body and the environment year round by storage of locally grown food in season, out of season local production in some latitudes and climates with artificially enhanced growing conditions, and some importation of food using transportation powered by carbon-neutral biofuels rationed for this purpose or zero-carbon electricity.  It will be more expensive, you'll probably need more of it Old foggy chilly England, but healthy food /good health will be more valued in the New Paradigm, just as will the wealth of happiness.   At least that's the story I'm envisioning because  vision affects reality and I sense we can hold onto to the boons of our labor-saving technology and considerable energy empowerment even with the energy contraction to Renewables through efficiency, practicality and higher quality of life values.    Although we cannot do as much importation in the New Paradigm, I think we'll be able to do enough to maintain a diet that is optimal to our health and the Planet's.

If the meat supply in the UK works anything like that of the US, then the carbon footprint of most meat eaters is going to be pretty big even in the no-local-veggie winter season since the winter fodder and at least some of the meat will already have been or will be transported from distant lands, requiring a lot of energy and environmental destruction.  I guess some farmers can get by without this winter carbon footprint, but I don't think it is a solution for the masses.

I'm lucky to be in Virginia, a mid-Atlantic state at about the latitude of Rome (but next to a colder sea), with a six-month growing season expandable several months by hoop and greenhouse gardening, with veggie survival in dormancy and eatable out of the garden the other winter months.  And I expect that in the New Paradigm some out of season fruits and veggies will come up from sunny Florida by electric train, giving those farmers a good living as all farmers will have in the New Paradigm.    

Pioneer, too-long bound to the typewriter, and never to be a poor scurvy dog of the old empire under any Paradigm.

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Pioneer
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diet and exercisee and health

Hi Doug, it is an interesting coincidence that I just viewed this evening the documentary "Eating" by Mike Anderson  - worth watching for maintianing health and for your veggie friend's appreciation of his diet.  It made a strong case for the plant-based diet to maintain good health even for people who exercise regularly.  Although they can better maintain their health the heart disease and cancer creeps in sooner or later for many, as statistics show.  I guess the only way your veggie friend can justify the diet is if he goes back to meat, gets heart disease and then dies, or reverses it with a return to the veggie diet  - not an easy way to prove its value.  It occurs to me we have diverged from the three Es here, but then the H of health is critical to everything else, and it does affect the Economy in the massive costs of disease treatment, disability and death.

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Brak
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farm ponds how-to

Creating farm ponds is one of those skills taken for granted among certain folks, but hard to find good how-to information for those just getting into it. Can anyone recommend any good resources out there?

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Vegetarianism

I know this is a long time after these comments were made, but I ran into this conversation and have to share my views on Salatin's discussion about herbivores.  

I saw Joel a couple weeks ago and had a conversation with him in which he made the simple statement that annual plantings degrade soil and perennial plantings build soil.  In my permaculture backyard garden I grow annuals intermixed in polyculture with perennials, and I never till the soil, so I'm building soil in that case.  But "sustainable agriculture" at a large scale, has to till soil.  Everytime soil is tilled, it is oxygenated, and there is a burst of bacterial activity and the carbon escapes as CO2 and the soil is degraded. It can be renewed to some degree with cover crops that are disked in (with nitrogen-fixing legumes as part of the cover crops to replenish nitrogen).  But basically there is no such thing as "sustainable agriculture".  It's not sustainable without external inputs. And it degrades soil.  

The only way to have "sustainable agriculture" is to have perennials, and there are two main approaches for those:  Tree and bush crops ("Food Forests" with nut and fruit trees) and large herbivore grazing systems on perennial forage - pasture or browse.  1/3 of the world is grasslands, and they co-evolved with large herbivires, as Joel said.  In the absence of herbivores, those grasslands are becoming desertified and are a major contribution to global warming. Alan Savory is trying to reverse that process by bringing back herbivores to the grasslands worldwide.   Feeding the world sustainably can not be done without resorting to meat from those herbivores that have to be returned to the grasslands.  Sure some vegetarians can survive on nuts from trees for their protein source.  But beans and grains are not on the planet's "sustainability" diet, in my humble opinion.  

By the way, chickens are not on my list for "planet sustainability". They require grain inputs, unless they are raised as a small flock living primarily on kitchen scraps and waste streams.  Commercial poultry or egg production is unsustainable because it's dependent on grain inputs, and grain agriculture is unsustainable.

So it seems to me that the "fair" thing to do is to eat according to what is sustainable for humans living on the planet, in addition to following one's personal spiritual values.   That means large herbivores, which are the only way we can utilize the protein created by pastures and browse.  The nitrogen for feeding those pastures and browse has to, of course, come from nitrogen fixers planted in polyculture with the grasses or bushes.

The arguments against the Paleo diet having to do with hear disease aren't really addressing the real Paleo diet.  Meat was eaten by Paleohumans that was grass-fed, and high in omegas and lean in unhealthy fats. It was also eaten only after a successful hunt (no freezers) so it wasn't a daily occurence. 

-Permaculturally yours -

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cestin
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farm ponds how-to

I'd say you don't want to put in a farm pond unless you've had a lot of training in permaculture (or equivalent) and experience with others who have learned already.  Design of where and how is important, or you could create more erosion and destruction than benefit.  Water design/management is one of the more difficult aspects of permaculture, in my opinion. Bill Mollison's Permaculture:  A Designer's Handbook is the basic "textbook" of permaculture and has some good information on ponds which will be enough to tell you what you dont know and why you'd want to take courses and/or work with someone who has experience in helping you design and build farm ponds to modify your environment.  

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