Sustainable farming activist Joel Salatin and author of Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal returns this week to talk about the importance of a basic human right: to choose what to eat.
In past podcasts, he's described the challenges facing farmers who want to grow organically. This week, he sheds light on the additional challenges consumers face in getting access to quality produce and meats.
The bottom line is our industrial system (or, as Joel puts it, the "fraternity") seeks to protect itself and its existing revenue streams. Research is commissioned to discredit the claimed benefits of organic farming. FDA nutrition guidelines favor the mono-crops grown by factory farms, despite mounting evidence these guidelines are not in the public health's interest. Pesticides and herbicides are used in ever-greater amounts. Distribution infrastructure doesn't enable small-scale delivery trucks (which most organic farms use) to plug into it. For those not living in an area concentrated with small farms, being able to identify and purchase healthy food options is difficult.
Joel recommends we elevate "food freedom" to the same status as we demand for other core personal liberties like public safety and legal equality:
We need to celebrate and energize the public to defend the freedom to acquire the food of our choice from the source of our choice. This whole orthodoxy thing we've been talking about is militating right now against being able to choose for ourselves the kind of fuel we want for our own bodies. I look at this whole food freedom effort as rectifying something that was missed in the Bill of Rights. We've got the right to own a gun, the right to assemble, the right to worship, the right to speak, the right to be secure in our persons without a search warrant. There are all sorts of wonderful rights. But we did not get the right to choose our food.
Those inspired by this call to action may want to consider attending this year's Food Freedom Fest, put on by Joel's Polyface Farm and the Farm-To-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, which takes place in Shanandoah Valley, Virginia August 14-16th.
Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Joel Salatin (59m:58s)
Chris Martenson: Welcome to this Peak Prosperity Podcast. I am your host, Chris Martenson, and today we have the pleasure of having Joel Salatin back on the show—one of the most visible and influential leaders in the organic food and sustainable farming movement, a couple of areas your know we’ve been covering in-depth lately at the site. His family owns and manages Polyface Farms, which has been featured prominently in such modern food movement master works as the book, The Omnivores Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, and the documentary film, “Food, Inc.”, a little bit of a bummer, but a very important movie there as well.
Joel is America’s resident farmer, philosopher, provocateur. Polyface Farms is family-owned, it’s multi-generational, it’s pasture-based, it’s beyond organic, it’s a local market farm and informational outreach center in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. And, they say they are in the redemption business, healing the land, healing the food, healing the economy, and healing the culture—another topic that’s really been near and dear to our conversations at Peak Prosperity lately. Well, that’s why we love him, and that’s why we’re having Joel back on the show. Joel, welcome back.
Joel Salatin: Thank you, Chris. It’s wonderful to be with you. It’s really an honor.
Chris Martenson: Oh, well, thank you, and thanks for your time today. So, as I mentioned Joel, we’ve been covering a lot of farming and related ecological issues at our site this year, ranging from soil health to bees and other pollinators. And, I want to get your views on the state of world on these matters, but let’s start with the food we eat. I’m on this new eating regime. Some might say it’s a new age fad diet, mostly involves meat and vegetables. And, so now, when I walk into what I used to think of as a grocery store or a supermarket, I notice that all of the middle aisles in the store, they don’t have any food in them. They’re off limits to me, nothing I can eat. So, what little food I can find in these supermarkets, it’s all located on the outer rim. So, here’s the question: Have I just fallen for some hippy weirdness, or do you think I’m onto something?
Joel Salatin: Well, I think you're onto something. In fact, I think you're just getting there. I would encourage you—the next step is just to forget the supermarket. You know, one of the neatest things that’s happening right now—I’ve been in this for decades, and one of the neatest things that's possible now is that you can actually find a lot of what I call "integrity food" opportunities in locales that were not available 20 years ago, even 10 years ago. And, so one of probably the probably most exciting things that's happening right now in the local food movement is what I call "electronic aggregation." What’s happening is—and, this gets a little bit maybe futuristic—but, I want you to think that the supermarket as we know it is only—supposedly, the first one came in 1946. And, since that time, of course, it has taken over more and more and more of the food purchasing thing. But, it has built up around it a tremendous amount of impediments to integrity food, hurdles, and a bureaucracy.
As a local farmer, if you want to get into a Walmart or whatever, you just can't. I mean, I had a bunch of executives from a big supermarket chain here and they said, "How can we get your food in?" I said, "Well, the first thing you need to do is let something smaller than a tractor trailer back up to your dock." End of discussion. They couldn't even fathom a food system in which you would transport anything smaller than a tractor trailer.
And so one of the things that's happening in the whole Internet and electronic age here, as we move into this at warp speed, is that we're starting to see—in fact, some futurists are predicting, the demise, the literal obsolescence of the supermarket as we know it. We know Amazon is trying to figure out how to deliver stuff with drones. And, so what we're seeing is, as the cost of virtual supermarkets—electronic buying—as the cost of that drops and drops and drops, where even small companies and small outfits, individuals, can glom on, can use the software, we're seeing now the proliferation of what I call "electronic aggregation," where thirty farms, forty farms, fifty farms in a region can get all of their products onto one shopping cart site, and people can order online local products or go visit the farms, vet the farms themselves in a little bit of a recreational investment, and then become really loyal customers and literally shop online, but from local integrity producers.
And, the beauty of it for integrity producers like us is that we don't have to go to a farmers market, we don't have to go pedaling, we don't have to pick up the phone and do a bunch of marketing. We can do what we do best, which is farming. Somebody else—some computer geeks that really get high quality food and integrity—they can manage this cool shopping cart site and handle the logistics of that. And the customer can shop in their jammies at two o'clock in the morning and have the groceries show up on their doorstep. They don't even have to sit at a stoplight waiting to make a left-hand turn and find a place in the parking lot and not get hit by cars backing in and pulling out.
So this whole localization or this small-scale co-opting of this global internet shopping cart technology is, I think, a really, really bright light of availability and affordability to link up the integrity food producers in a locale and the integrity food consumers in a locale so that we can just essentially make an end run around the supermarket.
Chris Martenson: I love this idea. You know, I do all of my shopping in my jammies now, so A.) that’s a win, but B.) I’m smelling an opportunity here. So, is this widespread or are there a couple of places that you could point to that people could see how it works?
Joel Salatin: Right, it's in its infancy, it’s in its infancy. But, the bugs are being worked out. The one that I'm most familiar with is one that we collaborate with here in Virginia called Relay Foods. These guys are sharp. In fact, this company is the third iteration here locally. It started with a little local startup and then it got bought by a bigger outfit and then Relay Foods bought that outfit. So this is the third iteration of the idea. And, I think they're getting like 3,000 chickens and 600 turkeys from us this year. And they collaborate with a whole lot of farms.
Now, obviously, supermarkets are very unhappy about this. They don't like this, and including even organic-type markets are very upset about this. But, the fact is that a consumer-friendly, licensed, main street façade that's a brick and mortar retail interface is an expensive meeting place. And, brick and mortar, as you know—Kevin Kelly, the editor of Wired magazine, wrote a book, New Rules for the New Economy, several years ago and one of the things he talks about there is that the mass of everything is going down. The physical weight, the bricks and mortar weight of everything is dropping as everything becomes more information-dense in cyberspace. So the muscle car of the sixties has been replaced by a car that has microchip computers in its brake calipers. A 120-pound secretary's been replaced by a four-ounce mail router. We've gone from mass and physical presence and physical size to the Web, to stuff that doesn't weigh anything. Data on the Internet doesn't weigh anything.
The fact is that from a retail marketing standpoint, the maintenance of this—the air conditioning, the heat, the bathrooms, the OSHA-approved—the handicapped-approved parking and access and fluorescent lighting, and all of the things necessary to pull off a pleasant, customer-friendly retail interface—all of that adds a tremendous amount of overhead to what can be simply a box of groceries that shows up on your doorstep, which can be inventoried in a warehouse on farms that don't have to maintain fluorescent lighting and handicapped access. And, I'm not trying to pick on handicapped, I'm just trying to help everybody to understand that the costs of that physical, licensable, customer-friendly interface is way, way more expensive than maintaining a non-public warehouse on a farm or in a consortium of farms that then can be cherry-picked out when the orders come in and customized for home delivery.
Relay Foods actually had MIT do a carbon footprint distribution analysis of what they were doing, and it was actually a smaller distribution carbon footprint than the supermarket. One of the big challenges in the local food system so far has been, oh, everybody, you know, it’s warm and fuzzy and it’s kind of neat and all that. But, we haven’t been able to crack the distribution efficiency, simply because on a local food system we’re tooling stuff around, three bushels of stuff in a trunk of a car to the farmers market. And, even though we're only driving 30 or 40 miles, Jolly Green Giant is taking 45,000 pounds of stuff—yes, it’s taking it 1500 miles—but, when you pro-rate the carbon distribution footprint, the cost of that transportation, it’s way, way cheaper in the tractor trailer going 1500 miles than it is in the trunk going to the farmers market. This has been an Achilles heal, a bug-a-boo, in the credibility and the viability of the local food system.
So, now we're actually getting the software and the technology. There are numerous ones of these now around the country that are springing up. Of course, some of them are going out of business, because like any startup, they're high risk. But, there are more and more of them coming up and the bugs of the software are being worked out, customized. And suddenly, now we can inventory extremely cheaply, offer complete customization to the customer—like you said, shopping in your jammies. And, even at a competitive, a very, very competitive price now, because we've been able to electronically aggregate rather than physically aggregate. It's very, very cool.
Chris Martenson: I love that, because obviously, it seems a bit off the mark to grow high integrity foods, but then have a low integrity distribution system. So, to marry those up and get the integrity throughout that chain sounds great. Now, one of the things that I love about being involved with my local farmers or local farm markets, though, is the opportunity for the interaction. Would you find this system—is this going to reduce interaction, or does this actually in some way allow more people to connect with farms in other ways? Or, how would you judge that part?
Joel Salatin: Yeah, well, you know, that’s always the—you're certainly hitting your finger right on the nub of the first negative reaction when a person hears this. And, I would say that it's kind of a wash. I recognize that electronics can't give you a hug and a wink of an eye, I absolutely understand this. However, those of us that are participating in this—we run our own farm shopping cart. We're now filling what, 45% percent of our stuff through this to 6,000 families who could never come to a single site. And, we couldn't possibly staff a single site, a physical presence. But, the beauty of this is we can send a delivery truck right into a community with pre-orders and it's extremely efficient for the delivery system and for us as a farmer. And, so what we do is we send out newsletters, we run contests, we do recipes, and we can do all sorts of social media, Facebook, pictures of a farmer, we can do a lot of things including encouraging our folks to come to the farm.
Now, we don't deliver more than four hours from the farm. One of the reasons for that is so that any of our folks can come to the farm for a visit and get back in a day. Our delivery driver doesn't have to spend any nights on the road. So, a four-hour radius of the farm… But in a lot of the U.S., four hours gets you to a metropolitan area almost everywhere. So, we have boundaries and we have protocols in place to maintain that kind of thing.
And, the fact is: How many people who shop at a farmers market have ever actually physically gone and visited the farm? I mean, you're just assuming that that guy that has the big smile is what he says he is. Sometimes they are and sometimes they're not. And, so we feel like it's kind of a wash on the personal level thing, but it's not a wash when it comes to the efficiency and the logistical efficiency and the costs of actually making that transaction happen.
I mean, another cool thing about this is I don't have to sit there at a vendor stand waiting for John and Mary to sit there and hem-haw about whether they want this kind of tomato or that kind of tomato. Or, whether they want the chicken breast, the porterhouse steak, or the ground beef or the pork chop for their guests that are coming next Thursday night. I'm sitting there going from one leg to another, "Come on, please make up your decision,” and I've got 15 minutes going on in this transaction. Instead, all of that hemming and hawing and conversation between Paul and Mary, whatever their name was, can occur in a bedroom or around the living room, the dining room table at home and then they can press, click "buy" and it goes into their shopping cart. And, I’m sitting at home reading a book or snoozing or doing a podcast while these people are out here ordering. It doesn't take any of my time. So, there's a lot to—I think a lot to this electronic aggregation idea.
I just think that we're seeing with the whole Amazon and e-marketing thing—I mean, I’m almost 60, so I'm not of the generation of e-marketing at all—but, the other day I needed a new briefcase. I travel all over the world and the thing’s falling apart. It's a really good one. I bought it at Staples years and years ago and it's getting pretty threadbare. So, of course, we go back to Staples. Well, guess what? They don't have that style any more. So Teresa and I came home and even as luddite as I am, she helps me get on the Internet. Well, she actually does it, I just look over her shoulder. (It's always good to marry a wife smarter than you are.) And, so she pulls this stuff up. We looked at every briefcase available in the world, find the exact one we want at Macy's. Click, buy, send our credit card number and three days later it shows up FedEx on our front door step. We didn't have to get into the car and drive anywhere. I mean, this is very cool. And, you can say what you want to, but I think that this is a place where we're going to see some real competition to the physical, to the supermarket, to the physical interface. And it's going to create accountability there.
The fact is that supermarkets have circled the wagons to make sure that people like us stay out, whether it's SKU numbers, slotting fees, insurance, $3 million worth of insurance requirements. Then the insurance company, they don't know anything about farming, so they go to the Virginia Tech and Cornell and Penn State and Kansas State, all of the land grant colleges and say, "Well, what is a low-risk farm?" Well, guess what, a low-risk farm is one that uses a lot of pharmaceuticals, medications, locks everything up in a factory so that it never encounters a mallard duck and uses good, sterile, petroleum-based chemical fertilizer, not living weird things like compost. "Wow, this stuff, I mean, they’re having sex in that pile. We can’t have that on a farm." And, so the whole system, this is not just government, it’s just the entire orthodoxy system circles the wagons and does a lot of things to make sure innovation can't darken their doors. So those of us who have the answers to avian influenza and have the answers to salmonella and mad cow disease or whatever, those of us who have innovated the cures and the antidotes for all of these maladies that are making people paranoid today—we can't poke through that circle of wagons that the supermarket system has erected. So, I say "we'll make our own system." We’ll make an end run around—we now have the ability to do it. Let’s just—who needs them? Let's just make an end-run around them.
Chris Martenson: I love this idea of farming and a disruptive technology. And, of course, technology allows us to do these really complex things, and I’m convinced technology someday will be the first “person” that I see when I go into the doctor’s office. Because, computers turn out to be able to hold a lot more information and process it more elegantly than humans can, often. And when it comes to logistics, slam dunk, right? And, so I’m one of these guys—I mean, I love finding something, exactly what I want on Amazon, I click the button, and two days later the big brown truck of happiness rolls up my driveway, leaves it there for me, right?
But, there’s a piece in here that I love, which is I can’t go into a store and buy stuff anymore, because I trust the reviews. I’m really into the reviews. So I’m thinking there’s this other role in this place where if you can connect with the people and the people can be leaving reviews, and then I know of all these possible local farms I could buy stuff from, hmmm, kind of spotty reviews for that one, but these guys are doing it right. It provides, I think, more accountability and the ability to reward even more minutely, I think, the people who are maybe doing a slightly better job. Because, for me, I put a huge premium on soil, soil health, so if I know somebody’s doing really high quality, no-till soil and they leave space for pollinators and that’s part of what they do, I will pay more or preferentially buy their stuff whenever I could.
Joel Salatin: Yes, and the beauty of what I'm describing has a really short accountability chain. I mean, shoot, from time to time, over the years, we've had extra eggs in the spring or whatever. I'd call up the local supermarket and, my goodness, I mean, you can't even talk to a person. I mean, the level of fraternization, what I call "the fraternity of ideas" within that whole industrial complex, the level of it is just profound. And, people who haven't tried to poke through that, I think, often don't appreciate what it is. I mean, I get asked all the time, "Why can't I get your stuff down at Kroger? Why can't I get your stuff down at Trader Joe's?" or whatever. And the fact is that these big entities have erected all sorts of fraternal arrangements—whether they're price concessions or distribution concessions or kickbacks and insurance things and all sorts of things—and, just make it very, very difficult for true innovators to be able to access it.
I mean, anybody that's worked in a big business knows how they become fairly bureaucratic and difficult to get new ideas in. I mean, look at the malleability—I mean, this podcast, what you have done with Peak Prosperity, I mean, can you imagine trying to get this on CNN? That's a perfect example of what I'm describing. And, we've seen it now, the entire alternative media, and we’ve watched TV—TV is dropping like a rock. I mean, the top-rated shows now have only a fourth of the audience of the top-rated shows of the 1960's. Why? Because of things like Peak Prosperity. With a little bit of mental acuity and a little bit of technology, you can sit down in your home and launch a complete alternative media thing. And, okay, so you don't have five million views, but you have a million and somebody else has five hundred thousand, and somebody else has a hundred thousand. You add all of those up and suddenly you have this extremely fertile germination tray of innovative ideas, innovative things, who would never, never see the light of day on MSNBC, ABC, any of the great big dinosaurs. They’re screening, they’re the sieve that those big outfits use to make sure that the kind of information you're putting out doesn't get on those shows—they don't hate you, they don't hate me. They just don't play golf with us. [Laughter]
Chris Martenson: Well, and it’s more than that. I don’t have a single advertiser that I’m beholden to.
Joel Salatin: Right, exactly, exactly.
Chris Martenson: That’s just part of the game for them, I understand that.
Joel Salatin: Right, and so maybe that’s a good analogy to explain what's happening. People that are, for example, frustrated at, "Why is it that this tidbit of news that I got that I think is just earth shattering, it never gets on ABC news?" Well, it's the same issue with, "Why can't good raw milk or compost-grown tomatoes get in my supermarket?" Well, it’s the same; it’s the same issues.
Chris Martenson: It absolutely is. And, sort of on that tack, but switching over to the government side, recently I just wrote a pretty extensive report—it hurt my heart to write it—on the loss of bees and other pollinators. And the emergence of the neonicotinoid class of pesticides and how these two things really overlap very nicely in terms of time, dose response, all of that. And, maybe I shouldn’t call the neonics "pesticides." I’m going to call them "biocides," because they seem to take out a pretty broad swath of life out there. And, you know, in doing this, there’s reams of solid, compelling, dose response data saying that these class of pesticides, they’re just flat out nasty. They’re stone-cold killers. And, the EPA recently, after four years, has decided that what they need to do next is study the issue for another three years. That’s it. They put a moratorium on new uses, but as long as a prior user was using it on corn, have at it.
Because of this response and others by the USDA, raw milk, all that stuff, the FDA, EPA, I’ve kind of lost faith in the government as fair or responsible protectors or arbiters of anything besides protecting corporate profits. In your experience, is that an unfair view? I mean, painting too broadly with that brush?
Joel Salatin: No, remember you're talking to the guy that wrote the book, Everything I want to Do Is Illegal. And, I mean, the story of our farm and our life is a story of battles with regulators, bureaucracy, from zoning to food safety to whatever. There is an orthodoxy. I mean, let’s look at food, for example. I mean, the track record of the official government orthodoxy is not good. I mean, this orthodoxy told us in the 1950's—my goodness, you’re supposed to powder your children's hair with DDT. You've got pictures of DDT being blown around your house and these little rosy-cheeked children right next to it. Then they told us we shouldn't eat butter or lard, we should eat…
Chris Martenson: Margarine.
Joel Salatin: …vegetable shortening, Crisco, yeah. Remember growing up with Crisco? You're supposed to eat these hydrogenated vegetable oils. And, then they told us that nursing babies is barbaric and Neanderthal. "Women, you need to liberate yourselves and get out here and get some Enfamil and some Similac and get out here in the workplace." And, I know I’m going where angels fear to tread here, but, "get rid of this old Neanderthal, barbaric stuff." This was official government policy to push infant formula and things like that and we raised a generation of asthmatics, Infamil sufferers. You know, we had feedlot _____ [00:29:16] and crazy drugs women were taking to reduce pregnancy, whatever. And, then there were these ramifications, even multi-generational ramifications.
And, then we were told that we need to feed our cows dead cows in order to raise them cheaper. So let’s grind up these dead cows, feed them back to cows and then we can grow them faster, fatter, bigger, cheaper. And, then of course, that gave us Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, that was Mad Cow. Now we've got genetically modified organisms. This is the answer to the future. And, so Roundup herbicide and these herbicides like Roundup Ready, glyphosates—that’s what I’m looking for—glyphosates, you know, their use has what, quadrupled in fifteen years since GMO's came out. And, what these things do, the way they work is they completely scramble the nervous system of plants. Well, duh, does it make any sense that something that scrambles the nervous system of plants might scramble the nervous system of humans? And, so suddenly, in the exact same 15-year period, we've seen an exponential increase from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 70 autism in children. I mean, it’s an absolute—it’s off the charts. Anyway…
Chris Martenson: Oh, yeah, and this is, this is…
Joel Salatin: …enough ranting. What I'm suggesting is, what I’m suggesting—I haven’t even hit pasteurized milk or whatever—but, what I’m suggesting is that the track record, as you said, the officialdom—the government official speak—is an abysmal track record. And yet, Americans today, we continue to vote in people who expand and increase the role, the market intervention, and the—what’s the word, not safety, but the safety net—this whole protection from the government. And, I'm looking at this track record and saying, "It's a train wreck." Why would anyone who's thinking in their right mind, why would anyone give those officials, those kind of people who have touted this forever, why would anybody entrust them with the safety of our food? It's crazy.
Chris Martenson: It is, and we got the food pyramid, which turns out to have been just wrong, and all sorts of other things. And, the interesting part is that good scientists and people who are careful and considerate knew how wrong it was decades ago. But, it got entrenched, and so once something’s in a bureaucratic framework, it takes a while to undo it.
I’m sure you saw this recent piece of news—my family, we buy a lot of organic food, and we do that for a variety of reasons. Right up at the top of our own list are our own and ecological health. But, recently, the USDA comes out with this report and they say, “Oh, organic food? Organic food is unsustainable, because the yields per acre are 30, 40, maybe 50% lower than conventional farming. So, we can’t even go there, because we wouldn’t be able to feed the world.” They said, and worse, they measured the health benefits from organic and said they couldn’t find any. Did you see that report?
Joel Salatin: Oh, well, I've been watching them all of my life. I've seen these reports over and over again. Let me give you an example of how these studies are done, because remember, this is a fraternity. I'll give you one that was done at Virginia Tech back 30 years ago when organics was first just making a little bit of buzz in the farming community. Somebody took a bunch of test plots. Land grants have all of these test plots out in the field and they test all sorts of things. And, so these test plots, back in the early '70s, well, they’ve been for 25 years testing pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, all of the darlings of the post-World War II industrial complex. And, well, "let’s try this organics," and so they separated out about three of them and they planted corn in there, of course, hybrid corn and then they took three plots next door and they dumped all the concoctions of chemicals and fertilizer and everything on it. And the organic plot, they didn't do anything to; just, well, "it’s going to be organic." And, so they, of course, the six plots grew and the three plots looked wonderful, and the other three plots were weedy and junkie and not very productive. And, so they measured the corn off of each one and, of course, the one produced a whole bunch of corn and the other one had a couple of little anemic ears. And, so the official report came out and Mason Carbal [PH] was our Commissioner of Agriculture at the time and I still remember reading it like yesterday. And, his official pronouncement was if we went to organics, we'd have to pick which half of the world to kill, because we couldn't produce enough food, based on this study.
Now, anyone that knows anything about the soil knows that that is an incredibly prejudicial, skewed study. Because, if you were going to do a true measure, you would have A.) picked plots that hadn't had any chemicals dumped on them for several years, and not only that, but had been built up with compost and carbon and woodchips and developed this deep humus bed before you tried it. And maybe you'd even use some open pollinated corn instead of a hybrid. But, the point is that you would have done some long-term remediation to that ground before you did a head-to-head test.
But, see, the science—this is where scientists go ballistic when I say science is not objective. The problem is it’s not, because the studies are put together by people who have a preconceived notion. They have a worldview that doesn't allow them to be honest in their studies. So, this is the typical kind of study that's done and then it's splashed all over the New York Times as officialdom information. And, it could be no further from the truth if you just concocted a wild story in fantasy land. You could not concoct a more incorrect story. And yet, this is purported as science, actual fact; it enters the officialdom.
The same thing permeated the UN Long Shadow Report. Basically, whatever the official report is, this is what I tell people, I say, “Listen, whatever the official government report is, the truth is probably the opposite, whatever they say.” You know, if there’s weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, there probably aren't. If they say there's nothing to worry about over here, there probably is something to worry about. [Laughter] Whatever the official pronouncement is, you believe the opposite and you'll probably be right.
Chris Martenson: [Laughter] You remind me of that Lily Tomlin quote, which is, “As cynical as I am, I find I can’t keep up.” Because, it’s an outrage du jour, isn’t it? But, this is part of the waking-up process. What I’ve been noticing is that more people—it’s not just their own health with organic food, they’re saying, “If I know I’m buying organic, at least I know I am not part of putting these neonic pesticides into the environment, and that’s important to me.” Right? Because, my health is more than simply just the sum of what I put in my body, that’s important, but maybe it’s also important to me, my relationship with the rest of the world and that bees and butterflies and other things, midges and nats and things I don’t track and can’t quantify, but those are important, too. That in fact, there’s this whole natural world that developed over billions of years that has an intelligence, it has a design, it’s doing something. And, that maybe having the lightest footprint—or at least a footprint that we know matches most closely with the DNA blueprint that we were born with and other things we’re born with—that maybe there’s some wisdom in that. And I find more people turning to that, understanding that there’s a lot of BS coming out of the so-called defenders of the status quo.
But, in my mind, you’re right, the government agencies have lost just a ton of legitimacy and my first instinct now is to disbelieve anything they say and then have it be proven true. I’m a "guilty until proven innocent" when it comes to government pronouncements at this point because, it’s just, that whole fool me once, shame on me, but after the 100th time, I mean, it’s just, it’s just beyond—I just can’t, you know, what do you do?
Joel Salatin: Yeah, absolutely. And, this is certainly what's fueling the entire, whatever, Libertarian, anti-government… I mean, do we really think that we would have better education if we doubled the bureaucracy and the money poured to public education? Do you really think it would be better? Many people like me don't think so. Would we really have better food if we doubled farm subsidies or created more crop insurance? That's the new buzzword term. There’s just… Every time a new official idea comes up, it’s crazy, it's crazier than the one before it. But, this is what's fueling, I think, some of this backlash now, where we actually have some kind of big names that are actually saying things like, "Maybe we need to go to a flat tax. Maybe we need to go to a complete school choice, a voucher system, an ESA, an educational—what do they call it—an Educational Savings Account, where every child the day they're born gets an account and that can be spent wherever they want to for their education." And, I mean, there are some really, really creative things coming out of this, including a different way to administer food stamps or all those kinds of things.
I mean, I tend to be fairly Libertarian, but what I am saying is that I think you are riding a wave of frustration with officialdom, and we see it in our food. How many people really trust Monsanto? How many people really trust Tyson Foods now? The whole avian influenza outbreak—eggs are going to supposedly go to four dollars a dozen. They’ve killed 38 million chickens. Has anybody anywhere heard any official say, "Maybe we shouldn't put a 100,000 chickens three tiers high in battery cages where each chicken has less than the size of a piece of notebook paper to live out their entire existence. Maybe that’s not a good, maybe that actually—do you reckon that could make them more susceptible to avian influenza?" Back in 2004, when it went through the Far East over in Vietnam and Laos, Cambodia, it came up toward Europe, Great Britain did a study and they found out that if a chicken gets two fresh blades of grass a day, they're immune to high path avian influenza.
Now, would anybody dare to suggest that these 38 million chickens that we've now killed and exterminated—I mean, 38 million chickens—I figured up how tractor-trailer loads that is. I mean, it’s like 5,000 tractor-trailer loads, okay. I mean, this is just, this is just massive. And, this is the system that’s supposed to be efficient, that’s supposed to feed the world? Don’t you think that if the weakness of the system were really in backyard flocks, don’t you think they’d be finding it? No. I mean, when we had it here in Virginia a decade ago they trapped water fowl. They went to backyard flocks. They went to outdoor flocks. They did everything trying to find the smoking gun, "We're going to find this; where did this hit the industry? It came from these malcontents, these heretics, these weirdos out here!" And they couldn't find one. They were desperate to find one and they couldn't find one.
I had two of the federal vets that were involved with the extermination program come visit the farm. They were from around the country, they’d heard about it and said, "Eh, while we're here we'll go visit the farm." And, so they came out. Each one independently sat in my front room and said, "Every one of us on the federal vet task force, every one of us knows that this is because there are too many chickens in too close confinement, both in the house and in geographic locations. There’s just too many chickens concentrated in a single geographic location. But, if any of us breathed that to the media tomorrow, we'd be fired within twenty-four hours.”
So, there's your science. There’s your science. Was it Teddy Roosevelt who is said to have said, "It's hard to get a guy to believe something when his paycheck depends on believing something else."
Chris Martenson: That was Upton Sinclair. That was the author.
Joel Salatin: Upton Sinclair, okay, in The Jungle, all right. Maybe it wasn't in The Jungle, but it was Upton Sinclair, yeah. And, I think that that's where we have come, whether it’s what gets into the supermarket or whether it gets into the official media, gets in the government report. I mean, name your big entity and there's such a protective circle of wagons mystique around these big status quo institutions that you literally cannot believe anything they say.
Chris Martenson: You know you’re pretty far down in the cycle of the story when truth becomes a radical act. It’s not a good sign, but it sometimes means you’re close to the beginning of the end so you can start over again. But, my frustration, which you named, is there, it’s palpable, and it’s frustration, because we’re doing so many things that just lack common sense. And, I’m a common sense kind of guy.
Joel Salatin: Right, right.
Chris Martenson: I’m watching us just do what I consider to be dumb stuff, like here’s an example: I look out my window and we’ve got a local family farm there. They’ve been farming for generations, but they do it industrial ag. style. So, three weeks ago, they sprayed Roundup on their winter rye, because I guess they’re going to do that kind of "no-till" farming, right? Air quotes, that kind, "no-till,” and then…
Joel Salatin: Yeah, they’ll plant GMO, yeah.
Chris Martenson: Yeah, and then they waited for it to go white, it doesn’t even turn brown, it just becomes bleached, right? And, then a week ago, they plowed that under. And, I’m just like, oh, my God, and I look at plowed soil and I think wounded soil. And, it just lacks common sense. It might make economic sense—I’m sure they know what they’re doing economically, I guess. But, from every other standpoint I’m offended by what they do. Because, it’s out of relationship, it’s out of integrity, it’s obviously not sustainable. But, it’s very widely accepted, and that’s where my frustration comes from, because I see us doing things as a nation that lack that common sense. They seem amoral in some cases, and in some cases I’ll go further and say immoral, because it’s all about the money.
Joel Salatin: Yeah, well, it's all about the money. It's also about peer dependency. It's about what I call the fraternity. I never use the word "conspiracy," because if you use the word "conspiracy" then you're just a nutcase and you're dismissed. But, I like the word "fraternity of ideas," or "orthodoxy." Because, just imagine 600 years ago, if you’d walked around saying, "Hey guys, did you know the earth is round?” You’d have been branded a heretic. What? Of course the earth is flat. You can see it out there and you're going to fall off the edge, blah, blah, blah. We all knew.
And, every single kind of historical context has its orthodoxy. And, we’re no less—we, in our context, in our current American whatever, civilization, we are no less immune to the same kind of silly, unreasonable (your word), orthodoxy as any prior people. Whether it was slavery is good or women don't want to vote, or name your orthodoxy. Every context, every time is subject. I sit around and I wonder sometimes when you, yeah, exactly as you describe the silliness of some of this, what, 100 years from now, are people going to look back at our time and say, "Man, those guys were nuts to think…” so-and-so; "to think that nutritious food was equivalent to sterile food."
I mean, we have this orthodoxy right now in our country that sterile food is safe food and if it's not sterile, it's not safe. And that's how we've gotten to where Coca-Cola and Mountain Dew are safe, but raw milk is not because it's got little living bugs running around in it. So, we've got this fixation on sterile as opposed to safe.
Well, we all know that we're not sterile and we’ve got three trillion bacteria inside of us. I mean, we are extremely unsterile. And, those bacteria inside of us are close cousins to the billions of fungi, nematodes, actinomycetes bacteria in the soil. Grandma used to say, "Every kid needs to eat a pound of dirt by the time they're twelve." I tend to agree with that. And, I've often thought that when you pull a carrot out of the garden and you kind of wipe it on your pants and you eat it, you know, you've got a little bit of dirt left on it. And, I can just see all of those microbes, they come down to your stomach microbes and, “Oh! Long lost cousins,” and they're all having this great family reunion down there.
But, you're right. There is this—the more we know now about the intricacies, the collaborative symbioses and complex relationships in the ecosystem, we're realizing, "Wow, you know, we don't know anything." I mean, take the human genome project. I mean, that was a wonderful, wonderful example of this. All of the scientists that set it up said, "It’ll take us three years to map it, because we know there’s a 100,000 pairs. That's the statistical, mathematical requirement to have the genetic diversity that we have. We know there's going to be a 100,000 pairs. It's going to take us this long to do each pair. So, we're going to budget this amounts of money and it's going to take this long." Well, of course, we all know what happened. They came in at half the time and half the budget. It's probably the only government project that ever came in at half the time and half the budget. Well, the reason was because there were only like 22, 24,000 pairs.
And, so the obvious question was, "Well, golly gee, what happened?" Well, what happened was they found out that the DNA has all of these switches and there's a lot of hanky panky going on up and down the DNA strand that's making a lot more than we realized. And, it then launched—so that the human genome project launched another entire field of study that now has a new name called "epigenetics," which is the study of what makes the DNA switches switch on and switch off, up and down that strand. What makes the genes take different partners, a partner of cancer or a partner of cancer cure, a partner of near-sightedness, or whatever? So now we have this entire new field of epigenetics. What this should help us to realize is…
Chris Martenson: Is be humble.
Joel Salatin: …we're not nearly as smart as we think and we don't know as much as we think. And, the way to bet for the future is to look back and say, "Okay, so how has this horserace been won? How has this horserace been run, and who have the winners been in the past?" When you look back, what you find is, wow, you find complex animal/plant relationships, animal/animal relationships, but you don't see monocultures. You don't see monospecies. You don't see carbon being shipped. You see carbon being recycled in situ. Nature doesn't move carbon around. You see no waste. The waste of one thing is the feedstock for the next item in the ecosystem. You see these magnificent circles, and it drives me to say, "Okay, that's the way the race has been run for as long as we know. How do we caress that only, how do we massage it only?” We don't come in like a bunch of conquistador swashbuckling pirates and say, "Hm-mmm, none of those cycles matter, none of those patterns matter. We're smarter. Nature's broken and we can fix it." No, we come to this and we say, "No, nature's fundamentally well. How can we simply come humbly and caress that ecological womb into a little more capacity than it had in the static state?"
Chris Martenson: That’s wonderful. I love how you put that. That, to me, I find very uplifting because it says that’s a worthy endeavor for a human mind. I piss off farmers, because I call this modern pesticide glyphosate farming, I call it lazy farming, right? It’s sort of a "kill them all and let God sort it out" approach, which is lazy. It might be sophisticated in terms of the timing of the application of pesticides and how you financially afford it and all that. But, it’s just lazy.
And, to speak back on something you said way at the beginning, which is you said that we now think that there’s a link between glyphosate use and autism, right? With these astonishing autism statistics. And, the glyphosate, you know, that works by interrupting the shikimate pathway, which allows plants to create essential amino acids. And, so you do that, you interrupt it, plants die. But, the EPA said, “Well, no big deal. Humans don’t have that pathway.” But, the problem is that the bacteria in our gut do have that pathway. And, we now know the first glimmers that the gut and ourselves are in this symbiotic relationship, and we’re feeding them and they are feeding us. If you throw that out of balance, all kinds of things pop up that we now know about, which include things like schizophrenia, all sorts of chronic diseases, auto-immune things, you name it, right?
So, we’re learning. We’re learning that these trillions of things in us are inhabiting so that when you talk about that Copernican style revolution of orthodoxy—I can imagine somebody from the future coming back and going, “You guys, the dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico didn’t tip you off? Okay. All right. So, maybe you were farming wrong.” But, here’s the deal…
Joel Salatin: That’s cute, that’s right.
Chris Martenson: …you know, we’re not these autonomous, I’m not me, this tight little container and sometimes things come in and go out. I’m a porous vessel and our DNA we’re finding is talking, is talking with the world. That epigenetics is switching things on and off in accordance with what’s happening out there. And, why not? Nature is wicked smart and it says, “If things change, I can adapt with that. I’ve created a mechanism so that this DNA can talk.” So, the more I learn, the more humble I get, the more I realize that the brilliance, the depth of how nature has constructed this whole thing is beyond anything I can imagine. And I have a PhD in a science and I thought I knew stuff. But, I got to tell, Joel, the older I get, the less I—I don’t know anything anymore. I know nothing.
Joel Salatin: Yeah, well, that’s, now you're really becoming wise. That's exactly true. And, to think that we can segregate ourselves. Those are powerful words, segregation and integration. But, we as a culture, as an extension of the Roman/Greco, Roman/Western, reductionist linear systematized, compartmentalized, individualized, disconnected kind of thinking—we have allowed ourselves to swallow this worldview that we can kind of levitate above nature. That this ecological umbilical can be actually severed with our technology and our creative prowess and we can actually levitate into a segregated Star Trek future. The truth is that we are fundamentally integrated, embedded into this ecological umbilical and we can't severe it. We couldn't if we wanted to. We simply can't survive that way and so we’d better learn how to integrate, rather than segregate our lives into this. We don't get on a jet and fly 3,000 miles to go commune with nature. We are nature. And how we choose to interact with nature every day, whether it's the food we eat or the water we use or whatever it is that we do—to interact thoughtfully and with care ultimately creates the kind of habitat, the kind of integrated eco-womb that we live in and that we're going to leave as a legacy for our children. If we're going to just leave a deprived, depraved soiled nest, I contend that that's not a very good thing to leave.
Chris Martenson: And not worthy of our true gifts and talents. And, with that, boy, I could talk with you forever, and we’re out of time. I want to—why don’t you tell people about the Food Freedom Fest that’s coming up, because I think everybody should know about that.
Joel Salatin: Sure, well, the Food Freedom Fest, this will be the second one that's been held. It'll be here in Staunton, Virginia—that’s S-t-a-u-n-t-o-n—August 14, 15, and 16. Coming up the 16th is going to be—the Nutritional Therapy Association will be hosting a day as well. The 14th and 15th, the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. Robb Wolf of Paleo fame and founding will be here as well. But, it's essentially to celebrate and actually energize the troops to contend for and defend the freedom to acquire the food of your choice from the source of your choice. And, this whole orthodoxy that we've been talking about is militating right now against being able to choose for ourselves the kind of fuel we want for our own body.
So, I kind of call this whole effort of the Food Freedom Fest, this whole food freedom effort, I kind of call it rectifying something that was missed in the Bill of Rights. We've got the freedom to, the right to own a gun, the right to assemble, the right to worship, the right to speak, the right to be secure in our persons without a search warrant. There are all sorts of wonderful rights, the Bill of Rights. We did not get the right to choose our food. And so the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund, you can Google that, and you can look us up on our website, PolyfaceFarms.com, for more information. But August 14, 15, and 16. There’s going to be a good crowd, I think. And, we're celebrating and empowering people to really take this orthodoxy on as we see more and more encroachment and intrusion into personal autonomy of being able to make our own food choices.
Chris Martenson: Well, fantastic, very well said. And, Joel, thank you so much for your time. We’ve been talking with Joel Salatin about redemption, about healing the land, healing the food, healing the economy, and healing the culture. That’s where it all goes. So, Joel, thank you so much for your time today.
Joel Salatin: Thank you, Chris.