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Joel Salatin: Curing Society's Constipation Of Imagination

We can do things profoundly better
Sunday, May 21, 2017, 8:19 PM

As my son, Daniel says all of the time, "Our problem is not a lack of resources. Our problem is a constipation of imagination."

In our culture today, we're all blocked up. Because we're so sure we know how it's supposed to be done. That becomes our limiting factor. We can do things very differently and profoundly better, but it never even enters the imagination.

So says the always colorful "renegade farmer" Joel Salatin, who returns to the podcast this week to share his latest thoughts on creative yet practical solutions that society could and should be pursuing, vs limiting and litigating everything under the sun.

Much of what's needed is a shift in thinking and priorities, says Salatin. And it starts with embracing initiative, accountability, and a 'do more with what we have' mentality -- which stands in stark contrast to the "we just need more stuff" narrative of today's status quo:

It's easy to say, "I can't." It's a lot harder to say, "I can."

"I can't" is so fun to say. Because then we're not responsible. If you can do something, but you're not; then you're responsible. But, if you can't do it, and you're not; then you're of the hook. "I can't" – is a real enabler for business as usual.

Using farming as a metaphor, we see it in our industry all the time. When a farm wants to produce more -- say, in order to generate more salaries -- most farmers always thinking; "How do we gobble up additional farmland and additional acres?" I

At my place, Polyface Farms, we instead think, "How can we stack?This is a permaculture concept. How can we stack more enterprises on the acreage we have?

For example, we've dug a bunch of ponds; enough now that we've bought some of this K-Line Irrigation system. Now, when it gets dry in the summer; instead of sitting here and being depressed on the stoop because it's not raining, we take winter snow melt and early spring rains like we have had just lately -- all of our ponds are full now -- and in August, we can dispense that water out on the landscape. We can grow another whole cycle of vegetation. Whether it's crops, grass -- whatever -- we can grow another cycle of vegetation with that stored water. That's a way to work from the inside out, instead of looking for additional production from outside. Let's look inside. Let's see what we can do with what we already have. We can grow other products. We can do other things. 

I mean, we have a sawmill. We got a sawmill so we could cut our own lumber. But guess what? We can make furniture out of that lumber. Suddenly, those trees that are worth $10 wholesale at the sawmill suddenly become worth $500 as a hutch, or a chair, or a table, or whatever. Suddenly, instead of having to harvest 50 acres of forest in order to make a decent income; we only have to harvest half an acre. All of the rest can keep growing. We make the same amount out of half an acre that we did off of 50 acres.

That's the kind of inside out thinking .And through this stacking of synergistic enterprises, we actually generate more income on the same acreage as opposed to always looking at more acreage.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Joel Salatin (63m:22s).

Transcript: 

Chris Martenson: Welcome to this Peak prosperity podcast. I am your host, Chris Martenson. Today is May 16, 2017. Now, I have the pleasure today of speaking once again 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 is featured prominently in such modern food movement masterworks as The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan; and the documentaries Fresh, and Food, Inc., American Meat, and most recently, the documentary Polyfaces.

Of course, he has a blurb on the back of our latest book Prosper. Hey look, I can't wait to get started as the conversation is always lively. It is always informative. It's sure to arouse both curiosity, maybe a slight whiff of alarm. Hey, you will laugh. You will cry. You will suddenly develop a new interest in space colonization. Joel, welcome back.

Joel Salatin: Thank you. It's great to be with you, Chris.

I really live out here in the country and, lots of forests and stuff around. I am not sure that I have noticed a decline too much. There certainly does seem to be a decline in birds, which of course would mirror a decline in insects. I know that on our farm. We're just entering our third year on a Smithsonian Benchmark Study where they're actually measuring, not all insects, but pollinators and birds.

What is great for us to know is that we are way up. Of all of the sites they are looking at, we're in the top with the number of pollinators. All eight species of bumble bees in Virginia are here on our little farm. Our position has always been that good farming should actually increase wildlife, which includes everything from earthworms, to pollinators, to spiders, to insects. Certainly, when you have pretty much indiscriminate policies of spraying, and policies of mono-speciation, it's not very conducive to diversified insects.

Chris Martenson: Yes, and maybe you are in a slightly different position there, given your surrounds. A lot of my experience in tracking the insect population comes from these long drives that my family has done every year I have been alive. We go to upstate New York. It is about a six hour drive. It's through bucolic picturesque farm country. This is all, mostly corn, and some soybean farming, and whatnot. These are the people I think who are really heavily using –

Joel Salatin: Yeah.

Chris Martenson: – Neonicotinoids, GMO, all sorts of things. They are using – it looks really bucolic and all that; but really, this is the center of the agricultural revolution, as it were. They're really hammering away. I think. I'm pretty sure that has a lot to do with it.

Joel Salatin: Absolutely, well the fact is that a landscape that is extremely simplistic, and simplistic in speciation. Whether it's animals, or plants, or whatever. But an environment that is highly simplistic is not very conducive to wildlife. At least to a broad array of wildlife, which includes everything from, of course, deer all of the way down to whatever. It is conducive a lot of times to pathogens, molds, viruses, and even vermin. Whether it's rats, mice, raccoons, possums.

Those sorts of things that are kind of the lower end. I realize that wildlife centers take these critters in, and nurse them back to health, and protect them. But around here, they're considered vermin. They don't last long when they encounter.... I mean, we don't go out and try to exterminate them. But, when you find a possum in the chicks or in the egg nest box, that possum is not a friend.

Chris Martenson: You take them up back and you have a conversation with them. Is that correct?

Joel Salatin: We do. We have a conversation.

Chris Martenson: Yes.

Joel Salatin: Yes. It's a very loud report.

Chris Martenson: Yeah. I sure get that. I have had a few conversations here. Woodchucks, I found. There is just really no talking to a woodchuck. They' are just....

Joel Salatin: No talking to a woodchuck; no, they are just evil. They are a real problem.

Chris Martenson: They just….

Joel Salatin: There are some things that I just don't know what they were made for. But, I guess everything has a purpose. But, I haven't discovered it on a few things. I mean, the fact, and again. We don't try to eradicate – we don't set traps out and try to kill everything. But, we try to provide a great habitat and lots of moles, and voles, and things, and diversity for stuff to eat. If they can't be satisfied with that; then, we assume that there is an overpopulation. We don't need dependent vermin.

Chris Martenson: I think that groundhogs are here to teach us both hopelessness and patience as gardeners. I think that's probably where they fit in.

Joel Salatin: Yeah.

Chris Martenson: Because they are like bulldozers.

Astonishing how much they can eat.

Joel Salatin: Yeah. They can move an astonishing amount of dirt. That's for sure.

Chris Martenson: Alright, last time we talked. You were in the process of finishing up your latest book, The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs. You had a bit of curiosity about how that was going to be received because of its subject matter. How is it being received?

Joel Salatin: Yeah. The short answer is it's pretty mixed. The folks who have read it, generally speaking, the people who have read it, love it. I mean, they love it. I think it's more letters from people thanking me. I have wanted to say this all my life. Finally somebody has verbalized it, and blah-blah-blah – than anything I have ever done. But, it's been a hard sell. It hasn't sold like I hoped; not that I write for.... I don't write stuff to sell. But, it's always nice to make some sales, if you can.

The most telling thing about it was that FaithWords who published it went to 150 pastors around the country for cover blurbs. I think for the first time in history, they could not get a single response. The reason was because the pastors were scared of the congregation. What do you do, if you are a pastor, you put a little...? You ought to read this.

Just, all you have got to do is say, "You have got to say you got to read this book," on the back cover. Your choir director has a daughter that's just become a research assistant at Monsanto. She is all giddy about her daughter landing this nice high paying job in corporate America. Or, what do you do if your head elder has two Tyson chicken houses?

This really struck into that tension that I that I speak about in the book and addressed. This tension in the faith community. It's Chick-fil-A. It's cheap, and cheap food, and junk food. That leaves me enough money to put in the missionary barrel. It's a real tension in the faith community, Interestingly, I have had probably as much positive response from the total non-faith community saying, "Man, I'm going to get three of these and give them to my three Christian friends. And they need to read this."

Chris Martenson: Yeah.

Joel Salatin: That's been pretty positive. But, it was just released this week in paperback. I just think it hasn't gotten traction, partly because of the faith community. It isn't quite sure what to do with it. They have their youth night, and bring in Papa John's Pizza, and Coca-Cola. That's what the youth eat and drink at their youth parties all of the time. This book dares to question whether that's the right thing we should do with God's stuff?

Chris Martenson: That's an interesting proposition, of course. It means a belief system. It's to give up the Papa John's and the soda. I don't think…. There's a variety of reasons you might do that. But, one of the first things you have to confront is a very dark idea; which is that corporations may not…. This is, and just go with me here – may not have your best interests at heart.

Joel Salatin: Yes, and not even your best interests, but the interests of –

Chris Martenson: – Anything.

Joel Salatin: – A divine, of a God who –

Chris Martenson: Yes.

Joel Salatin: – As Christians, we say…. I realize that many of your listeners are not Christians. But in the faith community, we say, 'The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof." That's what the bible says. It's all His. To question well, what's his return on investment? Is it a good return on his investment of creation that we that have a dead zone the size of New Jersey in the Gulf of Mexico from farm chemical runoff? If the earth were your stuff, yeah; how would you like somebody treating it that way?

The theme of the book is what you say you believe in the pew showing up on the menu? I think, yeah. I realize that there's hardly anybody, right? I mean, there are plenty of theologians. It's fine for a theologian to write about stewardship. It's kind of abstract. Yes, we should take care of things and all of that. But, everybody, yes, Amen, it's all nice and focus group academic.

But, as soon as you start actually becoming practical with it, that's where it kind of gets dicey. I mean, one of my favorite passages in there is when I say, "Why can't a youth group leaders…." Instead of taking the kids to Six Flags over Georgia, or whatever – to the to the resort and all – why don't they buy a bunch of maddox and go to the local farmer that's got thistles, and weeds, and multiflora rose; and chop bramble for a day, and kind of help restore some order there. Learn what thorns, and brambles, and the sweat of your brow is all about. When you come to….

That brambles, and thorns, and weeds, and all of that stuff came as a result sin. Well, yeah, it's a metaphor for sin. We have got to…. It takes work to attack them. Then you have this, the other theme of the book. That the physical world we live in, our day to day visceral world is an object lesson of spiritual truth. How we handle the practical visceral living day to day is how we actually invoke, or embrace, or illustrate faith, and love, and mercy, and beauty, and neighborliness, and all of this kind of thing.

It's not very neighborly to have a manure lagoon that stinks up the neighborhood. It pollutes all of the water. It gives everybody nausea. That's not very neighborly; the Golden Rule, doing others as you would want them to do unto you. Most of industrial agriculture is located in poor communities or far away communities. Because they're not very neighbor friendly. What does that say about any kind of business when nobody wants to live next to it?

We think that good farming should be aesthetically and aromatically, and essentially romantic; so much so that neighbors want to live next to it. I mean, that's the principle the Golden Rule. There are a lot of practical applications in the book. I think that's why it's a tough read. But, a lot of people have been very positive about it. Who really respond and enjoy the fact that this guy is not just off on some pulpit being academic. It's actually daring to ask the question. How should we then live?

I have had some interesting response. I will be doing my first big church presentation in Indianapolis about the book. They're actually buying a hundred copies using it as a study book. Then, I am coming to do a weekend of seminars for this. It's kind of a three church. The three of them are going together. I am really excited about that. I presented a couple of months ago at the Progressive Youth Ministers Conference in Montreat, North Carolina. That was kind of cool.

Yeah. It's a topic worth wrestling over. I certainly don't purport to have all of the answers. I don't want to start a cult. I say in the book. Look, I don't think there is anything wrong at all with eating a Snickers Bar. I am not going to tell you that you are in sin, if you eat a Snickers Bar. But I would dare to question whether you should eat a Snicker's Bar every day. Alright, I mean, there's a balance there. That's what we're after.

Chris Martenson: A lot of fascinating things to pick up on there. One of them, I was quite intrigued to learn that the word sin, its root meaning derives into – translates to miss the mark.

Joel Salatin: Yeah.

Chris Martenson: To sin was to like shoot an arrow. It went wide or something like that. It's literally to miss the mark.

Joel Salatin: Right.

Chris Martenson: You were talking about the brambles, and the thorns, and all of that. If you have got those taking over your farm; I suggest, you're missing the mark in some way, shape, or form there, right. This is, I think, what you were getting to is this idea. That in many respects, we have defaulted. We have gone down the easy route. It's real easy to buy that Snickers Bar every day. It is real easy to get the Papa John's and the soda; and not to pick on those two things. I mean, I could pick anything.

Joel Salatin: Right.

Chris Martenson: But, when you have that every single day, you clearly miss the mark. We can detect that in all of our base statistics about the metabolic syndromes, and the obesity, and the levels of unhappiness. If we believe there's any correlation between what we eat and how we feel, and on, and on, and on.

We're clearly missing the mark in lots of ways. What you have done here. You have tied it back. You have given people a faith of Christian faith, a way to begin to connect those dots. Is that right?

Joel Salatin: Yeah. That's exactly right. It's a concern to me when the faith community; which is supposed to demonstrate a lot of really positive things. A greater order and greater function in their lives whether it's happier marriages, a happier kids. I am not a big health and wealth preacher; name it, claim it kind of guy. I mean, there are certainly things that you can't help. But, in general, the faith community is called to be an example of a positive alternative in a dysfunctional world.

It's concerning when we have the same level of obesity, and all of these lifestyle diseases. Eighty percent, it's huge – of our diseases and sicknesses are our lifestyle. Whether it's lack of exercise, dietary, all the above, stress, and lack of sleep, all of those kinds of things. Yet, the faith community tends to not want to address those kinds of things.

It's glad to address other things. But, it doesn't like to address those issues. I just dare to…. I would say look, man. When you start talking about, for example LGBTQ. These big thorny things, I mean. Those are big thorny things. But my goodness, eating as if your body really matters. As if it really is the temple of the Holy Spirit; eating like that. That's not all that hard.

I mean, that's what you call picking the low hanging fruit. Some of the other things can be really thorny. This just eating clean, I mean we think a lot more about the purity of the gasoline we put in our car than we do the fuel we put in our bodies. That's just silly. I would suggest it's not being a good steward of our bodies.

Chris Martenson: Now, we're trending into really interesting territory for me. This is coming from my own angle, a little bit different direction. But, I think it triangulates on the same spot. Here is what I think. Let me just toss this out. Then, we will let your reaction flow where it will as it always does. I have come to the conclusion, Joel, that we aren't going to elect.

We are not going to program. We are going to tweak or invent our way out of these various predicaments in which we find ourselves. By the way, I would put obesity in there, right. I think that what's needed here is a shift in consciousness. Now careful, I don't mean the groovy thing popularized and trivialized in the '60s.

I mean, we have to tame our egos, which are never content with what we have. They always; our egos want more. They are never satisfied. It's the thing that marketers play against, those hidden desires of ours, which are very rooted in our humanness and our egos. But, it's in our subconscious. Man, they just target that stuff. They sell us the same stuff over and over again.

It's that they push easy buttons, right. To lift out of that, and to get to a place where we can be content, and happy with what we have. It means we have to nudge that ego aside. That right there creates the space for different thinking. I'm going to call that consciousness, to emerge. Until we can be content with what nature can provide, we're just eating into the foundation of our existence.

I personally don't see a future unless we begin behaving entirely differently. Like you say. There's some low hanging fruit out there. We could begin our behavior sets with the low hanging fruit; and not the really thorny, but much higher fruit on that tree.

Joel Salatin: Right.

Chris Martenson: What are your thoughts there?

Joel Salatin: Yeah. I think you're exactly right. I mean, in the Apostles, Paul tells us. I have found wherever I am to be content. Contentment is not possessions. Contentment is out. It is value way beyond just possessions. Many of the happiest people in the earth are what we would consider in abject poverty. But they have…. If you go to some of these, for example, primitive cultures. My goodness, their level of contentment is profound. They have got family.

They don't have worries of whether the cell phone is working or not. I mean, we live in what I call it frenetic time. Millennials are especially susceptible to this. I mean, their whole self-esteem and affirmation is based on how many likes they have got. Boy, if I don't get a like in 30 minutes, no. The world has abandoned me.

We are just growing in addiction to a technological fix and the freneticness of life. I mean, young parents. If their kids aren't in five soccer leagues and three ballet programs; they're not giving their kids a decent platform to life.

I would just suggest. Maybe the kids ought to be building some dams in the streams, and some tree forts, and making their make believe. We all know that little children, the toddlers. You get them a present. They're done with it in about five minutes. What they spend the day on is playing in the box. Imagination is stimulated by making do and learning. I have decided that the greatest wealth right now that a person can have is if you can grow something, build something, or fix something. If you can repair it, build it, or grow it.

That's who I want to be next to. Whether it's good times or bad times. It doesn't matter. Our culture right now does not stimulate that kind of thing. What it stimulates is do you know the latest dysfunction in the Kardashian household? What's the latest movie? What is the latest iPhone? What is the latest Snapchat? What is the latest thing that went viral on YouTube? I feel like we're levitating.

We're levitating farther and farther away from the humus that is the foundation of human. This abdicating this ecological umbilical to our to our earthly womb. As a result, we are de-learning, unlearning, or whatever you want to call it. We are becoming more ignorant about how to actually practically live in our nest?

That's a dangerous place. If you can't live regeneratively in your nest, you are in a very vulnerable situation. Whether you're spending beyond your means. Or, whether you're using technology that's fragile way beyond your means and beyond your needs.

Whether you are eating food that you have no clue where it came from. Who had anything to do with it? What it was? You are putting faith in a lot of external stuff. One of the things you learn pretty quickly in regenerative circles. The resiliency and the stability comes from the inside out, and not the outside in. If we're not working on the inside out.

In your book, the chapter on mastery is so profound. When it takes time. It takes time to develop mastery, and to grow things, or repair things, and build things. You're not going to get it out of a book when suddenly things go south. Yeah. I'm going on too long. But you see, the point that contentment, and real value, and real wealth are not Wall Street portfolios and stuff. It's skill. It's mastery. It's knowledge, and those kinds of things; and knowing how to do things, and fix things, and grow things.

On our farm, it's interesting. We have gotten a lot of condemnation from the industrial food orthodoxy folks. The way you farm. It takes too many people. Your kind of farming has too many people on the farm. I say yes. It does take more people on the farm. But we have strategically chosen to substitute pharmaceutical in pharmaceutical intensity and dependency; capital intensity and dependency, and energy intensity and dependency with people.

When you do that, your equity – our equity as a farm business has moved from physical depreciable assets and ongoing expenditures. Our capital has moved to the non physical skill information and customers of people. There is not a bank in the world that can ever foreclose on your skill. There is nobody who is ever going to come to you and say, "I'm going to repossess your knowledge." From an equity standpoint, when you move your equity from stuff to non-stuff, that becomes an extremely resilient wealth plan.

Chris Martenson: Indeed, it does. Of course, you are just singing from the same hymn book as myself on this one. Because this is also something that I judge is really sorely lacking in our culture at this point and time. Where we're not really rewarding a real depth in certain things. We reward some things, and not others.

One of the key attributes that I am looking at now is that of all of the things we reward; if you open up a book. You say, "Well, what are masculine attributes?" We got well, assertiveness, dominance, reductionism, and logic, all of that stuff. We got that in spades. But, what we really don't make space for, or honor, or value is the other side. The feminine side of the equation, which is about relatedness, and nurturing, and being in the flow, and maybe not knowing, and being comfortable with the not knowing, all of that stuff, right.

Life is just a balance. My prescription and all of this is dear; we're way out of balance, right. You mentioned that at least in one very physical tangible way; which is, if you're living in a container. You're not doing it regeneratively, you are deeply exposed. It's going to come back and haunt you at some point in time.

The people who just; both make me chuckle, and get a little aggravated are the people like, yeah. We're going to Mars, right. This idea that yeah, we have this functioning space ship right now. We can't figure out how to work it right. What we're going to do in a pinch is we're going to escape to another place. I'm like – that's cool. But, you won't know why you broke the first thing.

You are going to go do a second one. That's cool. How do you think the second one is going to work out? But, it's just this fantasy delusion, which is that somehow I will just go to this next circumstance. It will be different that time. But, if you don't understand. Why it was wrong in the first place. It is never different the second time. It gets to that inside out part.

That you mentioned. I will bring up like somebody. If you have seen somebody. They are on their fifth divorce. But number six is the woman of his dreams. You might go, possibly but maybe not, right. You might be carrying the same prescription in program to the next circumstance. It will turn out kind of the same as the last ones.

Because the way we really change the story is from the inside out. I think. If we rewind all of the way to the beginning. That is what you are really saying. That with the Marvelous Pigness of Pigs, you're really opening up a can of worms in a sense by saying; "Look, there's things here we can address." But, they're not easy. By the way, they require us to look inside; which feels like a both revolutionary but a very old thought. You can find such sentiments stretching back pretty far, as far as the written word. I think.

Joel Salatin: Yeah, absolutely, I mean. We say…. Well, it's easy to say, "I can't." It's a lot harder to say, "I can." I can't do this is – I can't do this for a reason. It's so fun to say it. Because then we're not responsible. If you can do it, but you're not; then you're responsible. But, if you can't do it, and you're not; then you're not responsible anymore because you can't do. I can't – is a real enabler for things. We see it here again and using the farm as metaphor. We see it here. We would want to produce more. For example, from the farm in order to generate more salaries. The more people who can be here. In order to do that, most farms are always thinking; "How do we gobble up additional farm and additional acres?" Instead for us – we're thinking; "How can we stack?"

This is a kind of a permaculture concept. How can we stack more enterprises here? For example, we have dug a bunch of ponds. Enough now that we have bought some of this K-Line Irrigation system. Now, when it gets dry in the summer; instead of sitting here and being depressed on the stoop because it's not raining. We take winter snow melt and early spring rains like we have had just lately.

All of the ponds are full now. In August, we can dispense that water out on a landscape. We can grow another whole cycle of vegetation. Whether it's crops, grass. Whatever it is, vegetable. We can grow another cycle of vegetation with that stored water. That is a way to work from the inside out, instead of the outside in; and instead of looking for – and additional production from outside.

Let's look inside. See what we can do. We can grow other products. We can grow. We can do other things. I mean, we have a sawmill. We got a sawmill so we could cut our own lumber. But guess what? We can make furniture out of that lumber. Suddenly those trees that are worth ten dollars wholesale at the sawmill suddenly become worth five hundred dollars in a hutch, or a chair, or a table, or whatever. Suddenly instead of having to, for example, harvest 50 acres of forest in order to make a decent income; we only have to harvest half an acre.

All of the rest can keep growing. We make the same amount out of half an acre that we did off of 50 acres. That's the kind of inside out thinking, and stacking synergistic enterprises, so that it actually – we actually generate more income on the same acreage as opposed to always looking at more acreage.

Chris Martenson: That more acreage of course is something. Every time I visited a factory farm, I see. I remember. I visited one that was 11,000 acres down in Maryland. They had about one percent organic content left in this red clayish soil. They couldn't figure out how they could possibly increase organic content. Because they said, "Well, to get it back up to six percent, that's about three years of fallow."

We're only making a hundred and fifty dollars an acre off of this stuff; which is pretty thin margin. As it is given, this farm probably had flow through of millions of dollars. But, their life and death depended on that hundred and fifty bucks an acre of actual profit.

Joel Salatin: Yeah.

Chris Martenson: Their experience, I was like…. How long has it been a hundred fifty dollars? He was like, "It's always a hundred and fifty dollars." The price of corn goes up. All of my inputs go up magically right under it.

Joel Salatin: Yeah.

Chris Martenson: That was sort of the treadmill that they were on. One bad season and you're upside down in your loans, and on, and on. I see how they really get trapped in that. But to untrap from that which was my own. I think I did that my own life creating my own job and figuring out what my gifts are and decoupling from being dependent on a paycheck.

These things have lots of metaphors. Ways they can ripple through to people's lives. But, if I could guess. Your magic in this is to just look at something. Always have that curious question of saying, "Well, is there another way we could do this?" What else can be done here?

Joel Salatin: Yeah, absolutely, as my son, Daniel says all of the time. He says, "Our problem is not a lack of resources." We have got plenty of resources. Our problem is constipation of imagination. That's our problem. We're all blocked up. Because we know how it's supposed to be done. Or, how other people think it's supposed to be done. That becomes our limiting factor. The fact we could do things very differently and profoundly better.

It never even enters the imagination. I mean, that's what is so interesting about, for example, the work of Elon Musk at Tesla. I mean, there is a disruptor. The disrupters are by definition this lunatic fringe. I mean, take Airbnb. I mean, who would have thought ten years ago that an outfit would be able to duplicate all of the bed space of Marriott, Hilton, and Sheraton combined without driving a nail or buying a mattress in ten years.

Chris Martenson: Yes.

Joel Salatin: I mean, that's incredible. The whole sharing economy that's coming on; the sharing economy that's being enabled by high tech electronic means is part of that disruption of space. I mean, look what Uber has done to taxi drivers, for example. The taxi drivers, of course, they are rebelling and trying to circle the wagons and keep them all out. The hospitality industry is trying to keep out Airbnb, and all of this and that. Look, disruption happens.

Disruptors happen. Disruptors are by definition not very loved when they begin disrupting. Everybody is tickled at what Airbnb for example has done. Whether you like it. Or, whether you stay in them or not. Most people are amazed at what has happened. Then, it's a good thing. But, that's been a long slog. People don't…. For the guys who developed it against the grain; and people love to talk about. Now, they're multimillionaires. But, what they don't like to talk about is the slog and –

Chris Martenson: Yeah.

Joel Salatin: – The mastery, and actually punch through, and breakthroughs are a slog. I mean, you're talking about you untrapped yourself from the life you were in. You started something different. You did something different. But, it was a slog. It didn't just come handed in a silver platter.

Chris Martenson: Oh, no.

Joel Salatin: Here is your income. Here is your audience. Here is your deal. It was and the same thing for me. People love to talk about where we are now when we serve all of these people. We have got these in, a successful business, and blah-blah-blah. But, we had multiple years, multiple years early on where, if we didn't grow it, we didn't eat it. We didn't go out to eat even two days in a year.

We have never had a TV. We still do not have one. We drove a fifty dollar car. We lived on three hundred bucks a month. All of our friends were driving nice cars and all. But they had debt. We didn't have debt. We leveraged that. Today, we enjoy what that early frugal living enabled us to do. But, it was a slog. You had to defy the marketing and the discontentedness.

We're back to that contentedness thing; and realize that our happiness was a vision. Happiness was a vision of profound resiliency and eliminating the vulnerability that most people had. It didn't happen overnight. But, we can step out the back door now and live from the garden, and live from a community of people that we have developed here. It's good. It's good. But, it came over ten years and ten thousand hours or longer than that.

But, it came over time. The slog is what stops people. A lot of people want to unplug and untrap; and frankly, do better. They do better for themselves, and do better for their ecology; and do better for their neighbor or for their community. Most people want to; but the frenetic life keeps you from making adjustments. That is a real trap. You're right.

Chris Martenson: It is a real trap. I love everything you just said there. Because it just speaks to this idea. That it's just doing the next thing. You have just got to get at it and get started. There is no…. I think part of the trap is thinking that there is a there, there. I will gain mastery. Then, I will be a good farmer. It is like, no. You are going to be learning your whole life. If you don't enjoy the process of learning, it's very frustrating.

I think. Because there's no there, there. There is nowhere to get to. One of my favorite quotes of all time is Pablo Casals, a world famous cellist. He is 90 years old. The interviewer is asking him. "Hey, you still practice three hours a day?" you have got it made. Like you are the man. Why do you practice? He without missing a beat, he said, "Because I think I'm finally starting to notice some improvement." He was serious, right.

Joel Salatin: Yeah.

Chris Martenson: I mean.

Joel Salatin: Yeah.

Chris Martenson: But he enjoys the process of becoming a better cellist over time. There was no there, there. He didn't achieve it. Then, he has got it. Now, he just brings that to the world. It's a constant process, right? That's life, right. That is life. I think our culture sold us short by saying that there is some sort of like attainment that happens. Then, you're a celebrity. You're a Kardashian. You are now one of the most successful and happy people we know. But, at least you're successful or whatever. That gets old.

Joel Salatin: Yeah, and too, I think that this is whatever; exacerbated, if you will by our technical…. Well, the fact that we're a culture of technicians. We honor technicians, IT, technology, and technicians that can put this together. One of the critical aspects of being a technician of anything is that you have to follow a protocol. You could turn on your laptop. You can't turn it on if you say, "Well today, I think I will turn this on by punching the letter C." It doesn't turn on, right?

Chris Martenson: Yeah.

Joel Salatin: Procedural, whatever, roadmaps, and procedural just dotting all of the I's and crossing all of the T's has made us, I think, a culture of maybe and should I say an overage or an overabundance of technicians as opposed to profits and disruptors? Because the technician follows the protocol, boom-boom-boom. In fact, you have to do it the same way every single day. Your computer doesn't like creative button pushing. You start being creative button pushing with your computer; and it's going to start blinking and doing funny things to you.

We have gradually moved from – we could even get philosophical, and all sorts of – get into philosophical stuff about handwriting. It's interesting all of these studies that show now that your ability to remember something where you actually wrote down notes on a pad, and say at a lecture. Your recall cognition is way higher if you actually tactically wrote it down on a yellow pad than if you typed it into a laptop.

There is a lot of work, brain work being done about these kinds of things. It's interesting that the top CEOs in Silicon Valley don't let their kids play with iPhones and iPads. Because it gradually affects your creativity. It affects your mental function. As we have moved into this technician culture, we reward technicians. We marginalize profits. Not that profits, I suppose, have ever had a culture that loved them.

But, maybe I should not say profits. I should say poets. The people who are talking big picture and visionary stuff; we tend to kind of…. What kind of a wacko is that? We get back down in the weeds. We get back down in the weeds with our technical stuff following protocol. Don't bother me with visions. We're just going to build more roads. We're going to have more cars. We're going to use more fuel.

We just kind of keep heading down the same pathway. That's why people like Elon Musk who dare to…. Virgin Atlantic, who is the guy that owns Virgin Atlantic? There is another disruptor. People that think way outside of the box. That that's good stuff. A culture needs those kind of people. In other times, they have been called heretics. People that today for example; if you dare to grow food without chemicals.

I mean, that and there again. That's a heretic faction. Yet, it's the people who push that, the edge of the envelope. The ones that are the fringes of society that move the society forward. How our culture responds to what is known as the lunatic fringe is the fine line between tyranny and freedom. The Romans had an axiom. You could tell them the strength of a culture by how many laws it had. The more laws is had, the shakier the culture was.

When a culture is virile, and strong, and confident, it doesn't care about weirdos. Sure, yeah, you want to drink raw milk? Sure, go drink raw milk. But, when a culture become paranoid, and fearful, and timid, and weak, and fragile, and shaky, that's when it starts making laws upon laws, upon laws. Because it can't. Because such a culture is too impotent to do anything really valuable. But, they can write a lot of words, and make a lot of laws. I think there is a lot of truth to that concept.

Chris Martenson: Clearly, this is part of the discussion that I don't think has gotten surfaced a lot. It does a little. When you get something, you're often giving something up. Technology has done some things for us. You mentioned, yeah, okay. The Silicon Valley executives like now. My kids play with that stuff. Because they know what they have designed.

Joel Salatin: Right.

Chris Martenson: Yes. We have all read the articles that say people are losing the art of face to face communication. They have gotten too many participation trophies. They have lost the ability to manage defeat or criticism; or critique the things that you need.

Joel Salatin: Right.

Chris Martenson: The failures you need to actually grow. Because guess what? That's how we learn by doing stuff that didn't work out, right –

Joel Salatin: Right.

Chris Martenson: – All of that. It's clearly the Faustian bargain we have driven for ourselves in this. For me, at least is that when I look back through history. I see some of the astonishing things humans have done when they had the time. Whether it was through boredom. Or, we can access some new creative function with extra time. Or, whatever happens, but there are things. Just look at the Parthenon. How it is constructed. How it is nestled in each – like the way it tricks the eye. It draws you up. It feels large without overwhelming. It is just an astonishing creation, right.

Joel Salatin: Sure. That's work.

Chris Martenson: Somebody didn't just sit down to go, "Let's bang this out by Tuesday."

Joel Salatin: Right, yeah, the cathedrals, the magnificent cathedrals of Europe that were 250 years in building. Talk about continuity, and yeah, and I don't want anybody listening to think that I'm an anti-technology. Or, that I hate technology. I mean, I like…. I am glad that we were able to do a podcast and through the Internet. Anybody in the world can access these words in a few seconds.

I mean, that is a wonderful thing. But, that's not everything. I think that just this goes back then to do the whole idea of Advent and the Sabbath. One of the things, for example, that I have done for the last year or so. Just as a what can I do is – I have just made a convictional point to Sunday. I don't get on the Internet at all. I mean, and I don't look at emails. I don't look at anything. I just keep that computer off for one day a week.

I find there is some positive stuff there of just unplugging for one day a week. I mean, I'm sure there are people listening who go, "I can't imagine doing that." I know. My life would fall apart. But the stuff that we're talking about. Yeah, it's a Faustian bargain. If you're going to embrace the technology, just realize. It is a Faustian bargain. In order to create a human, whatever, resiliency in your own physical, mental, or spiritual, emotional condition, you have to appreciate that techno addiction is not a way to do that. It actually militates against it.

Maybe unplugging on Sunday, it doesn't float your boat. Okay. When are you going to? I mean, they say that the sign of an addiction, right, is what happens when you don't have it? People who say, "I'm not an alcoholic." But, when you say, "Alright, then, I want you to not drink for two days." Then that determines whether you're an alcoholic. A techno addiction, all I would say is, "When can you unplug?"

This year interestingly, we have our interns now. We have ten of them. A new rule we made this year. We have a basket at supper. Everybody's cell phone goes in the basket. Nobody can be at dinner and be looking at their crotch and texting, and all of the things that the cell phone does. It has been extremely good. It's okay. It is one hour a day. But, just making a point of saying this isn't everything in life; and making a point to have that balance, and to maintain your own personhood in this frenetic life. I think is a real valuable thing.

You would be surprised what kind of conversations and what kind of thoughts you can have. It takes you a while to come down, and to come down off of that frenetic thing; and answering those emails, and looking at those YouTubes, and following this down, and following that down. Man, there is a…. The other thing that has happened. If you have read the works of Simon Sinek lately.

Chris Martenson: I have.

Joel Salatin: Okay. Well, here's a guy. One of the things he points out is that it is made us very impatient. When you talked about; we are losing our ability to have face to face conversations. You're exactly right. I mean, look at the kind of impatience people express on Facebook stuff that they would never say face to face or in the person's presence. This translates into impatience with success, and impatience with mastery. Simon Sinek points out that a lot of these millennials are jumping from job, to job, to job every six months. Because if they don't get promoted in six months; I guess the company hates me. I am a failure here. They go on to another one.

That's why I love. There is a new book that's coming out probably in August by the founder of Stockman Grass Farmer who died in October. His widow and business partner have taken his notes. It is going to be a legacy book. The title is The Family Business – or, Creating A Family Business, or something like that. It's just going to be a wonderful book. He uses this word throughout it, this, the slog, the slug.

He keeps pointing out that a lot of what derails people is not an inability. Not that they don't have the ability, or the gift, or the talent, or whatever. It's the impatience of going through the slog. We really see this now. When, I was growing up, if something came up in the day. I said, "I want to, I want to read about that researcher." I had to wait until I came into the house in the evening; or maybe, I went to the library one evening a week and get the encyclopedia. Or, I look it up.

Now, goodness, I am out in the field. A little conversation comes up with an intern. I am not sure about that. The next thing I know. Here is the iPhone Googling. Everything is instant. Interestingly, I have a real good friend who is a pastor of a megachurch. We have a talk every month just kind of a master mind little two duo mastermind thing. He was telling me that the number one – this might be a little bit off the reservation here.

But, the number one user of Viagra now is not old men. It is young men between 20 and 28 who, because everything is Internet, and open, and available now. They are having sexual function problems as a young man. Because nothing matches the crazy fantasy all of the world that they are exposed to. It is this instant….. Instead growing into a life with a mate of satisfaction, contentment, and happiness with this monogamous relationship; it's this frenetic impatience from one thing to another, to another, and to another.

It's just fascinating, the ramifications of what frenetic impatience does to a life, and to a culture, and to a community that wants instant solutions, and instant promotions, and instant convenience. The average person now spends. I think the rule of thumb is not fewer than 18 minutes in their kitchen a day. We are even impatient with our meals. If the Hot Pocket doesn't heat up in less than 30 seconds, we are impatient. The idea of planting a seed, and watching the vegetables grow; then, dicing them and slicing them, and canning them, and taking an evening, creating our own domestic larder from culinary skill.

When I say that, the pace sounds so slow. The average person says, "What?" It is too much time. I might miss an ad on TV. The idea of taking that time; and yet, I would suggest that in the continuum of human history, those kinds of time spent have been the glue that holds families, and relationships, and civilizations, and homes, and communities. It hold them together. The old, the community hog kill, and the threshing ring, and the quilting bee. It is amazing to me that all of the civic clubs from Ruritan, to Jaycee's, Kiwanis, and Rotary clubs.

They're all dying because community, true community building takes time. It takes time. We are too impatient for that time now. What we want to do now. We can't go down here and build relationships with men and women that will man a little league concessions stand with or anything. No. Now, I do my philanthropy through crowdfunding. If something comes along, sure, I write my check.

Okay, now, my philanthropy is done. I can go onto my video game. The average American male right now between 25 and 35 years old spends 20 hours a week playing video games. The average American male 25 to 35 spends 20 hours a week playing video games. When you think of what could be read, learned, and incorporated into our lives with 20 hours a week during the most virile whatever, high energy part of a man's life.

Women don't do that. The women don't. The men do. That reflects a profound, I mean a profound squandering of value, wealth, life and opportunity in our culture. It's just profound.

Chris Martenson: Indeed, it is. Of course, it's always profound talking with you, Joel. We have run out of time. But, I am going to take this to heart. I have heard of a group of people. I know where when they go out to dinner. Everybody puts their cell phone on the table. The rule is if anybody really has to check their phone, they can.

But, the first person to touch their phone buys dinner for everyone. If you can wait it out through the whole dinner, you can split the check, right. But, if you can't, that's your choice. But, that's what they do. That's sort of a way to take it out of the farm and into the restaurant, if you have to.

Joel Salatin: Sure.

Chris Martenson: But, yeah, and getting that to take some of the freneticness out; and to build back towards mastery, and back towards relatedness, and back towards…. It just takes time. That's one of the biggest things. I think in the Faustian bargain. I think technology has promised to give us time. But, it has stolen our time.

Joel Salatin: Yes.

Chris Martenson: That's just really an astonishing thing when you look at it that way. With that, we're going to call it here. But tell people. You mentioned a thing you're going to be talking at soon. What have you got coming up?

Joel Salatin: Well, I will be in Burlington, Vermont June 11 for the Mother Earth News Fair. Then, there is a big thing going on in Bozeman, Montana, June 23 and 24. In fact, Robert Kiyosaki is going to be there. I will be there. Lord Christopher Monckton will be there. It is going to be good.

Chris Martenson: That's the Red Pill conference. I believe.

Joel Salatin: Yes, exactly, okay, you have got that. Yeah, that's good. Of course, Albany, Oregon, August 6th is another Mother Earth News Fair. If you have never been to one of those, you should go. I mean, you talk about everything out there in the art of the do-it-yourself, and sustainability. Mother Earth News Fairs are absolutely wonderful. There is a lot of stuff coming up. It is going to be….

The best way to keep up with where I am going to be is just to check our website, Polyface Farm dot com. My speaking schedule and itinerary is on there. If anybody wants to come and see me personally, or hear, or something, I will be glad to see them at one of those events.

Chris Martenson: Fantastic, so we'll put the link to that down below. If there's any way I can scoot up to Burlington, just to say hi, I will do that. Because that sounds like a lot of fun. With that, Joel, thank you so much for your time today, very generous. Of course, very wise and entertaining as always, thank you.

Joel Salatin: Thank you, Chris. Wonderful to be with you, and take care.

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11 Comments

richcabot's picture
richcabot
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 5 2011
Posts: 95
Book Sales

It's surprising he doesn't understand the slow book sales. A quick scan of the Amazon reviews sheds light. His previous books are about farming and practical advice on farming and the ecosystem. The title implies the book is about pigs but it's not, it's about religion and his belief system. The disconnect turns away many of his traditional readers and new ones aren't drawn to the book because his past work leads them to believe this will be similar to the previous ones.

treebeard's picture
treebeard
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Apr 18 2010
Posts: 580
If his message was popular...........

We wouldn't be in the mess that we are in.  Posts (or books) about personal responsibility are never very popular.  The down side of blaming someone or something else, as good as that feels, is that you give away your own power. You become the victim of someone else's actions.   But if you are at fault, then you also have the power to create change that you want to see in the world.  Joel hits the nail on the head as usual.

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 4 2010
Posts: 3936
Sitrep

My friend Charles is a natural Engineer and I am a natural.... scientist.
He needs everything buttoned down and I revel in mystery.
Professor Mullenberg (physics) told me that I must never believe that they know everything. Scientists know nothing.
This alarms Charles and delights me.

My feet are in the mud but my head is in the stars. The other night I took the airs and looked down. A wallaby was keeping me company. The same wallaby is eating everything that I plant. But he is my friend.
•Sigh• I guess I need greenhouses.
But first to establish a mooring for my yacht.

Manuka honey is looking very promising. It sells for an fortune because of its anti microbial properties.

Where I live is just astonishingly beautiful.

Lloyd9989's picture
Lloyd9989
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: May 22 2017
Posts: 1
This is what it looks like done right, at scale.

You may find what we are doing of interest.

http://moefarms.com/index.html

Jeff Oslin
MOE Farms
Knox County, Texas, USA
(940) 256-4318
[email protected]

Arthur Robey's picture
Arthur Robey
Status: Diamond Member (Offline)
Joined: Feb 4 2010
Posts: 3936
Wallabies.

I am told that the cure for wallaby infestation is to tie inflated balloons smeared in peanut butter around your garden.

HungryGhost's picture
HungryGhost
Status: Member (Offline)
Joined: Sep 22 2008
Posts: 22
New story

Chris you've said It before we need a new story. I don't think we can get to that story while carrying the baggage of the Abrahamic religions that got us to the state we are in today. I love your website and podcasts but couldn't get through this one.

Mohammed Mast's picture
Mohammed Mast
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: May 17 2017
Posts: 70
Learning

I don't think I learned anything from this. Sounds like two guys sitting at a bar hashing out the state of the world and after all is said and done more gets said than done. Disappointing

shastatodd's picture
shastatodd
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Oct 16 2010
Posts: 48
joe

thanks for the heads up ghost. i never cared much for joes self congratulatory, us vs them shtick. i'll skip this one.

Uncletommy's picture
Uncletommy
Status: Gold Member (Offline)
Joined: May 4 2014
Posts: 400
Give the guy a break, already!

Just because the Joel takes an occasional quote from the good book and bemoans the condition of the current society we find ourselves in, doesn't mean his contextual.observations need to be rejected out of hand. I muddled through the interview with some mixed feelings, but came away with a profound identification with this: We live in a world rife with discontent because we have found ways to make the world work for us at the expense of something or someone else. If everything is at your fingertips and you manage to garner large profits by using other people's money,without, reinvesting some of it back into those "externalities" we so often take for granted, what do you suppose the result is? You can pay me now or pay me later or, perhaps, pay as you go as Joel suggests. If the current condition of the US and other "good ole days" countries doesn't scream "entitlement". I don't know what does. A recent storm knocked the power out at my place for about 24 hours and many were distraught that it took so long for things to get back to normal. Perhaps we need to few more New Orleans or Hurricane Sandy's to refocus our preoccupation off of convenience and on things that really make a difference.  Beautiful day and the bees are flying and making honey and I'm out the door to go and shovel chicken shit.

Oliveoilguy's picture
Oliveoilguy
Status: Platinum Member (Offline)
Joined: Jun 29 2012
Posts: 578
In defense of Joel

Joel tied some biblical passages about Stewardship of the earth to healthy eating and living. Never did he say that anyone had to adopt his belief system. If he can demonstrate the value of clean living, organic practices, and decentralized agriculture to a huge population by speaking their language, he has made another great contribution to our society. I have visited Joel's farm and there is no bull shit. Just hard work and a unique legacy he has given to us. 

jandeligans's picture
jandeligans
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Dec 21 2011
Posts: 26
Joel same as Chris but different "religions"

I am basically an atheist and I don't see any need for religion or "spirituality" to justify my love of earth and desire to participate in the dance of Mother Nature's gifts and stewardship of the Garden. For me logic is enough to create an ethic to live by that we should not harm any living system. It is simply logical to see that it is wrong (sinful) to harm the life providing water, air or soil or animals or plants with pollution or degradation. It makes no sense to spoil your own nest. No other animal would do that. So for me I don't need a new way of being - my logical abilities are already pointing me to the way of protecting the earth and all it's creatures. But I am nonetheless encouraged when I see people such as Joel who is a professed Christian come to the same conclusion. I really don't care what people's motivations or religious beliefs are. I have a number of Joel's books and have heard him speak several times and always find him so inspiring. Especially since he believes that the government doesn't have to help - but rather they just need to get out of the way. I agree with that. So I enjoyed this podcast. It's exciting that someone who holds to traditional Christian beliefs can join with a permaculture atheist in the same worldview on ecological health. It's people like him that allow me to retain hope that we can eventually turn around the chokehold of corporatism and return to getting some of our wealth through a healthy world of abundance. And it's probably going to come from a bottom up approach where we aware people just set up a parallel world. Joel has influenced many people to do that and good for him. 

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