A proud farmer worth listening to...what abundance we have been given by God and what an enormous responsibility does the farmer have on his shoulders. Here is Joel Salatin who understands just that and who calls himself a Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer. He spoke at Hillsdale last week and it was a riveting and engaging speech.
When we look through our plate at dinner, what do we see? Imagine the farms on the other side, the foodscape on the other side, the nutritional commitment on the other side. Dear folks, we need to make our menus agree with what we know and believe in our minds.
What I propose here is a long-term solution, an abundant solution, a people-affirming solution. God help us to love it, do it, embrace it. ~ JS
This spring when Russia invaded Ukraine, fertilizer prices increased in some cases 400 percent and global grain shipments sputtered, our farm didn’t feel anything because we don’t buy fertilizer and we don’t buy foreign grain. Suddenly our years of being marginalized by the agri-industrial complex inverted and interest in our methods and madness exploded. Both farmers and non-farmers began asking “how do we disentangle from the system?”
“Just in time,” the darling inventory phrase of recent decades, changed to “just in case” as supply lines fractured. Culturally, a society detached from menial life tasks like farm chores and kitchen duties, suddenly found itself vulnerable to unforeseen fragilities. The food and farming sector goal switched from efficiency to resiliency. In the spring of 2020, as covid’s black swan permeated the world, store shelves went bare. Farmers euthanized (that means killed and threw away) millions of chickens, turkeys, and hogs because mega-processing plants couldn’t maintain operations.
At our house, we neither worried nor feared because we had freezers full of meat and a basement full of canned garden produce. I don’t say all this proudly; I say it gratefully, and as a challenge to everyone: freedom comes from participation. We’ve spent a couple of generations exiting historically normal tasks and behavior, from integrating livestock and crops, growing gardens, buying locally and cultivating domestic culinary arts. We even abandoned breast feeding our babies for a couple of decades.
We thought squeezable cheese and subcontracting kitchen duties to mega-corporate entities, replacing decomposition with chemical fertilizer, honey with refined sugar, and butter with hydrogenated vegetable oil would launch us into a new freedom nirvana. But instead, it shackled us, enslaved us to nefarious scientists bringing us fertilizer and menus from laboratories instead of from God’s ecological womb. Those of us who continued to participate in historically-normal farm chores, garden production, local or biologically grown sustenance, and domestic culinary arts are today enjoying more independence and freedom. You cannot have freedom without participation.
Here are two questions to ponder. First, would America’s food system have convulsed as violently if instead of 300 mega-processing facilities employing 5,000 people apiece we funneled our food through 300,000 community-scaled 20-50-employee facilities? The second question is when rocky disruptions affect our ship of state, would you rather navigate dangerous shoals in a maneuverable speedboat or an aircraft carrier that takes 10 miles to turn around?
Let’s examine what a food and farming parallel universe would look like by juxtaposing current objectives with the lunatic fringe alternative.
1. CHEAP FOOD VERSUS PRECIOUS FOOD. If one thing defines American agriculture, it is dedication to cheap food. American per capita expenditure on food is the lowest in the world; our per capita expenditure on health care is the highest. Cheap food promised to give us spendable cash to attend football games and casinos, cruises and movies.
It created a love affair with Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOS) that became incubators for disease. Floating on a sea of cheap energy, these facilities promised mechanized farming and pharmaceutical health. Subtherapeutic antibiotic use created a world of superbugs like mRSA and cDiff. A brand-new lexicon burst on the American vocabulary: campylobacter, lysteria, E. coli, salmonella, food allergies, Type 2 diabetes: these are nature, beaten and abused, on its knees, pleading and begging “Enough!”
Instead of God’s designed decomposition driving fertility, petroleum-based chemical fertilizers substituted, like an intravenous feeding tube replacing edible food. In short order, our agriculture system created a dead zone the size of Rhode Island in the Gulf of Mexico, infertile frogs, and three-legged salamanders. And now our life expectancy is dropping; we’re addicted to pharmaceuticals; physical and emotional maladies plague our nation.
And always a great reminder from Paul Harvey of God's chosen ones to till the soil and provide the bounty we so easily enjoy! So God Made A Farmer!