Alternative farmer Joel Salatin, whose Polyface Farm and “beyond-organic” agricultural methods have achieved fame in books and movies, will speak at Sweet Briar College on Tuesday, Jan. 31.
Salatin, a prolific writer and notoriously entertaining speaker, doesn’t like to use the word “lecture,” preferring instead “performance.” Accordingly, he will perform “Folks, This Ain’t Normal,” at 7:30 p.m. in Memorial Chapel. He also will present “The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer” at noon in the 1948 Theater in the fitness center.
The main event, “Folks, This Ain’t Normal,” is the title of his latest book. It is a humorous but informative look at the serious subject of where large-scale commercially produced foods come from and why he believes we shouldn’t eat most of them.
His point, not so subtly suggested by the title, is that the way we eat today is an aberration — foods laden with unpronounceable ingredients you can’t make in your own kitchen and that travel thousands of miles to reach your table. He also believes this abnormality extends to other aspects of life, such as energy, shelter and clothing. Today most of us are thoroughly disconnected from the sources of these fundamental needs, Salatin argues, but he believes this condition is temporary.
We cannot so easily cut the “ecological umbilical cord” and will have to return to a more “historical normalcy,” he says.
He doesn’t mean abandoning technology, however. Citing the local foods movement and home solar panels as examples, he says changes are already under way. “If you’re a betting person, the future is going to look a lot more like the past,” he predicted, saying we’re likely to be more “viscerally participatory” in the way we live than we are now.
He’ll offer both an argument and a blueprint for making that transition now rather than waiting for the inevitable.
Salatin fervently believes farming operations like his family’s are part of the future. Polyface Farm in Swoope, in the Shenandoah Valley, produces beef, poultry, pork, eggs and rabbits using a pasture-based system that is predicated on healing the land. Rotating the livestock regularly creates a symbiosis between the animals and the animals and the land that “moves fertility around,” he says, keeping the pastures lush and productive.
Laying hens, for example, are moved into an area just vacated by cattle, where they scratch among the dung for bugs, scattering nutrients and sanitizing the pasture.
In addition to his own books, Salatin and Polyface have been written about extensively in numerous national publications and books, such as Michael Pollan’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma.” He also was featured in the film “Food, Inc.”
Both events are free and open to the public. Salatin will sign copies of his books following his talks. Books also will be available for sale. For more information, contact [email protected] or call (434) 381-6336.