The Farmer in the Swell

Search “Joel Salatin” on YouTube, and you will find him resplendent in a slouch hat, white T-shirt, and jeans, talking about the virtues of sustainable farming. His family-owned farm, Polyface Inc., nestled in the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, is fast becoming the most famous sustainable farm in America, in large part due to Salatin’s outspoken advocacy for organic, sustainable, and local food. What many don’t know, however, is the source of Salatin’s passion for sustainable farming: his deep Christian faith. Salatin spoke with Sojourners assistant editor Jeannie Choi about the evils of industrial farming and agribusiness and his vision for healing the land God commissions us to steward.

Jeannie Choi: What’s the vision behind Polyface farm?

Joel Salatin: Healing—healing in all dimensions. We want to develop emotionally, environmentally, and economically enhancing agricultural prototypes throughout the world. We want to heal the relationships of the people involved with the farm and our business and our family. We want to heal the land, soil, air, water, and, ultimately, the food system.

From what disease is our current food system suffering?

Well, when is the last time a farmer went and asked for money from a banker and the banker said, “Well, that’s all well and good. I’m glad you’re going to be able to grow a corn crop. But what is that going to do to the earthworms? Or to the topsoil? Is that going to go down the Mississippi and add to the Rhode Island-sized dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico that’s been created because of erosion and run-off chemicals?”

We don’t measure those kinds of things, and yet each of us intuitively understands that those immeasurable or non-quantifiable parts in a business plan are actually the most precious resources we have.

So there is a disconnect between humans and the earth?

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Sojourners Magazine December 2009
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