ANDREW CHIGNELL: My name is Andrew Chignell. I'm one of the professors for the class, the Ethics of Eating, which is offered on campus through the university courses initiative. And it's now going to be offered as a MOOC April 15th on edX, or CornellX, which is our partner at X. My co-instructor over here is Bill Starr.
And we are very grateful for the support of edX, CornellX, the university course initiative, the philosophy department, and the [INAUDIBLE] for lectures sponsored [INAUDIBLE] last night. In our class we try to set up three main approaches to animal agriculture in general. It's a little bit cartoonish, as many of you will know. But we do a business as usual approach, where it's conventional agro-industrial model. Precision farming, maybe we can get better with intensive efforts that we have right now in the industrial sector.
We can feed lots of mouths. It's very impressive. Only 2 million people work in the industry in this country and yet we feed 300 million people. That's one of the models and there are a lot of arguments for it. The responses that we consider are two-- broadly two.
One is the sort of refraining response, the response that says, there's something wrong with this system. We should abstain or refrain or cutback. So these are the V responses of various sorts-- veganism, vegetarianism. That includes also a continuum of refraining responses like freeganism, flexitarianism, roadkillarianism--
But then our middle response is what we call, since we're here, the Ithaca response, though really to give credit where it's due we might call it the Polyface response, or the Salatin response. This is supposed to be a response that still engages in the practice of animal husbandry, or animal agriculture, but does it with more integrity, allegedly more humane, more sustainable. Maybe no GMOs, maybe organic in some context. So there's this group, this family of responses to whatever problems we see in the industry, we might call the Ithaca response, the Polyface response, the Salatin response.
And so we're interested in Joel Salatin because he is in a way one of the leading lights defending this model. Let me say something about Joel himself. Since he was two years old-- is that right? Your family was-- four years old. Family was on a farm in Swoope, Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley.
He went off to college at Bob Jones University, where he majored in something that's really valuable for a future farmer, English. Spent a few years as a journalist and a writer in the area. And then moved with his wife Teresa in 1982 back to the farm and named it at that point, Polyface. Is that right?
He didn't give up his English major training, however, at that time, and has, while farming, written a bunch of op-ed pieces and articles as well as nine books, now, with titles such as The Sheer Ecstasy Of Being A Lunatic Farmer You, Too, Can Farm, Born Again Dirt, Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal. I think that's my favorite. This one that we're reading for the course, Folks, This Ain't Normal, A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People and A Better World. And most recently last year, or 2013, Fields Of Farmers, Interning, Mentoring, Partnering and Germinating.
The Amazon search for Salatin also came up with a DVD called Classic's Of Traditional Belly Dance. Then we looked more closely, that was Salatin El Tarab Orchestra. In addition to not giving up his English major skills, Joel Salatin also did not give up his debating skills that he learned in college and in high school. He said he's a big debater and always has been.
And he has essentially been making an argument for the last three years with the current orthodoxies of agrobusiness-- monoculture, intensive animal agriculture, segregation of animal species, economies of scale, synthetic pesticides, over-abundant petrochemical fertilizers, global reach, and so forth. The argument is always made with rhetorical flair, so he's a self-described quote, "Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer," who argues on behalf of interesting sounding processes like, quote, "mob stocking herbivorous solar convergent lignified carbon sequestration fertilizer." In addition to writing these books and farming, Joel was featured, and this is perhaps where many of us first encountered him-- it certainly, for me was the first place-- was featured in Michael Pollan's very well known book, The Omnivore's Dilemma.
So Pollan lays out the industrial food system and bemoans what he takes to be its various problems. He thinks that they can't really be solved with a business as usual model. And so then he's sort of in this crisis until he visits Polyface farms and sees Joel's method. He thinks of that as possibly saving the day for people who still want to eat meat. Since then, Polyface and Joel Salatin have been featured in numerous documentaries such Food Inc, Fresh American Meat.
These in turn have inspired hundreds, I don't know, thousands of people to return to the land and to farming in the form of urban gardening or generating their own local, and at least allegedly more sustainable and humane facilities, where what Salatin calls the pigness of the pig and the cowness of the cow is manifested more adequately than in the CAFOs and the confined feedlot operations. None of his meat, he says, is turned into the quote, "extruded, amalgamated, prostituted, irradiated, and adulterated meat" that we get out of the industrial system. I think we see the pigness of the pig on your tie there.
As a result of all of this writing and mentoring people at his farm and advocating, he is now a leader in the integrity of food movement, referred to by The New York Times as the high priest of the pasture, and even by his critic, James McWilliams, as quote, "a traveling agrarian hero of an ecologically inspirational evangelist preaching the gospel of grass to those who won't give up the dream of eating a guiltless steak." I think last night we got a little bit more of the evangelical preacher in the Beimfohr lecture. It was called Redeeming The Earth and took up the question, what would a farm that manifests forgiveness look like? Interesting, available on CornellCast.
Today we're hoping to hear a little bit more about the gospel of grass and those guiltless steaks. One of the main objections to the Ithaca model, or to the Salatin Polyface model, as many of you know, is that it's not scalable. So industry critics, advocates-- sorry, advocates of the industry, critics of this model, as well the various V responders, the refrainers-- think there's a sense in which this is nice, boutique artisanal thing for people who can cater to a very privileged class of farmers market foodie types and pay a little bit more, or a lot for their meat. But this can't feed the 7.2 billion mouths on Earth and it certainly can't scale up to feed the nine billion mouths that are coming within the next few decades. And so we asked Joel to come and address that question directly with a lecture called, Can We Feed The World? So let's welcome Joel Salatin.
JOEL SALATIN: Thank you. Well, is this on? Am I on? Is this working? OK, good.
It's really an honor to be here. And I deeply appreciate the full house. Wow, this is cool. This is really cool.
All right, so the two questions I get asked more commonly than any other question is, how can we afford it? And can your model feed the world? And they're absolutely the most valid questions because at the end of the day, if our model can't feed the world, well, we need to do something else. And of course, the price is another one. If you want to have me back next year, I'll do price.
But today I'm going to do volume, all right? And so let's let ourselves be transported back in time to 1900. So we're 100 years, roughly, after Thomas Jefferson and George Washington's heyday. And they have written extensively during-- at 1800, a century before, there were many soil societies. And there were a lot of writers concerned about soil fertility. The colonial American period had already happened. These virgin deep soils had already been mined in the eastern, what was to become the US.
And there were many people concerned about how we were going to feed ourselves. John Taylor of Caroline in Virginia wrote a book titled, Arator, in which he said our whole population is in danger of being a famine because we've depleted the soil. I mean, you could lift his words out and have them today. You'd think they were, except for the stilted writing of 1780. But it's very, very powerful.
Jefferson wrestled with this routinely. And between 18-- you know, between 1820 and 1850, centuries of accumulated 100 foot deep veins of cormorant and pelican and booby manure off the coast of Peru was put in steamships, harvested by Chinese slave labor, many of whom jumped off the poop piles to their death in the ocean rather than face another day with the stench and the dust of that. And in 20 to 30 years, the Western developed world, between the British Isles and the US, depleted, excavated, that entire accumulation of centuries of pelican, booby, and cormorant manure in that desert place, mining it. I'm trying to suggest that the issues that we're talking about here are not brand new. The problem of soil fertility, the problem of how do we grow plants in a fertile medium, is not new.
It's not just, it's Monsanto. It's not since the US duh-- USDA. This is a question that predates Cornell. It's an old question of humanity. But with the development, with the rapid development of the urban sector and the industrial economy in 1900, it really reached a screaming point. And there were essentially two schools of thought by that time, Justus von Liebig in 1837 brought to the world his notion that all of life is just a reconfigurement of nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. And of course he's pretty much considered the father of modern chemical agriculture. And he was sincerely trying to solve the problem of manure and fertility and getting this around.
There were all sorts of old terms, folding of livestock. I mean this was known that if you folded livestock and took the cleanings out to the field, it was magic. I mean, it turned lifeless soil into just abundant crops. And if you read the bushels and the production from those days, folded soil stable cleaning fertility, the production was every bit as high as it is today with all of our technology chemicals and hybrids. It was every bit as high per square yard, per acre.
But by 1900, things were getting in dire straits. And there were cries around the country, you know, how are we going to feed the world? We're all going to starve to death. And so there were two schools of thought at that time. One was, well, the answer lies primarily in more chemical approach. We got to mine stuff. We've got to acidulate phosphorus and potassium. And we've got to go that route.
There was another route that said, no, the soil is fundamentally a biological thing. And there's got to be a biological answer, a carbon centric, microbial bacteria type answer. We were just beginning to learn about the life in the soil and how that functioned with the microrhizae and things. And by 1930, 1940, a lot of the language, the link, the actinomycetes and the language of the soil life, had already been named and identified. We're still learning more and more today but it had been largely identified by the mid-1940s.
Here's the thing. What you had at the turn of the century in 1900, you had the urbanization and the industrialization of the economy. And by that time, there were no more-- what really turned into a crisis was, there were no more worlds to go to. The west had already been done. Laura Ingalls Wilder was to the west coast here. New Zealand had already been settled. And Australia was already settled. It started being settled in the early 1800s.
So by that time, the earth was fully discovered. There was no, go west, young man. There was no more west to go to. And this set up a crisis mentality. Now--
ANDREW CHIGNELL: Joel, I'm so sorry. I'm getting signals that your mic's not turned on.
JOEL SALATIN: My mic's not turned on.
ANDREW CHIGNELL: There we are. Turn that on. I mean, you're pretty--
JOEL SALATIN: It's got a green light.
ANDREW CHIGNELL: Well, anyway. Is that all right? Are you getting it?
JOEL SALATIN: Is there a green light? There's a green light.
ANDREW CHIGNELL: Where is this-- hey, Hope, is the sound person up there? Can you get-- are you getting? Would it be terrible to stand right here.
JOEL SALATIN: No, no, it's OK. I'm glad to stand here. You want me to stand here. Is this better? Is that better? Everybody's nodding. OK, good, good. All right, we aim to please here. We're not trying to be difficult.
OK, so here we are. It's 1900, 1910. Metropolitan newspapers are routinely carrying op-ed pieces and editorials saying that the end of the American city is on the horizon because we're going to be covered up in poop. Right before the automobile, the amount of urbanization was absolutely profound. And there was poop everywhere. I heard, there's a new book out. I haven't read it but I heard about it on the radio the other day and it's fascinating.
It's called Dicken's England. And I'm a fan of Charles Dickens. And it talked about orphans there earned their income by being street sweepers. So they would wait on the edge of a street and when a wealthy guy would come up and cross the street, for a shilling or whatever, they would go out with a broom and sweep the horse poop off the road right in front of his feet because there were so many horses coming and passing and pooping and peeing and all that the gentleman, you know, and the ladies-- high class ladies-- didn't want to step in it. And so there was this entire child industry around sweeping right in front of the people. That's a side note.
What I'm trying to get to is that everybody was shoveling, shoveling, shoveling. The poop was on your shoes when you walked into the bakery. It was on your shoes when you walk into the hairdresser. It was on your shoes when you walked into the butcher shop. It was when you went to the wedding.
You had poop on your shoes. You were shoveling poop. In fact, they couldn't get enough stuff transported into the city with oxcarts and mule teams and get it transported out fast enough. So there was just-- there were these mountains. Are you with me? I mean, it stunk. It was everywhere.
OK, so what are we going to do about soil fertility? How are we going to feed people? And so a lot of people set to work. How can we leverage what we know about chemistry, about soil chemistry? And can we supplement the soil with some sort of a chemical approach to overcome the lack of fertility? The other side was going biological.
When the naysayers look at me and say, well, we can't feed the world with your system, they're assuming that the biological approach stood still. But it didn't. The fact is that while the chemical approach got two huge infusions of capital and creativity because it turns out the chemical NPK also makes bombs and ammunition. So we had W-W-I and W-W-I-I, and we had a massive infusion of technology, science, distribution, mining, engineering, and marketing to develop ammunition, chemical NPK availability.
1945, the war is over. 1946, you're a farmer. Your fields are depleted. Remember where all the poop is? It's in town, right? So what are you going to do?
You have two options. You can either try to shovel some more or you can get this little bag of stuff and you can apply it. And it's like magic. It's like foofoo dust, and it grows things! See, I'm pretty forgiving for those 1946, 47 farmers. Given the same circumstance most of us in his room would have done the same thing because modern scientific aerobic composting did not really step on the scene until 1943.
What happened then? Sir Albert Howard was working in Indore, India. He had cheap labor. Indians-- I mean, in dot Indians, not feather Indians. OK, India, Indians. OK, he was in a place of cheap labor. I mean, by that time shoveling was already too expensive for American labor, is what I'm getting at it.
So there's a reason why the carbon centric scientific aerobic composting approach was developed in a cheap labor economy and society, all right? So at Indore, India, he developed it. Nitrogen, carbon, moisture, bacteria, oxygen-- those five elements in proper balance produced huge amounts of fertile soil. But here was the problem. When he was doing this in the 1930s and developing the formula, and even when he brought it to the world in 1943, in many parts of the US, including where we are, there in Virginia, we didn't even have electricity yet.
Farmers were still running mules. Tractors were just beginning to come in and they certainly didn't have front end loaders. We didn't have concrete. We didn't have waterpipe. We didn't even have-- we had horse drawn manure spreaders that were, you couldn't sit stationary and spin off a windrow pile of material. And we didn't have front end loaders.
And you know what? Farmers were tired of shoveling. The point is that the innovation that was aerobic compost that really burst on the scene in the mid 1940s, right in the middle of W-W-I-I, when the world was preoccupied with a lot of other things-- that remedy for soil fertility that burst on the scene at that time came ahead of the infrastructure that was necessary to metabolize the discovery. Now we see this. This is part of the diffusion of innovation.
If you study innovation, you know that one of the principles of innovation is that always there's a point of innovation that pierces beyond and then there's this ragged edge of metabolism, of protocol, information, infrastructure, to metabolize the point of the innovation. One of them that we're seeing right now today, just so you understand, is e-commerce. When localities depend on sales tax to fund their projects, sales tax depends on a physical cha-ching cash register, right?
Well what happens when there's no physical cha-ching cash register? No sales tax collection. Now I don't like taxes any more than anybody else but I greatly sympathize with the dry up of the sales tax revenue stream through Amazon.com and Craigslist, eBay, and all the other mechanisms that have essentially done an end run around this system. Now it's getting sorted out and there's legislation, and there's regulation, all sort of things trying to sort this out. But I'm using that as a perfect example today of how the innovation always precedes all of that ragged edge of metabolism.
That's the way it was with the understanding, the new found understanding, of carbon centric fertility. The scientific composting formula came on in the mid '40s. Well, it required a lot of chopping and chipping and shoveling. What? More?
You know, no, I'm tired of that! All right? And so we didn't have the infrastructure to metabolize the discovery. And so it was not until the mid '50s and the late '50s. I'm even pretty forgiving up to the mid '50s. But by the time 1960 came along we now had rural electrification where we had, we could run conveyors and augers.
We had diesel tractors. We had rudimentary front end loaders where now you didn't have to shovel. You could handle lots of material with hydraulics. We had hydraulics on the farm. And that's an amazing leverage. Thank you engineers for bringing us hydraulic hoses and lifts and hoists.
We now had plastic pipe so we could supplement water to moisten, to keep the moisture levels right. We had chippers and shredders. We had engines that we could you know chip and shred carbon. And by that time, we had all of the infrastructure necessary to be able to do this. And that made it very, very efficient.
Today, now, all of this has morphed into miserly little, the cutest little four wheel drive tractor. The front end loaders, you can run them all day on two gallons of fuel. And we have chippers and shredders and little homeowners. And we have great big industrial.
And we had a friend come down a couple of weeks ago with a chipper that we could throw 19 inch trees in. [WOOD CHIPPING SOUND] right through it. I mean, to me, it's almost like God gave us petroleum so that we could remedy all of the carbon deprivation that we'd done on the Earth for so long. But instead of leveraging it for a carbon centric remediation, instead we figured out a way to send every morsel of food 1,500 miles and create a more energy intensive food system than if we had leveraged petroleum on a new biomass centric type of soil fertility program.
In fact, about the same time we started sanitary landfills. And since they've been started, 75% to 80% of everything that's gone into landfills in the country is biodegradable biomass which is supposed to be fuel for the microrhizae and the actinomycetes and the earthworms and to grow the soil. And so we should be repenting in sackcloth and ashes for such an unconscionable assault on the ecological nest, that would take the blessing of solar derived biomass that's suppose to feed the soil and instead we have buried it in sanitary landfills.
The point is this. If we had had a Manhattan Project for compost, not only would we have fed ourselves. We would have done it without three legged salamanders, infernal frogs, and a dead zone the size of New Jersey in the Gulf of Mexico. That's the truth. And so it took a while to develop that infrastructure.
So that that's one component, to develop a very efficient carbon centric system so we could go to carbon centric soil building. Well, what was another piece of the puzzle? Another huge piece of the puzzle was to be able to duplicate, on a farm, the kind of soil building, biomass accentuating, migratory patterns of large herbivorous herds. Today, the world's largest herbivore herds are on the Serengeti in Africa.
And many of you are very familiar with those. And when you look at those wild herds, or the bison on the American plains, the wildebeests in the Serengeti-- when you look at those wild herds, you see a couple of things. One is, they're constantly moving. They don't stay in one place.
They eat what's there and they move to the next place. And then where they were rests for, sometimes, months, a long time, until it regrows in biomass. You see, grass-- can I use this?
ANDREW CHIGNELL: Yeah. Yep.
JOEL SALATIN: Grass grows in a sigmoid curve. All right? This is volume. This is time. So we'll call this days and we'll call this inches.
So just to remind us what's driving all this, we'll put a sun up here. Just lest we forget. So the grass, the grass is mowed, or pruned, or it's starting to grow in the spring. Starts to grow fairly slowly. And then it kicks in.
You got suddenly, here it's taking savings from the root. The roots are the carbohydrate savings account for that plant. And so it's pulling that savings account to start. Here, photosynthesis kicks in and it accelerates its conversion of solar energy into biomass. And then it finally reaches a point of climax and goes into senescence.
I call this diaper graph, teenage graph, nursing home graph.
And in living systems, we see this kind-- don't we see that in, we see that kind of graph in lots of living systems. Well, the way the migratory herds in nature capitalized on this and actually accentuate it-- they were symbiotic to it-- was that when the grass got up to here, here came the herd drawn both by new fresh growth, drawn by their own hunger, pushed by wolves, lions, predators. And they pruned the plant down to here, move away, and the plant then could go through its-- I call the herbivore the biomass acceleration restart button.
Just like you hit a restart button to restart something, by taking off this senescent decaying biomass and pruning it, just like an orchardist would prune an apple tree, or a viniculturalist would prune a vineyard to stimulate new, fresh, vibrant, luxuriant growth. The herbivore in nature is what prunes back the biomass. Now I find it fascinating, If I had a piece of grass here I would-- but just imagine that I'm holding a piece of grass, OK? And this piece of grass is 95% sunbeams.
If I ask one of you, go outside and bring me in a handful of sunbeams. Go out and bring me in some sunbeams. You know, you could do this with little children. They'll run out and they'll grab you-- well, you can't bring in these sunbeams into me. But this blade of grass is sunbeams.
And in the of nature, it takes something as esoteric and mystical and the stuff of poets of sunbeams, and turns it into something that you can trade, weigh. It's a fungible material. You can touch it, weigh it, measure it, taste it. You can make data points off of this.
I've got to remember I'm in a university so I can use these nice big words. You can study this in a-- ooh. Who's watching? Wow. OK, so isn't it really cool that when you have 100 pounds of biomass, 95 pounds of it is sunlight.
The Earth is on a weight gain plan. It's supposed to be getting fatter and bigger and gaining weight. I mean, look at how many years the sun has been beaming down, creating biomass. It's supposed to be gaining weight all the time. And so the herbivore does that.
Here's the problem, though. And Washington and Jefferson and John Taylor and all the early American writers wrote about it, as well as other people in the world, is how do we duplicate that on a farm? We don't have wolves. We don't have lions. We don't have-- we can't migrate. I mean, they migrate to the neighbor's place, he's not going to be happy.
So how do we duplicate this beautiful natural symbiotic choreography that stimulates production on a farm where the animals can't migrate to Florida and up to Ontario and to Saskatchewan and down to Mexico? How do you do that? And it was not until the late '40s and early '50s, with the advent of electric fencing, that really came into its own only since about 1970, that we've had a mechanism, we've had a tool, a technology answer, for the frustrations of Washington and Jefferson and all these people.
I mean, Jefferson employed a whole cadre of little slave boys who had to follow around the pigs and the sheep and the stock so they wouldn't get in the garden and get in and mess up the barley fields and the wheat fields. Essentially, these little slave boys were essentially portable fences to exclude animals from where they would do damage if they got in there. I mean, if you wanted to fence them, in that day a fence was made out of chestnuts, split rail and you zigzagged it through. But they didn't even have a chainsaw. Can you imagine trying to fence much area?
And of course you certainly couldn't move it. How are you going to move it? So if we're going to do migratory patterns we need movable fence. And without plastic pipe you were limited to just creeks and streams. Well, we don't have creeks and streams everywhere. If we need the herd over there on that hill, we can't get water to them, well, we can't do this.
So the whole agrarian idea was stymied. The whole production model was stymied. And this is where the fertility was going that we didn't have. We didn't have enough time to shovel the carbon we needed to shovel. And we didn't have a mechanism to control the animals to duplicate those wild migratory patterns.
Today, we have electric fence. We have water line. We have, on our farm, we've developed portable shade mobiles. I mean, if you're going to put them in little paddocks you need to have shade. So we've made portable shade trees out of high tech nursery shade cloth on essentially tinkertoy chassis, on old refurbished hay wagons.
I mean, think about it. 80 years ago you couldn't make small dimension lumber lightweight portable infrastructure because a mill, whether it was the pit saw or whether it was a big water-based, or diesel based mill, took a quarter inch kerf. A quarter inch kerf-- a kerf is the amount of wood taken every time you cut. It's sawdust, all right? Well, if you're going to take a quarter inch curve you can't afford to cut stuff in one inch material because every four cuts you're losing a whole inch of precious lumber in a day before chainsaws.
So everything had to be built post and beam, and great big beam, and dimensional lumber and log cabins because there was no way to make small-- now, with bandsaw mills-- and in fact our bandsaw mill is made right here in Norwich, New York by Turner Bandsaw Mills-- it just takes a 1/10 of an inch kerf.
So you know what? We can put a 24 foot log on the mill and cut it into a one inch by half inch lath. That's never been able to be done until the last like 25 years. We live in exciting times! Our farm is not a throwback to grandpa's deal. I mean, grandpa would give his eye teeth for the stuff we have.
I mean, if you read Jefferson's farm book-- Thomas Jefferson, you know, Monticello, the Virginia guy. His farm book, let me tell you, his frustrations are all solvable today. He had water frustrations. He had animal control frustrations. He consistently was frustrated about depleted fields and was constantly looking for virgin land to cut, burn and exploit so he could get on to newly fertile soil.
And essentially it was almost a glorified slash and burn kind of. That was the best they could come up with. Today, we can now integrate the carbon sink of the forest in a long rotation to supplement carbon. And with chipping, with composting-- well, here was another one. We took it one step further once we had manure spreaders.
Well then we figured out well, why do we want to make windrow compost piles with double handle carbon? Why can't we let animals do the work? And so about 25 years ago we began, instead of making our nice windrow compost piles, we began throwing just whole shelled corn into the bedding pack in the hay shed under the chickens and the cows and stuff in the wintertime. And it fermented in that compacted bedding pack. So when the cows went out to graze in the spring, we put in pigs.
If you've ever noticed pigs, they all have a sign on their forehead that says, will work for corn. And the pigs, then, seek the fermented grain in the anaerobic bedding pack and act like a big egg beater and oxygenate it. Hence, pigaerators-- pig, like, aeration, you know? And they turn it so that the entire aerobic composting system not only doesn't require human shoveling, not only doesn't require machines, it's done by pigs, who are in hog heaven.
We're not asking them to do something they don't want to do. They love to do this. And they just work for-- they don't need their oil changed. They don't need spare parts. I mean, I could go in and read a magazine and all the work's being done out there.
They don't need minimum wage. Don't need to file that workman's compensation on them. And when you're done with them, you eat them. So you don't have to worry about Social Insecurity or anything. And the cool thing about it is, that by doing this they are not now just pigs.
They are co-laborers. They are team members in this great land healing ministry. So it completely changes the emotional, spiritual relationship we have with what we're producing, that they actually have meaningful things, meaningful work that celebrates and embraces their individuality and their self-affirmation. And I would suggest that viewing them that way creates an ethical dimension, and a precedent in our culture, for appreciating the individuality of people and maybe other countries, even. Could you imagine that?
When we view them as just machines and inanimate piles of protoplasm and cheapen life, that bleeds over into a manipulative, disrespectful culture. I've got off the topic there. But here's the thing. We now have the means and the mechanism. So by doing this, we now have the technology to duplicate this historically soil building migratory pattern.
So we move the cows every day at 4:00 to a new paddock. And we'll put 500 head on two acres for a day. I mean, the grass is up this tall. You can't even walk through it. In 24 hours, it's completely mowed.
And the neat thing is, they eat everything. It simulates the kind of aggressive grazing that these large herds of three million, four million, seven million-- Captain Jim Bridger, when he was dispatched out to the Black Hills first to scope out the land, he wrote back and said that they had come upon a herd of seven million buffalo. Now, that's always interesting to me. You know, it's like 1870. He's sitting there. Can you see him?
He's got his lieutenant up on the horse next to him. Captain Bridger says, lieutenant, pull out your quill pen there. Let's start-- get out some parchment there and we're going to make some tick mark here. I'll call out-- one, two, three.
There are fascinating diaries of that day. I have one at home. It was written by a guy who was in Arkansas. Came up over a hill and he said that the herd of bison was 50 miles long and 30 miles wide. It should give us all pause to realize that what is today America produced way more food 500 years ago than it does today.
Ottoman sat under a tree and a flock of birds flew over that blacked out the sun for three days. Now either he has a tremendous imagination, I guess he didn't work for NBC News, or he's telling the truth. And has anybody here sat under a tree or seen a flock of birds block out the sun for three days? No.
They said that the passenger pigeons in those days, they'd come in to a forest and they would settle down for the night on trees. And in the morning it just looked like spires sticking up into-- they broke all the branches and the ground was covered in two inches of manure in one night. This was all happening without us!
So here's my deal, and I'm about to be done. My deal is, I think that our biggest whatever, bang for the buck, is to appreciate these beautiful choreographies and patterns and relationships. Say how do we use technology to massage those? Not just throw them to the winds and say they don't matter and we're smarter than that. But to come humbly before these patterns and say, OK, I get it.
How can I enhance you? How can I come along as a helper? And do that. I have to bring in, before I go to Q&A, this other concept of how do we feed the world? The other concept which is the amount of available land that's not being used.
All right, now there's this conflict in our minds that farming and ecosystem health are mutually exclusive. And if we actually commercially farm we're not going to have the wildlife. We're not going to have-- it's this the human intervention, or interaction with the environment is inherently pillaging, rape, devastate, whatever. I get that because unfortunately that's kind of the story of civilization, is that we leave behind a footprint of devastation, ecological devastation.
Look at all the empires. Look at all the big cities. That unfortunately is kind of the human legacy. But it doesn't have to be that way. We now have the technology to be able to really admire and choreograph these patterns.
So what about intervening in land? Is there stuff that we could do? I find it fascinating that America has 36 million acres of lawn, and 36 million acres housing and feeding recreational horses. That's 72 million acres. Folks, that's enough to feed our entire country without a single farm.
Let that sink in a minute. When we say, oh, there's no land-- listen, when you go to Italy, you don't see great big massive lawns in Italy. You see, I mean, if somebody's got a two inch strip between their front steps and the sidewalk, they've got a trellised cucumber going up the side of the house. They're big interstate, their expressway cloverleafs, you know, exit and entrance ramps, they divvy that up in quarter acre lots. People have a little shack with a hammock in it and some tools and a garden.
And they come out on the weekends, work their gardens and take the stuff into town. They don't sit there with big bat wing mowers mowing the site. Go down to Mexico. Their roads are not mowed with big bat wing petroleum belching things. Right along the interstate, there are tethered milk cows.
And in the evening as you go down, the farmer comes out. He takes his milk cow in, milks her, brings her back. She mows the side ditches and he keeps the rope short enough that she doesn't go out in the road. But go to Talamipas. Go to the city park in Talamipas and there are six farmers that have dairy cows mowing the city park.
They don't need lawnmowers. I think that's really progressive. I don't think that's backward at all. What's backward is a bunch of heavy metal petroleum and mowing with heavy metal. And so we actually have the ability to integrate food production into our lives.
I'll close with chickens. Chickens-- I like chickens. Chickens are the coolest thing in the world. Pat Foreman has written the absolute iconic book on this called City Chicks. City Chicks, about urban poultry. And yes, I'm talking about urban poultry.
I'm talking about, get rid of the cat, the dog, the girbil, the boa constrictor, and the parakeet and put in two chickens in your house. The chickens will eat your kitchen scraps, give you eggs. So now nothing has to go to the landfill. Nothing has to be picked up by the garbage crew. And if you have children, there is no better role model than a chicken.
The chicken wakes up early in the morning. They never complain. They spend all day working happily, turning trash into treasure, like, you know, eating trash and making eggs. And then, as soon as it starts getting a little bit dark, they go to sleep. They don't go get drunk on town. They don't carouse at night.
I mean, if you want a role model for your juvenile delinquents, there's nothing like a chicken. They get up early in the morning. They never complain. Turn trash into treasure all day and go to bed at night and don't yack about going to bed. I mean, they're the coolest role model.
So the fact is that if just one in three households had enough chickens to eat their kitchen scraps, there would not be one single need for an egg in a supermarket in the US. But see, we don't think about integrating food. We think that food production is something that those people do, especially brown people. Whoa, right?
Smart people, techno sophisticated people, they don't play in the dirt. They don't condescend to the lowest state of food production, of farming. That's for those people, see? And I think that we do ourselves and our psyche, our understanding, our spirit, a disservice by assuming that the most precious thing for our bodies, our fuel, is not something that we can touch. And I think that if we jump in and participate, whether it's going to farmer's market, turning off the TV, going out to find your farmer, opting out of the supermarket, putting a vermicomposting bin under your sink, getting rid of the dog and putting in two chickens-- I mean, however it is.
If you've got a patio, put in a pot garden. I mean a-- pots, you know, like pots, like-- I'm OK with the other, too. That suits me fine. But if you've got a roof, bee hives on the roof, honey bees on the roof. I mean, actually honey bees are far better performers in urban settings than rural settings because there's more all-season pollination and blossoms going on. With our mono-crop agriculture, the agriculture fields have actually become very honey-bee unfriendly because we don't have a mosaic of constant pollination going on, which is one of the reasons that a pasture based system runs.
So I'll close with this. On our farm, the cow days production-- what you can produce on an acre in our county, on average, is 80 cow days per acre. In other words, one acre will support 80 cows for one day a year, or one cow for 80 days a year. A cow day is what one cow will eat in a day. Today whatever you eat is a person day of food for you. Are you with me?
OK, so in our county it's 80. On our farm for literally 15 years now, we have averaged well over-- you ready for the number? 400 cow days per acre. And we have not planted a seed. And we've not bought a bag of chemical fertilizer in over 50 years. When you tap in to nature's principles, nature is not a reluctant partner that we have to wrestle and I'm going to make you produce for me and I'm going get you to grr grr grr.
Nature is a benevolent lover and wants to respond abundantly. But it requires us to respect her principles. Let's go to questions.
ANDREW CHIGNELL: Looks like we have till six or so for questions. Maybe we'll just pause for a second to see if people want to leave and if people the people who are standing want to sit we can get this place into [INAUDIBLE]. So is the sound person here? Where are you going?
SPEAKER 3: If some of you guys want to come in--
ANDREW CHIGNELL: Hey, Hope, is the sound person here? Is he still here?
HOPE: He was here for AV support. It's just me.
ANDREW CHIGNELL: It's just you.
ANDREW CHIGNELL: Then, do you know why his mic's not working?
HOPE: Have you brought it on [INAUDIBLE]?
ANDREW CHIGNELL: Let's go to [INAUDIBLE]. All right. We want to use the time we have so, you're going to speak as loudly as you can and maybe will have to repeat the question. But Professor Joe [INAUDIBLE].
AUDIENCE: I've watched some of your videos. And when you're raising chickens you've got them in those little coops and you're moving them. And you're saying you're moving them once a year to the field because of panic. So you're not harvesting the sun. That's always seemed to me that that system is inconsistent with your constant harvesting on a 14 day cycle of the sun.
JOEL SALATIN: OK, the question is-- I don't know where a 14 cycle day of the sun--
AUDIENCE: Or whatever it takes for grass to grow.
JOEL SALATIN: Oh, all right. OK, yeah, yeah. OK, well the main thing that we're pruning the grass with-- all right. Yeah, it would be a scientist that would actually look at my-- I was just marking those days down. But if you're in Idaho, those day marks might go out there, out to there.
So this is just, this is a principle but the idea. That thing can be real long and, all right. So the chickens are actually not harvesting a lot of grass. It's more a supplement. It would be like a vitamin C supplement.
I take 300 milligrams a day of vitamin C. I haven't had a cold in five years. So it doesn't take much, like drugs or whatever. But that's enough to really give the birds what I call that salad bar vitamin, mineral. A Cornish cross, arguably, probably is not eating more than 10% to 15% of its diet. But 10% to 15% of vitamin pills is a pretty substantial part of a diet.
AUDIENCE: You're focusing on the chicken. I want to focus on the use of the grass from that length.
JOEL SALATIN: Focus on the use of the grass, OK. So the cows, the cows eat the grass back. We're not running the chickens on this grass. We're running the chickens on this grass, because the chickens can't eat this up here. They can't masticate a long piece of grass. A cow can. A cow can masticate a long piece of grass.
So we prepare the table for the chickens with the cows. Run the chickens across. The chicken manure gives a shot to this juvenile growth, stimulates the grass production for the next time the cows come through. All right
JOEL SALATIN: Mary, is it?
AUDIENCE: Mary, yes.
ANDREW CHIGNELL: [INAUDIBLE] from the school of [INAUDIBLE].
AUDIENCE: Now my question is, have is, Joel, in all of your climate-- this is a great lecture-- have you tried to have some influence on USDA policy? I want to hear your take on that because you have a real message here that--
JOEL SALATIN: Thank you, [INAUDIBLE].
AUDIENCE: Yeah, so what the US [INAUDIBLE]?
JOEL SALATIN: Thank you. You're very kind. And I try to do these-- I know that everybody's not going to agree with me. But I want you to just, at least, even if you don't agree, enjoy the dog and pony show. So that's one reason why I try to be a little bit animated so that even if you don't agree, you'll still, ah, that was worth going to just for the laughs. So why is such-- something that seems this basic and simple, not.
You have to understand that if what we do became the normal, the accepted approach, then it would completely invert the position, power, prestige, and profits-- all four Ps-- position, prestige, power, and profits of the entire food and farming system. Not to mention it would put the pharmaceutical companies out of business.
AUDIENCE: Have you tried talking to anyone about this?
JOEL SALATIN: Oh, yeah. Oh, I've had Congressman, I've had senators, goodness, governors, numerous, to the farm. They all love it. They all pat you on the back. It's wonderful.
But they go back and by the time American Farm Bureau talks to them and Michael Taylor at FDA, and, you know, he came from Monsanto, the revolving, you know, the industry. By the time they get they get hammered by the Corn Growers Association, the Soybeans Association, and get wined and dined by Monsanto-- I don't wine and dine. I'm just out there. I'm farming, OK. I don't have a lobby group to wine and dine.
And so we heretics kind of get lost in the shuffle. The fact is that there is an orthodoxy in our food farm culture at the US duh, there is an orthodoxy. The orthodoxy is fairly easy to spot. One is that nature is fundamentally broken and we have to fix it. Trust me. Nature's broken, we have to fix it.
My position is, nature is fundamentally well and if it's broken we broke it. Those are very different paradigms. Another orthodoxy is that we have to have a cheap food policy so people are free to buy $100 designer jeans and keep up with the Kardashians. That's another orthodoxy.
Well when you have a cheap food policy, it drives thinking. It drives agencies. It drives things. My thing is that we should actually take some of the money we're spending on Caribbean cruises and Disney World and Las Vegas and lottery tickets and tobacco and Starbucks coffee and, I mean, you know, add your things.
You've got to be careful. When I was at Georgetown University I asked the-- I had a thing like this and I asked, can anybody here-- I was doing the price lecture. I said that's another one. I said can anybody here tell me anything that people are spending money on that's not necessary? One guy over here yells out, underwear!
No, don't go to Georgetown and ask the question. So I've been a little timid asking that on college campuses recently because that was a bit of a, whoo! I'm not quite ready for that. But the fact is that there is lots of equity out there that we can spend on food. I mean, we could take one day that we spent on the Iraq war and double the per diem for every school lunch in America for a whole year. So it's not like there's no money.
I mean, our country is awash in wealth. It's awash in wealth. But-- she says that's our problem. But that makes you uncreative in many ways. Being awash in wealth makes you creative.
So yeah, I've talked to them, had them all, I've testified before Congress. I always feel like I fall in a septic tank every time I walk up there. But there is an orthodoxy. That's what I'm trying to get you to understand. There is an orthodoxy.
Teddy Roosevelt said, it's really hard to get a person to believe something that his paycheck says he shouldn't believe. You've got to remember, I remember when Obama was elected and a lot of the people in the organic community were really euphoric. You know, oh, my, our savior's there, you know, Obama. And a friend of mine said, just remember there are still-- what was the number?
It was like five miles of offices that won't change. Yeah. It's a big ship. It's a big ship to turn around. Thanks for the question.
ANDREW CHIGNELL: So what? People who have a question, raise you hand. I'm trying to keep track so that he doesn't have to keep track. So let me just start right there and then I'll [INAUDIBLE]. So yes, sir.
AUDIENCE: I'm wondering if you can comment a little bit about sort of scaling up. So you've got a creative, innovative system that takes a buttload of knowledge and work to keep that system going. Can you just say a little bit about, if somebody wants to do your system and they've got the land, can they pretty well transplant that or do they have to reinvent another system, et cetera?
JOEL SALATIN: That's a great question, scaling up. There are two schools of thought here. One is, can Polyface scale, I mean, personally. What if we had 50,000 acres? Could we scale this to 50,000 acres?
And the answer is absolutely yes, no problem. We now lease 10 farms. We're a $2.5 million dollar outfit with 20 people full time. It's not a backyard operation. We supply to Chipotles all their pork. We supply 50 restaurants. We supply 6,000 families. This is, I mean, it ain't big but it ain't tiny either.
And so it can scale personally. The other way to scale is duplication. And that's what I envision. That's why I wouldn't ship a steak to Michael Pollan when he wanted one, when he started on Omnivore's Dilemma. I said look, New York State has plenty of great farmers. Go buy one from them.
And so to me, it's very liberating not trying to meet the market but rather encouraging others and inspiring aspiring young people to jump into this and duplicate. We don't have to invent the wheel. And there are now literally thousands around the world who have taken these basic move the animals, portable infrastructure, low capitalization, easy entry, easy exit, multi-generational partnership, no employees but build fiefdoms as an economic model instead of employment, autonomous fiefdoms. These are all systems that work. They work very, very well.
And they can be duplicated at infinity. I think one of the biggest bottlenecks right now is not the production end. It's the economies of scale and distribution. One of the big problems. And the other thing is that many of the large buyers-- I mean I can use Chipotle as an example-- when they came to us we could not supply them because they only used pork shoulders, the front of the animal, because it's juicier. Because the hams are not as juicy, because they're not as juicy.
And so we said, we can't do this if you just use shoulders because we've got to move the whole animal. We've got customers that will buy the bellies and the ribs and the sausage and the loins, but hams are a problem. So what they did, we actually shipped one time. We shipped some hams out to Denver, Colorado to their food sciences team and they ran cooking tests. And they found that our hams were as juicy as the shoulders that they were getting from the other suppliers. And so by changing their recipe, if you will, for more of the animal it enabled us to supply that.
But there are lots of those kinds of little things in the industry that the big industry has figured out little nooks and crannies to place everything. The same things in the produce, tomatoes. What do you do with salvage? I mean, if I'm a little farmer and I've got blemished tomatoes and I take everything to the farmer's market, a lot of times these farmers market shoppers, you know, with quaffed. They don't want a blemished tomato.
Listen, if you want to make a farmer's day at farmer's market, go up to him or her and ask, listen, I'd like to make ketchup, salsa, and tomato juice next week. Could you bring me a bushel of blemished tomatoes at half price? They will marry you.
AUDIENCE: I'm an anthropologist. I'm interested in the way that we look at the larger world and your lecture is, how do we feed the world? You've been giving us great ideas about how we can scale up in our country and with our own technology and stuff. But what would we do if we were trying to feed India?
Now they've got lots of cows and they've got lots chickens. But they don't have lots of land. So And they have many more people-- or China, or places like that. Where do we create those resources if we don't want to use food models to get food from one place to another?
JOEL SALATIN: Oh, thank you for the question. Such a great question because ultimately, you can't export your way into food security. Ultimately, food security comes local centric. In fact, I would even go so far as to say home centric. And so when people ask me, what's the first thing I can do? I say get in your kitchen because it's the big food processors that put in all the unpronounceables and red dye 29 and extrude it, amalgamate it and irradiate it and, you know, reconstitute it and glue it back together with unpronounceable things. And then your intestinal bacteria revolt.
So ultimately, ultimately a food system with security, which is part of integrity, has to be centered in the home. Means you have to decide to participate. And then the concentric circles run out from there. Now I'm not saying you can't have bananas in New York. You can. But the idea is community centricity. Are you with me?
So in Africa, India, China, these areas, there is actually a tremendous amount of production available. Now, I'm not suggesting that everybody eat my exact diet. In fact, I hope that in my talk here, that I downplayed a little bit that this is some kind of an animal thing. It's not an animal thing. It's an overall food production thing.
But it's interesting that there is no ecosystem in the world that doesn't have animals as a primary component. Animals are the ultimate recycler. So if you're trying to produce without any animal component you're already behind the eight ball. And so in places like India or whatever, the kind of stackable, synergistic, multi-speciated, symbiotic systems that I espouse are absolutely far more productive than single systems.
Think about the average Indian farm, at what is it? Four acres, something like that? It's small. Italy is 10 acres. I think India is four, smaller.
But there are many farmers in India trying to make a living just growing, for example, cotton on those four acres. What if those four acres had a composite of synergistic things? Animals, produce, fiber, whatever-- the fact is that the permaculture concept of synergistic multi-relational stacking systems work. They absolutely work.
And they're far more productive than any monocrop or single crop type system. And that is rule one.
ANDREW CHIGNELL: Gentleman in the back?
AUDIENCE: Well, it seems to me that to produce more food, like Polyface farms could, instead of producing food with the industrial method that is prevalent at the moment--
JOEL SALATIN: I'm having trouble hearing.
ANDREW CHIGNELL: Could you speak up? Maybe stand up?
JOEL SALATIN: Belt it out. I shall be heard.
AUDIENCE: My understanding is that in order to produce more food in the way that Polyface farms are, instead of using the agroindustrial method that is prevalent today, we're going to need a lot more farmers as opposed to people that work desk jobs. And do you ever see this workforce materializing?
JOEL SALATIN: That's another great question. Boy, you know, you guys are pretty sharp up here. How much longer do I-- OK, I'm going to be able to make my exit here in a few minutes. You're putting your finger on lots of the critical issues.
And you know what? Antidotes and innovation require disturbance. And just because we know where we-- let's assume for a minute that we can agree that my system is more productive. We're five times the county average. Imagine if the neighbor did that, and the neighbor did that, you know.
So let's agree that we're far more productive. And we can say, that's the system we should adopt. Now, we need more farmers to do it. Or we need more people on the land. That's simply part of metabolizing the ragged edge. Now where are we going to get them?
For the last two years, we run a very formal intern and apprenticeship program on our farm. I do lectures, formal lectures. We do field trips. We've spent a lot of time in education on this program, as well as work and eating and everything like that. But for the last couple of years, we've had almost 250 applicants for eight spots.
And I've talked to farms all around the country. And they're experiencing the same thing. I believe that if a young person really thought they could make a white collar salary on a farm that we would be inundated with people coming to this. Now the problem is that we don't have enough really successful mature models ready to scale as the gentleman here said. Unfortunately, many of my peers-- many, I didn't say all by any means-- but many of my peers are such hermit, curmudgeon, independent farmers that they don't want to collaborate with anybody and they don't want their lives messed up with a young person tagging around.
And that's one reason I wrote my last book, Fields Of Farmers, was to plead on my knees to these old hermit curmudgeon codgers to embrace a young person because that's the way to have succession, to duplicate yourself. And so I think the young people will be there when those models and collaboratives develop to plug in to a nice white collar agrarian life.
ANDREW CHIGNELL: Just curious, how many people here are either farmers or intend to farm, or are farmer curious?
JOEL SALATIN: Wow. Woo! Cool.
ANDREW CHIGNELL: So I have [INAUDIBLE]. It's a big list. We're not going to get through all of it. But I think you, sir, were next.
AUDIENCE: So there are about 5,000 dairy farms in New York. I think you probably know it's the biggest [INAUDIBLE] here in New York.
JOEL SALATIN: Sure.
AUDIENCE: And they range in size from very small to very large. Some of them categorize as CAFOs. And in fact, when I look at what you drew on the board and I think about what they do in terms of trying to get manure and nutrients to the fullest extent and best extent possible, they're really shooting at a lot of the same things that you're shooting at. Of course in January or February it's a little difficult for them to have cows eating a lot of grass out there. You might notice that--
JOEL SALATIN: Same where we are.
AUDIENCE: You'll have it sooner, though. So why, though, is what you do sometimes perceived, I think, as being very different than what they may do? I guess in the public's eyes, I think you're perceived as-- you know, they would be perceived as being very different. I'm curios if you--
JOEL SALATIN: Well, yeah, for sure. New York has some of the country's most avant garde grass based dairies out there. Listen, the whole country looks to some of these New York dairy fellows that are doing-- and ladies-- doing a grass based dairy as absolutely the gurus of the movement, no question. What's different with a CAFO-- so you can say, well, you know, corn grows like this. Or hay grows like this. Alfalfa grows like this.
OK, so what's the difference if we go out with a mower and mow it, and bring it in and make it into silage or balage or whatever, barleyage, and feed it in in a concrete CAFO and then haul out the manure. Well the problem with that is that there is a concentration of pathogenicity when we crowd these animals in a very unnatural environment-- from skeletal health, ligaments, hooves, all sorts of neat things. Now if you're going to confine them inside, and right now we have several hundred in loafing sheds, because it's winter, they're on deep bedding. So in other words, it's a carbon base deep bedding and the feed box that we put the hay in, they're on pulleys that we can just winch up as the bedding pack increases. And the bedding pack can go four feet deep.
New York, like many Northeastern states, the engineers, the waste management engineers, just like in Virginia, see manure from a concentrated area as more a water problem. And so everything is slurry based, goes into lagoons, and is pumped out. That's highly acidic. It has a totally different nutrient profile and it's extremely volatile.
If it's wet it diffuses into the ground water. If it's dry it stinks up the air. But when you tie it down with carbon, you're bonding those volatile nutrients at a molecular level. What I'm suggesting is that there's a fundamental difference of opinion here of how to actually integrate the animal, the land, and the soil, and that resource base. There's a fundamental difference there in how we integrate that.
And there are certainly times when animals need to go inside, no question. But rather than going on concrete that's scraped and flushed into a slurry to run a water-based system, instead what we need to do is go to a carbon based system. And then that provides jobs to take all the diseased and crooked junk trees out and upgrade the forests so the good trees will grow much better and we can grow good lumber way, way faster and actually metabolize all our solar energy on healthy, good growing trees, instead of diseased falling down trees.
ANDREW CHIGNELL: So let me just do a comparison really quick on my last question. How many people here are either professional philosophers or want to be one?
JOEL SALATIN: Farmers beat the philosophers!
ANDREW CHIGNELL: OK, next was her in the front.
AUDIENCE: You mentioned last night something on CornellCast. And you mentioned--
ANDREW CHIGNELL: Be sure to speak up for everyone.
AUDIENCE: You said that, you kind of explaining in your identity that [INAUDIBLE] is maybe the most [INAUDIBLE]. And one of them that was actually interesting is you said that you were a libertarian. But where libertarianism gets it, perhaps, wrong is in the drives to the commons. I wanted to expand on that comment. Does that come from value shift [INAUDIBLE] to the earth, to the soil? Or is it something more concrete, something about policy [INAUDIBLE]?
JOEL SALATIN: That's a great question. The question is, the tension the libertarians and the weakness that they have on the commons. This is something that I've actually come to later in life because I grew up with that, you know, good old American property rights free market, da da da da da. And and it's been in the last 15, 12 years, that I've really come to appreciate the conundrum of the commons. And you mentioned land reform, policy, all these-- and I would say, all of the above.
And it's one I'm sorting out. And I think very few people actually have a definitive answer on reconciling. I just did a business conference in Hollywood two weeks ago and the question was put to the group, if Warren Buffett walked in the room what question would you like to ask him? And it was an exercise in how to leverage mentors to get the biggest bang for the buck in a question. Many people, given an opportunity, squander the opportunity on a kind of a silly question. Yours was not silly. Yours was good.
And the question I asked, which-- it won-- was, I want to know what your economic value, how you assign the economic value, to the commons that you're exploiting relative to the businesses that you're running, to exploit them that are individualized-- they're individual corporations. But how do you allocate the economic value of what you're extracting to the fact that you didn't place it there. And there's got to be something that, just because I invent a drill to be able to frack doesn't mean that everything I can extract is mine. I didn't put it there. It was under a tribe, a community, a something.
These are things I'm wrestling with. And I'm glad for ideas. And there are models out there that are trying to design this. But I think it's this, personal freedom, community responsibility, tension that actually is a tension in many policy kind of things. I don't have it sussed out. But thanks for asking the question. Which is why I'm not a pure libertarian.
I'm also an environmentalist. That's why the Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic.
ANDREW CHIGNELL: You on the side. Yes.
ANDREW CHIGNELL: Hi. [INAUDIBLE].
AUDIENCE: OK. This is more like a logistical question.
JOEL SALATIN: You're the architect.
AUDIENCE: Your cycle of the pigs and the cows and the grass and chicken, there's one component which is corn. Where does it come from? Do you grow it, or--
JOEL SALATIN: Corn, ah. Great question, yeah. OK, and you have just put your finger on our Achilles heel. Our Achilles heel, and the thing that we have come under criticism-- I don't play games. I'm transparent. I'm willing to admit where I'm frail, unlike the industry which says they have all the answers in GMOs and technology.
So where we're frail is that we do depend on neighbors to grow the grain for our omnivores. Now we don't bring in anything for the cows because they're all on perennials. And so we are, for the cows, we are constrained by the amount of grass that we can grow. And we don't sell hay because that's translocating carbon to other places. So we do everything we can to make sure that the biomass that's harvested in a spot gets redeposited with compost or manure, whatever, in a spot.
The omnivores, we don't grow grain so we buy GMO free grain from neighbors. Now one of the roles of animals-- so, we could be accused of not being sustainable, or whatever because you're-- but think about it. One of the roles of animals in nature is one of the reasons there are no animalless ecosystems, is because animals are the only mechanism nature has to defy the gravitational move of fertility downhill. Now in these great migratory patterns, they would move through a valley, eat the lush forage, and then go ruminate on top of a hill to defecate, spend time.
Why do they feel safe on top of a hill? Because they can look out to the predators. So it's a predator prey relationship that pushed all these animals up to the tops of hills, birds into trees, and moved the fertility around and created and democratized the movement of the solar energy. Are you with me? OK, so are we not participating a little bit in that, in that our neighbors low ground, that's nice and loamy and fertile, that's been getting silt from our farm for 200 years, so we buy his.
He's got soil deep enough to grow corn. We buy his GMO free corn, bring it up on to our hillsides. Is that not partly participating? I don't have all the answers for that. But that's one reason why we're not certified organic because to get certified organic grain, we would have to bring it in from Ohio and Illinois and we don't want to truck it that far.
We want as tight a cycle as possible. These things get kind of dicey when you start looking at it. And I don't have all the answers. But that's the way I kind of reconcile, for me, participating in that age old cycle with property boundaries and fences. Again, how do we embrace this migratory pattern in a micro-scale where we are? Great question, thank you.
AUDIENCE: That's interesting because in McWilliam's critique the guy mentioned, he says that a big hole in your system is that you bring in the corn. But he seems to think you ship it in from the Midwest.
JOEL SALATIN: No, we don't. No, we are very excited that we have actually stimulated-- we pay $0.50 to $0.70 a bushel, extra. So we're very excited that we're creating a market and actually protecting lots of acreage from GMOs in our immediate area. I would rather funnel my money to a neighbor even though it's not organic certified and keep that money cycling in our community than be a quote unquote "purist," export my dollars and bathe everything in diesel fuel to get it to me. These are not easy things and I don't have all the answers.
ANDREW CHIGNELL: All right, let me just say one word before we thank our speaker. So we have to bring this to a close but as I said, the whole lecture is going to be available on CornellCast. And I also wanted to mention that in addition to the university lecture series, which is the major sponsor of this, edX is another major sponsor. And if you're interested in these questions, we're doing this MOOC, Massive Open Online Course, which is free and open to anybody.
We'll have Interviews with Joel Salatin, with Mark Bittman, with Marion Nestle, with Professor Joe Regenstein, lots of other experts, farmers, local people, politicians, talking about the ethical issues surrounding some of these different models. Different questions relating to food production and consumption. So it's starting in mid April and after June 1st it'll then just be open and available and you can sample any of the interviews or videos as you wish. So we invite any of you who might be interested to consider taking that free and open course. In the meantime, let's thank our speaker for everything.
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Estimates indicate that by 2050, at least 9 billion people will inhabit planet
Earth. Food scientists, environmentalists, industry advocates, farmers, and
policymakers disagree about how best to sustain a global food supply. Many
assume that the solution will involve petroleum-based fertilizers and concentrated animal feedlot operations (CAFOs). According to Joel Salatin, a third-generation alternative farmer from Polyface Farms in Swope, Virginia, nothing could be further from the truth.
Salatin promotes localized, solar-driven, carbon-fertilized and yet scalable agricultural systems. He is the author of eight books and is featured prominently in the film documentaries 'Food, Inc.' and 'American Meat.'
In a University Lecture Feb. 12, 2015, Salatin articulated a viable, sustainable model that challenges prominent assumptions about what is required to feed the world. Co-Sponsored by Cornell's "Ethics of Eating" MOOC on EdX.org, the the University Courses Initiative, and the Susan L. Sage School of Philosophy.