ANNOUNCER: Speaker and lunatic farmer philosopher, Mr. Joel Salatin.
JOEL SALATIN: Thank you. It's really a pleasure to be with you this evening, and to be able to talk about something that's so near and dear to my heart. I spent a lot of time with liberal greenie foodie, earth muffin types. And it's really cool to be able to come out of the closet and be my overtly Christian self. I don't get too much time to be able to do that.
So just a little bit about where I came from, growing up. I grew up in this real conservative Southern family in the '60s. If you remember, this was the Vietnam era, the beginning of flower power and hippies, and marijuana, and free love, and all that.
And and it was interesting. I never thought anything about the fact that that on the farm, our friends were all hippie dope-smokers. I mean, I smelled a lot of marijuana. These were our friends. We sat around, we talked about humanure, and compost, and earthworms, and solariums, and solar energy. And you know, the vast corporate conspiracy and all this.
And then on Sunday, we went, sat down here with these people that thought all those people were nutcases. And I remember very well when dad started making Adele Davis's tiger milk-- you might remember that. You put it in a blender, tiger milk. And all of our church friends called it panther puke.
But this was the way we grew up. And I didn't think a whole lot about it until I was in school. And I went to that ultra conservative school, Bob Jones University in South Carolina. Some of you may have heard of it. You've probably heard things about it. Yeah, they do have blue and pink sidewalks to keep the girls and guys separate. All sorts of things. Not really.
But here I was, a senior. And I was a leader on campus. I was president of society. I did different things, and official tour guide, and all this stuff. And the magazine came in. The university had this official, slick, nice, four-color magazine at the time.
It came under the dormitory door, and I opened it up. And it was a magazine about the food fads. And halfway through the article, sure enough. I was sitting here and I was watching this. Oh, oh, this thing is not going good places. And halfway through the article, here our chancellor was quoted as saying, if you step inside a health food store, you have joined a food cult. A cult.
And I'd been going to the health food store ever since the first one came to town. So I kind of closed the magazine, and hmm, OK. Now, what do you do here? And that was an "aha" moment for me, because I didn't realize at that point how much tension there was. I know now how much there is.
And so, what's happened is that we have this because the environmental movement kind of grew out of Aldo Leopold, John Moore, and Audubon, and these kind of naturalists that were, for lack of a better term, know early creation worshipers. They really saw that.
They were not godly people. They were not Bible readers. They were panthiests. They grew out of the British romantic poets, Bysshe Shelley, Keats. I never saw anything as beautiful as a tree. He never gives me glory to the creator of the tree. It's the glory to the tree itself.
Because of that, it tainted the stewardship movement in the conservative Christian community to brand everybody who dared to protect a tree by hugging it, or to talk about earth care, or Earth Day, or environmentalism, or animal welfare, or any of that kind of stuff-- you couldn't have that discussion in a church fellowship because if you did, you were branded a commie, pinko, liberal, tree-hugging, earth muffin, abortion.
And so, this tension continues. It continues today.
So I'm going to try something new. I'm always trying to think, how can I engage people a little better? And so, just to try out something new, I thought that I would kind of go through the different denominational responses to the idea that maybe we shouldn't use Styrofoam plates at the potluck. Maybe we should get plates from the Salvation Army thrift store and wash them in the church kitchen, instead of Styrofoam. Or maybe we should eat pastured chicken at the church potluck, instead of Tyson chicken at the church potluck.
If that were suggested, the Mennonites would say, whatever is cheapest, that is best. Whatever is cheapest. If frugality is everything, so whatever is cheapest. That allows us to put more money into our relief aid efforts in Haiti.
The Baptists-- the whole world's evil. Everything's evil. It's all going to go to hellfire and damnation anyway. It's all gonna burn up. Who cares? Chik-fil-A buys from Tyson. That's good enough for me.
The Presbyterian-- we're in the dispensation of Grace. Rules no longer apply. I mean, the cloth came down to Peter with uncleanness in it, and God said, eat. If it's edible, I eat it. Grace will take it through.
The Roman Catholic-- what is this angst, my child? What is this angst? Put some money in the offering plate. It'll make you feel better.
The Nazarene-- oh, I just don't know what to do. Can we ever know? Can we ever know? Does God still love me if I do the wrong thing? I'll just go forward at the next altar call and it'll all be OK.
ANNOUNCER: The Methodist-- we can't afford the good stuff. We are pilgrims. We're wanderers, a life of poverty and self-denial. That's what we are. We can't have pastured chicken.
The Lutherans-- wrong question. The real question is, do I stand, kneel, or sit. Let's deal with important things, after all.
Asian Christians-- who cares about food? If I can catch it, I eat it. Let's talk about human trafficking. The big stuff.
Community Pentecostal Tabernacle. You know, the one that has no denominational tie in the title. Praise God. We're all here together in unity and love. That's all that matters. Hm. Kumbaya, my Lord, Kumbaya. That's the Pentecostal.
Well, OK. I tried that out. The point is--
[LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE]
Thank you. Shall I do that again? Is that worth doing again? It'll get better. It'll get better. That's the first time I've done. I did it in my head about five times today, but that was the first time, all right? I should have practiced in front of a mirror before I came in, but they had me too busy today, running around, doing things.
The point is, I believe, that the religious right, the Evangelical right, the faith community, you call it what you want to, 34% of Americans that label themselves as some sort of Evangelical faith community, that creation stewardship has been given over. That moral high road of creation stewardship has been given over to creation worshipers, rather than as a mandate and part of the visceral manifestation of being a creator worshipper.
And so, we've squandered this this moral high ground, and given it over. So here's my thesis. My thesis is this. That the physical creation that we see is God's object lesson of spiritual truth. I'll say that one more time. The physical creation we see is God's object lesson of spiritual truth.
Saint Augustine started this Western reductionist, linear compartmentalized, disconnected, segregated, parts-oriented, democratized thesis, parts all about me kind of thinking, when he brought up the fact that dualism-- you know, that spirit is good, and if you can see it, it's evil.
But you know, the Bible is not written like that. The scriptures are full of physical things, from parables, to object lessons, to typology. It's throughout there.
And so, let's just examine one, for example, just to show you where I'm headed. The shorter catechism-- can anybody tell me the shorter catechism, what is the end of man?
AUDIENCE: To glorify God and enjoy him forever.
JOEL SALATIN: To glorify God and enjoy him forever. You must be a deformed Presbyterian. I mean, a reformed Presbyterian.
All right. To glorify God and live with him forever. All right. And we talk about bringing glory to God, don't we? At Christmas-- we just had Christmas not long ago. Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth, peace, goodwill to men. We tend to kind of elevate certain things [AUDIO OUT] lingo.
Some ministers, for example, when they pray for the fellowship church in public prayer, they always, they end with a-- they don't just say Amen. They say, Amen. It's kind of a spiritualized Amen. This is a public place, so you spiritualize.
And we do that with glory. We don't use glory in common usage. That's reserved for church-speak. That's reserved for religious speak. Are you with me? And so, we don't use glory in these other things.
But the Bible uses glory in all sorts of physical ways. I mean, it talks about the glory of old men is their gray head. The glory of young men is their strength. It talks about the glory of nations, that each nation has a glory. It talks about the glory of things celestial, like the sun, and the moon, and the stars. And the glory of things terrestrial, like trees, and birds, and pigs, and things like that.
The Bible is extremely visceral when it uses the term glory. It doesn't reserve it for religious speak. It uses it for very physical, visceral things.
So what does it mean to bring glory to something? Obviously, God is not the only one we're supposed to give glory to. We're supposed to recognize the glory in all these other things. What does it mean to bring glory to something?
The glory of something is its distinctiveness, its uniqueness. It's the thing that separates it from everything else. And so, when we bring glory to God, we are recognizing and honoring his specialness, what makes him God, as opposed to any other being, as opposed to any other thing, as opposed to any other universe.
It's God's specificity that we're supposed to honor. His Holiness, His mercy, His sovereignty, His omniscience, omnipresent. OK. Those are uniquely-- we don't have those attributes. They are not part of our being.
But that's the glory of God. And so, when we honor those, that's how we recognize his distinctiveness.
So when we tell our kids-- and we recite the catechism to them, you're supposed to bring glory to God, the kids see this word glory, glory. What does that mean? And it comes with this kind of cerebral, focus group, academic, theological universe that doesn't have a practical representation in everyday life.
What if-- just imagine if, when the family sat down to dinner, the children sat around the table, mom or dad said, the reason that we're eating this pastured pig from farmer Ben's farm down the road is because farmer Ben honors the glory of the pig. At his farm, he understands that the distinctiveness of the pig is worthwhile.
That's part of his sanctity of life. It's part of his paradigm, is that it does matter whether we honor the pig-ness of the pig. And so, because he honors the pig-ness of the pig, in letting the pig run around and get fresh air, and use his plow on the end of his nose to root up things, and eat bugs and and worms along with his feed, and all that. That honors-- that allows the pig to be all the pig that the pig can be.
And that's what it means to bring glory to God in our lives. When we honor God in all the specialness that's Him, this is why we do that to God. This is what it looks like. It looks like honoring the pig right here in that barnyard. The way we honor that pig is the object lesson for bringing reverence and honor to the distinctiveness of God.
Suddenly, our little human brains, at four-years-old, we can get that. Isn't that cool? We can wrap our heads around that. That's something we can grasp onto.
Contrast that with the US-duh notion-- US-duh. USDA. US-duh. I realize I'm in Cornell, but I'm going to still use it. It's one of my signature pieces. I don't change my message just because I'm in a different place.
According to our culture, not just the US-duh, our culture, nobody dares to ask the question of whether or not it's important to honor the pig-ness of the pig. When is the last time you heard about a land grant university research project in which the scientists sat around and said, now let's study the essence of pig, and what makes a pig the best, happiest-- the happiest pig possible.
No, I mean, right now, we're spending money on research on how to figure out where the stress gene is on the porcine DNA strand, so we can strip that out of their genetic code, and we can abuse them more. But at least they won't be stressed about it.
Now, what does that say to our children, when that's the pig we eat? And then we say, now, give God His distinctiveness. See the hypocrisy? You see how the two don't compute?
And so, what it is, we raise our children, we raise our families in this strange world of where our walk and our talk, our theology and our practice, don't get together. You see? And so, we come up conflicted. I mean, the US-duh told us for years-- they took farmers like me to free steak dinners for 30 years to teach us this new scientific way of feeding cows, where we take dead cows and we grind them up, and we cook them. And then, we feed them back to cows.
And they did feeding trials to show that there was no difference. And they did growth trials to show that it was cheaper. All these things. And when our farm didn't endorse that science, we were branded as Luddites, Neanderthals, barbarians. What do you want to do? Go back to hoop skirts, wash boards, and 1700 colonial bedpans. What do you want to do?
Thirty years later, suddenly there's this big global oops. Maybe we shouldn't oughta done that. What was the-- why?
Well, why, was because it violates God's order. God is a god of order. And He has specified diets. He has specified patterns, and how things are supposed to work. And one of the patterns is herbivores don't eat carrion.
When all this was coming down, we researched. We looked around the world. Can we find a place where herbivores eat carrion? Can't find it. You can't find it in the Serengeti. You can't find them on the American plains. You Can't find it in Europe. You can't find it in Mongolia. You can't find it in Siberia. I mean, you can't find it. Herbivores don't eat carrion.
In fact, I do a lot of school tours. And these kids will come out, 10-years-old. You say, what do you call an animal that eats meat, only meat? Carnivore. Well, what do you call an animal that eats only plants? Course, the kids yell out, herbivores. Thank you. I mean, we are at Cornell. You're supposed to know these things.
And then, for the big bonus question. What is they eat both? Omnivores.
So I'm standing out in the field with these kids in front of me, and I've got this big herd of cows behind me. So I turn around and I say, what are those?
JOEL SALATIN: Cows. There's always a wise guy in every crowd. No, I'm looking for herbivore, carnivore, or omnivore. What is it?
JOEL SALATIN: Herbivore. Then can you tell me why our PhD, academic credentialed, licensed experts of our country, supposedly the smartest and brightest people in our country told us for 30 years to feed them like an omnivore? Ew! All the kids get grimacy faces. Why would they do that? I'm saying, you 12-year-olds would do a lot better at running the US-duh than what's down there.
You see, when you start looking at the patterns, and you start looking at the templates that God laid down, they become pretty specific and pretty direct. And part of this is honoring the distinctives of that being. Because it's in honoring that distinctiveness of the being-- respecting and honoring the pig-ness of the pig-- that creates an object lesson for understanding what honoring the distinctiveness and the specificity of divinity is.
Of people, of other cultures. The glory of other nations. See? It has broad ramifications. They don't believe like us. Let's go bomb them and shoot them. That's not a biblical deal. But it all starts with how we respect and honor the least of these. That's what sets the ethical framework on which we hang honoring and respecting the greatest of these.
We can't have a culture that honors and respects the Thomas-ness of Tom unless we start with the pig-ness of pigs. Are you with me? And you can't have a culture that honors the distinctiveness of other cultures when you don't honor the most basic stuff, the most basic elements of life.
And so what's happened is, in our culture, we have morph into going from not of a panthiestic, but going the opposite way to where we view life as fundamentally mechanical. And that gives us license to manipulate, however cleverly hubris can imagine to manipulate it.
And so, there is no specialness to a pig, a cow, or sheep. I mean, however, we can manipulate it with our own creativity, the better off we are, without regard to any other ideas, with any sacredness to that life. And so, I would suggest that life is fundamentally biological.
And in fact, it is the taking of that life, and death-- whether you chomp down on a carrot and kill the carrot, or chomp down on a chicken breast because you killed the chicken-- I assume nobody's going to chomp down on it while the chicken is still alive.
The point is that in order for there to be life, there must be death. That's the most foundational principle of ecology. And anybody that says, oh, come on. Haven't we progressed beyond taking-- you know, killing animals in order to live. But the fact is, everything is eating and being eaten. And if you don't believe it, go lie naked in your flower bed for three days to see what gets eaten.
Everything is eating and being eaten. Everything. And the cycle of life is life, death, decomposition, regeneration, life, death, decomposition, regeneration. That's the cycle of life. It is the most foundational principle of ecology that there is. You can't escape it.
And I would suggest that what gives that cycle sacredness is the honoring of the life while it was living. That we create sacredness to the sacrifice, to the necessary sacrifice, in the way we gave glory to that being-- whether it's a tomato, or a carrot, or a chicken, or a pig-- we honor, we create sacredness to the sacrifice in the way we honored the being in its life.
If we desecrate the being in its life, and consider it just mechanical, inanimate protoplasmic structure to be manipulated, however cleverly hubris can imagine to manipulate it, we cheapen the sacrifice. We cheapen the death. We cheapen the value of life. And we elevate life when we bring glory to the specialness of each of these critters that we take.
So the point is, when we start looking at how do we design then, a food and farm system-- let's just look at that, a food and farm system. Can we design one-- what does one look like that actually creates an object lesson, or physical, visceral manifestation of great spiritual principles?
For example, what does a farm that manifests forgiveness look like? Is it a farm-- a farm that manifests forgiveness. Is it one where the old, hermit curmudgeon farmer, with his chaw of tobacco, is all, yes, didn't get no prices around here. Ain't no rain. And yeah, it's going to be a bad year. I can feel it already.
Is that a forgiving farm? I would suggest that a forgiving farm is one that shows resiliency. You know, Stephen Covey, in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, talks about building emotional equity in each other's gas tanks as the foundation for relational team building. That all of us are going to have a bad day. We're going to make an emotional withdrawal from our spouse once in a while. Our children once in a while, our housemates, our friends, whatever.
We're going to have a bad day. We're going to make an emotional withdrawal by an unfit word. The point is that we have to put enough emotional equity in the gas tank so there's a reserve to draw on, so the relationship doesn't collapse over a withdrawal.
Are you with me? That's just my paraphrase of his Seven Habits of Highly Effective People idea of emotional equity. Forgiveness works like that.
So if we're going to have a farm that's resilient, that's forgiving, it has to have biological, economic, and emotional equity enough for there to be some withdrawals. Because the fact is, there are going to be floods, and droughts, and winds, and hail, and whatever.
So how do we build that into a farm? How do we make a farm, that when people come and visit, they leave saying, oh, I just saw what forgiveness looks like. Is everybody with me? What I'm trying to get do here on the object lesson idea. All right.
And so, I would suggest that a forgiving farm is one that gets control of its hydrologic cycle, first of all. In other words, so that it can handle droughts and floods. Well, that means we're going to be building some ponds. And that means we're going to be creating resiliency there. And this is especially true in dry areas.
We're going to have animals and plants that exhibit tremendous immunological function. We're not going to have a bunch of pharmaceutical dependency. You know, the average farm in the US, if something gets sick or diseased, the first assumption is, oh, it must be pharmaceutically disadvantaged.
Well, what about the question, well, what have I done in management to let the hedge of protective immunity be breached by a pathogen? Because there really are way more good bugs than bad bugs. So if I'm building a habitat for good bugs, we don't have the bad bugs.
So, for example, in our brooder house with the little chicks, we keep deep bedding in there, with a good carbon-nitrogen ratio of 25 to 30 to 1. That's a carbon-nitrogen ratio that allows nematodes and good bugs to proliferate. And it's deep enough that a community can develop in there. They can have their schools, and roads, and highways, and science clubs, and all this stuff because there's enough distance there.
You see, the industry doesn't use enough carbon. So their carbon ratio, their carbon-nitrogen ratio is down there in the 11 to 1 ratio. So it's toxic. You can smell the ammonia from a mile away. And the birds are living in a toxic, fecal particulate ammonia environment, which comes in and abraids their mucous membranes. And then creates lesions, which then require antibiotics to scrape them-- to keep them from getting infection.
And you have this toxic productions system. You know, pathogenicity.
So forgiveness. That's what we're looking at. So what we want is a farm that that illustrates that it can take shocks. That it can take some punches. And it can take some licks and keep on ticking, as they say. Take a licking and keep on ticking.
How about a farm that exhibits-- in the Christian experience, we say that we're not a religion, we're a relationship. And that's exactly correct. So how do we have a farm that fosters relationships? Is a farm that fosters relationships one that skews toward machinery, GPS-driven driverless tractors, and mono-speciation?
Or is it a farm with multi-speciation, lots of people, and intricate, complex plant and animal communities that work together? See? Is it relational?
I'd even take this a step further. We have multiflora rose on our farm. Do they have multiflora rose up here? Yeah, my father-in-law calls it multiple roses, because they're always multiplying. These multiflora roses, they're an invasive-- and they've come in the last 50 years. And they're really noxious.
And most of the farmers in our area get Bicep or some herbicide, and go out there on their four wheelers. And they shoot this herbicide over, and try to control them that way in the summer. But we don't use the herbicides because we don't want to use the herbicides.
And so, what I've done is, I've made some long-handled mattocks. You know, mattocks have a pretty short handle. But I go up and cut cut saplings, and put one on there about four or five feet long. So it's longer, five feet. So you can get in under a big, old multiflora rose. You can whack that thing out.
Now, when I do this, I'm thinking about brambles shall come up and infest the ground. I look at these things as sin.
And I get my mattock out there. And I come up to that big, old sin. And I get that mattock, and I look for that big root. Oh, looks like it's right here. And you whack. And you stand back a little bit, and then you take a swipe this way.
And now it's teetering a little bit. And you can see where the rest of the roots come out. And boy, you get right in there. And finally, you get that last whack. Take that last root out. And you jerk it, I got you, you sin. And you throw it aside.
That creates a whole different understanding and relationship than sitting here on a four-wheeler, engine idling, from 20-feet away. [MAKES SOUND OF ENGINE IDLING] 20-feet away.
What a great object lesson of how we should wrestle with sin. You know, sin, you don't sit here, from 20-feet away, and shoot some Bicep at it from a novel of a four-wheeler. No. Sin, you've got to get in there. You gotta look at it. Where's your root, buddy? I'm going to get you. Man, I'm going to get you out of here.
And we develop this wrestling with sin, and get it out of here. I'm going to pull you out by the roots. I'm not going to depend on some concoction from Steve McGuy-gy to deal with it. I'm going to deal with you, not somebody else. And I'm going to knock you out of my field.
Now, let me ask you something. Wouldn't it be cool if next month's youth group activity, instead of being a trip to Six Flags, or whatever, Coney Island, the fun station, what if the youth group all got equipped with mattocks, and went out to some farmers place and said, we want to find out what it's like to wrestle with sin? We're going to get things out of your fields. Can you show us some multiflora rose to get a relationship and conquer?
Thank you for laughing, but listen. I am dead serious. I am dead serious. What would that do to the youth group, to come back and have that kind of visceral relationship with brambles, the metaphor for the type of sin in the scripture?
Suddenly, those passages, wherever it grows-- you know, the slothful man. Brambles grew up in his vineyard, in the Proverbs. All the way to the result of sin brand, thistles and thorns overtake the ground. Suddenly, those passages, what happens? They come alive, don't they? They're not just academic.
The average young person today, they've never encountered a bramble. All they've encountered is wiggling their thumbs in front of some sort of a computer game. You know, being a fantasy life. They're not participating in the physical universe. They're not partaking of the object lesson.
And I think we deprive, we deny our families, and our young people, and ourselves-- we deny ourselves the impact. The what does it mean, as Francis Shafer said, how then, shall we live? What does this mean?
Our Christianity, folks, is not to be just some theological focus group discussion among academics, sitting around with Bibles, talking about words on a page and esoteric, mystical thinking. It's visceral. It's physical.
What does the farm that exhibits a whosoever will mentality-- the most famous verse in the Bible, right? John 3:16. For God so loved the world that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but shall have everlasting life. Whosoever will.
It's the mantra of the Christian community. You don't have to do anything. You don't have to go on a pilgrimage. You don't have to pay any money to anybody. You don't have to recite a catechism, or move beads around, or do anything. It's whosoever will, by faith and faith alone. That is the glory of Christianity. OK?
Well, what does a whosoever-will type of farm and food system look like? I would suggest that a whosoever-will system is one in which it's easy to get into and easy to get out of. One that young people like to come into. I mean, the average American farmer is now 60 years old. It's a dying vocation.
Wall Street, the business journals tell us that any economic sector of a culture in which the average practitioner is over 35 is a sector in decline. Farming is now almost 60. Obviously, there's something wrong with people being able to get in.
So a whosoever-will farm is one that uses low capitalization, not high capitalization. Multiple use infrastructure, not single use infrastructure. Portable infrastructure, not stationary infrastructure. It is resilient inside. Its fertility base does not depend on what comes from a bag. Its fertility base comes from a carbon centricity internally. It doesn't depend on everything from outside.
It's not a flow-through. It's a reservoir of energy. You run with real time solar energy, not petroleum that actually runs on real time, that doesn't cost anything. Petroleum costs. Solar energy doesn't cost anything. You harvest it with chlorophyll.
Suddenly, you have a farm in which anybody can participate. It's not exclusive. I mean, if you want to raise pastured chickens today-- those of you who know me know I'm a big advocate of pastured chickens. You can start with a little, portable, floorless shelter. We used to call them pens, but animal rights people said that sounds like a penitentiary. We were thinking play pens. So we now call them chicken shelter.
You can build one of these for a couple of hundred bucks, put some chickens in there, run several cycles in a summer, and for a $200 or $300 investment, you can harvest $1,000 worth of chickens, pay for all the infrastructure, and net a profit in your very first season.
Compare that to if you want to grow a chicken for Tyson. Before you even buy one chicken, you have to build a $500,000 house that's on a contract with them batch, to batch, to batch. They don't guarantee that after you run your first batch, they won't pull your contract and not give you chickens again. No guarantee whatsoever.
Folks, that's hard to get into.
Whosoever will? So what are some things that churches can do? I'll just stop there, but you see the train of thought, the idea. You take these great truths and you say, what does that look like on the land? What does that look like in the field?
So just imagine-- just imagine if our churches-- oh, I don't even like to use the word church because that's not the church. Church sounds like building. We're the church and when we go to meet, we're the gathering. But, anyway, church.
What if we turned our lawns into gardens? You know, churches make a big deal sometimes about collecting crashed and dented cans, stuff from the industry to give to the homeless, and the hungry, and the food bank. Well, what if we turned the whole church lawn into gardens for poor people and gave them a place to grow food?
What if we turned our church kitchen into a culinary arts center and let people come in and use it to can, and showed them how to can, and cook, and created a culinary arts center out of the church kitchen instead of having it sit there idle just for the country club participant church people once a month?
What if we used our church group-- I mean, we're meeting all the time, we're coming to a centralized place every week. How about the church group adopt five, six, 10 farmers locally and have the farmers bring all the food that everybody eats when everybody gathers there anyway. And now suddenly nobody has to go to the broad way that leads to destruction called the supermarket, and they're embracing the narrow way, the alternative approach and spending their money in the community instead of sending it to things that are completely opposite what they say they believe.
And you leverage the buying power of the church group that's already there and meeting any way to create a place for these five, six, seven, eight, 10 farmers to come. Now you've employed 10 farmers. They can quit their town jobs and actually do what they really want to do. And the church adopts these people and becomes integrated into the local food system.
What if at the next church potluck dinner, everybody brought cards, recipe cards, that the dishes they brought-- that means you can't bring Kentucky Fried Chicken-- and the source farms for the ingredients in the dishes to the church potluck. To create relationships, to create connections, to create an embracing and inclusive system rather than exclusive.
These are all things that can put the Christian community in a high moral creation stewardship role. Folks, the earth is the Lord's, it's not ours. The earth is the Lord's. What kind of return on investment are we giving him for His investment in such an awesome mess?
So at our farm, our mantra is healing the land one bite at a time. Because ultimately, if it's not healing, it's not acceptable. And just as God has extended His redemptive capacity into our lives spiritually, to as the catechism says bring glory to himself and live with Him forever, we are His hands and feet. We are His ambassadors here. We are the caretakers of His creation.
And that is to be redeemed in a physical, visceral way, as a demonstration-- as a demonstration of His redemptive capacity, spiritually. And if the Christian community would rise up and take this visceral message, this visceral mission and actually create oases of healing and landscape redemptive capacity in our farms, our landscapes, our lawns, our gardens, our food systems, we would demonstrate to our community the amazing, awesome healing power of our God.
And I suggest that that is something big enough, sacred enough, awesome enough to occupy the life of every one of us. God help us to do it. Thank you so much.
ANNOUNCER: Thank you. We are going to take some time for questions. I would like to ask a couple of students to help me out and run the microphones up the aisles. First, a couple of brief announcements. One, thanks to the Moose Wood restaurant, we have a few gift cards to give away this evening. Anybody like the Moose Wood?
All right. We're going to do that at the end of the Q&A. It'll be before 9 o'clock, so you've got to stick around for the Q&A if you want to participate in the opportunity to get a gift card.
Second, every once in a while I like to do this and I think tonight's a good night to do it. I would just be curious to see how many folks traveled an hour or more to get here this evening? Look at that, isn't that impressive?
Did anybody travel two hours to get here this evening? Look at that-- one, two, couple of people. Three hours? No. No. Two-- we got people driving two hours just to be here tonight. That's awesome, give them a hand.
We had a phone call from somebody in Montreal. Said, oh, Joel Salatin's going to be there, we might have to come! Have you ever heard of the internet? We have it live streamed.
OK, we're going to go to questions. A little bit of coaching here, if I may. A good question is concise. A good question asks a question. A good question has a question mark at the end of it, and it's usually characterized by a voice going up at the end of it like this, OK? This is not a time for you to give a mini lecture. This is a time for us to engage our guest. So let's please keep it concise and keep it to questions. OK?
When the microphone comes to you, we're also going to ask you to please stand so that our speaker knows where the voice is coming from in the audience.
JOEL SALATIN: And we will stop the Q&A promptly at 10 minutes till 9. So I'm just telling you that so you know where we're headed and Carl's committed to getting everybody out of here I think by 9. So good. All right, who wants to be the first? Yes?
AUDIENCE: Hello, my name is Will. My question to you is what are the most common conflicts that people assume are between the world views of Christianity, libertarianism, environmentalism, capitalism. What are the most common conflicts people see between those and how do you reconcile those conflicts?
JOEL SALATIN: Well, one of the most common conflicts in all those things-- well, let me-- I can't speak to every single thing, but let me let me just say this. That in full disclosure, the reason that I say I'm a Christian, libertarian, environmentalist, capitalist lunatic is because I see assets and liabilities in every one of those things.
The problem with Christians, if you will, is that they have not embraced creation stewardship and have labeled anybody that dares to use that kind of terminology as, you know, a commie, pinko, liberal wacko, whatever. OK?
So that's my problem with the Christians. And too often, you know, in the gospels, Jesus says that the people of this world in their generation are-- what's the word? More aware or something like that than the children of life. And that's a very sobering thing, you know?
We Christians, sometimes we get up in our righteous hackles about things. I mean, an example, just to show-- an example would be prohibition, for example. Now, I'm not an alcoholic. I'm almost-- I mean, I I call wine my [INAUDIBLE]. I drink it when I have to. But you gotta realize, you know, my dad grew up Pentecostal, so I mean, alcohol was, all right. I'm over that, so I can drink it now and not feel guilty, that's OK. But the point is, the prohibition, the Christians really pushed that forward. But what that did for the first time in our nation's history, it set legal precedent for the government to tell you what you could or could not eat. And that created an entire slippery slope of assumption that it's fine for the government to tell me I can't drink raw milk, or the government to tell me I have to vaccinate my kids with measles shots, or, are you with me?
And so, you know, I warn my Christian friends all the time, listen. If you're going to get righteous-- righteously indignant about something, you better be cotton-picking sure that it's the right thing. Because often, we get all emotionally involved with something, and next thing you know, we're clear over here, all right? Libertarians, I love libertarians, but the problem with libertarians is that they're-- too often, they don't appreciate the value of the commons.
Now, it's interesting, we do a very formal internship, apprenticeship program. And because of our beliefs, you can imagine we get a lot of homeschoolers, some Christians and stuff like that through our intern and an apprentice program. And it's amazing to me how many of them I'll ask when they come, how many of you have ever heard the word commons, the commons? You'd be surprised how many have never heard the word. And yet, if you're reading ecological stuff, environmental stuff, I mean, this is one of the signature pieces of damaging the commons, right?
And so that's the libertarian problem. And it is really a problem. I mean, take fracking, for example, you know? Who bears the responsibility if my spring stops or gets tainted because fracking destroyed the commons, you know, the aquifer that all the water is from? You're extracting energy that you didn't put there-- it was put there who knows how long ago, it won't be replenished. You know, doesn't the community whence it came bear some value there? Is it just whoever can bore the hole and get a private property owner to agree to it?
That's a lot of the problem with libertarians. You know, I had some visitors from Mongolia at the farm last year, five guys from Mongolia. And of course, you can't own land there. And for us red-blooded, conservative Americans, I mean, property-- personal property, I mean that's-- that's the glory of America, right? And so I asked them, I said, so if I wanted to farm in your community, how would I-- how would I-- I'm a young person, I want to farm.
They said, well, you'd put a business plan together, you come before the village elders and present it, and if they think it's interesting and OK, they will give you a section of land, and let you go. And if at the end of the year they like it, you go ahead and over time, you develop a reputation as a steward, and you either keep it, or you don't. And I said, well, what does this cost? They said, oh, about $0.25 an acre.
The world I live in, here in the US, working with Severin at the greenhorn, some of you may know Severin. You know, where we're dealing with land prices of $8,000, $9,000, $10,000 as a real impediment for young people to get in, $0.25 an acre as an entry level, and just getting village elders to sign off on an interesting plan, sounds like not a worse impediment than trying to-- are you with me? So I'm even over that private property is the only way. Maybe tribes with talking sticks and peace pipes sitting in a tipi, sectioning it off.
You know, my brother was an airplane pilot for new tribes mission in Indonesia. They didn't have land ownership, either. But they have successional, multigenerational handshake agreements and divisions of properties, no deeds. But, you know, I'm over the idea that George Wythe, who was Thomas Jefferson's teacher at William and Mary College. In colonial America, George Wythe said that the Native Americans were all just barbarians.
And why? Well, because they don't have Robert's Rules of Order, they don't have wigs, they don't have parliamentary procedure, they don't have stage coaches or cobblestone streets. And the fact that they had these cool dug out canoes, and used a talking stick, and had alliances that traverse hundreds of miles, and-- they were still barbarians, because they weren't like me, see? And that's the old conquistador mentality, see, that's the problem. So libertarians.
Environmentalists. All right, the problem with environmentalists is that they are walking around with a very jaundiced view toward what we can and cannot do in the landscape. And I get this. The story of civilization is often a story of environmental rape. It is. I mean, deserts, sediment in streams, I mean, every great civilization has destroyed itself by famine by agricultural abuse, all right? The directive was concise questions, it wasn't about concise answers.
So I get the guilt package on thinking, conscious people, thoughtful people, when they read history and become almost gun shy, if you will. All of my ancestors have hurt the land. How do I interact in it without hurting it? And so, I just won't. And if we want land use to be correct, we need to get rid of all the ranchers and turn it into Buffalo commons, and put it all into national parks, and state parks, and wilderness areas, and get the humans off the land.
I call that environmentalism by abandonment. But I propose an alternative. So that, I think, is a-- I think it's a well-intentioned, but it's not the full story. The other part of the story is that we do have a big brain, opposing thumbs, mechanical ability. And so, what have I been endowed with this big brain and opposing thumbs, these blessings, for? Is it to be the most efficacious rapist in the world?
Or, could it be to use my acuity and my mechanical ability to the most clever, redemptive capacity, to caress our ecological womb, and be the healing hands of a benevolent god. Is that possible? And I suggest that it is. And that's one of the reasons why I have such deep appreciation for permaculture. Because permaculture dares to look at a landscape and say, you know what? The way that landscape fell together, the terrain, the ravines, all this, it's not the most perfect system. We can make it better.
But it's not arrogant better, it's humble better. It's-- before the Europeans came, the North American continent was literally 10% water from beaver ponds. I mean, what if the wetland legislation had been around then? We'd be in big doo-doo, OK? So the reason I like the permaculturalists is that they're willing to come in, humbly look at the patterns of nature, and say, OK we want water stored as high as possible. We want-- we want carbon-centric systems, we want perennial systems, not annual systems.
And so they're willing to massage our nest with creative mechanical ability to tease out more solar energy converted into biomass, building soil, and hydrating the landscape. That's what we're for. That's what we're here for, OK? And when we do that, we demonstrate forgiveness, we demonstrate mercy, we demonstrate redemptive capacity. Capitalists, the problem with capitalism-- and I'm a capitalist, but I'm not a complete capitalist. The problem with capitalism is that unless it's moral, it's no better than socialism, fascism, Nazism, or communism, or anything else.
And what's happened is, we have lost our moral compass. Unless there is something, unless there is a definite set of moral ethics outside the system to guide the capitalist, he just becomes a greedy, whatever, you know, an ogre. OK? And I'm afraid that's where we're headed very quick in our country. Too big to fail. We should have let it all fail, and what would have happened would have been a whole lot of little independent answers springing up to answer the problem.
My question is not, is it too big to fail? My question is, is it too big to be correct? So I hope I've answered some of the questions, anyway. There are tensions in all those. That's why I've used them all, because I've found that by just simply taking a kind of a humorous look way to view it all, it was a way for me to walk into a room and say, wait a minute, don't pigeon hole me. One minute, I'm selling like a ra-- in fact, I was in Toronto last week and I got done-- not this presentation, but a whole different one, and a guy walked up to me and he said, he said, wow, I can't imagine the US let you stay there. You are the best Marxist I've heard in a long time, brother.
He was a Marxist, you know, he thought I was the best Marxist he'd ever heard, and I'm saying whoa.
So I say I can equally infuriate everybody, and massage everybody. So it's a wonderful bridge. Other questions, now that I burned up 15 minutes on that one?
AUDIENCE: Hi, my name is Esther, and, I guess as a student involved with academia, one of the questions I have is, how do you viscerally engage the world, even though it's through academia?
JOEL SALATIN: How do you, I'm sorry--
AUDIENCE: Viscerally engage the world--
JOEL SALATIN: Engage the world--
AUDIENCE: Through academia.
JOEL SALATIN: Through academia. Viscerally engage the world through academia. Well, what you have to do is do projects that are practical, and that actually have substantive meaning. I'll probably be-- I don't know what'll happen to me, but I think we probably have about three times as many people in college today as we should have. There is not a vocational trade anywhere that isn't desperately begging for artisans, for craft people, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, mechanical engineers, designers, craftsmen, OK? We are desperate for those.
In fact, if you read the book The Millionaire Next Door, which is a little bit of an iconic cultural book, The Millionaire Next Door, what you find is that the millionaires are not white collar. They're all blue collar. They run landscape companies, excavation, electricians, plumbers, and they didn't wait to see what they wanted to do when they were 30. They started doing it when they were 16. Started their own business, they're entrepreneurs. OK?
They're not trying to get a $100,000 student loan, which then constrains them for the rest of their life to go seek a Dilbert cubicle expression in a Fortune 500 company working for the man somewhere, building things in fantasy land. We had a we had the most amazing apprentice. This apprentice was 28 years old, he'd been working-- he was a sharp master's-- all right, he was sharp as a tack, and he had been for five years, working in the bellies of the financial bank of America in New York City.
Cushy job, top-notch, all right? Young, aggressive. One day, he had a meltdown and he went down and he said, man, I just got to, he said I've got I've got to get outside. So anyway, he found us, applied, we took him. And I'll remember it like yesterday. It was one of those epiphanies for me, as you just see culture. And we're at the supper table, comes into supper. And I saw that something was, you know, he was moved about something, and so we started eating, and I said, Galen, what's up?
And he started to cry, his lips started to tremble, and he said, you know, when I was in Bank of America, working in that cubicle every day, he said, I built economic models with team members. One team member was in Tokyo, one team member was in London, and one team member was in Shanghai, and me. We built these models. At the end of the day, I hit a button, and it went into cyberspace. I never saw-- I never saw them, I went home and I had my little Chinese takeout, and sat and watched a movie.
And then I got up the next day and did the same thing. And he's, now, you know, the tears are coming. He said today, I was out with our team, and we built a Millennium feather net. It's a shelter for chickens, a portable shelter for chickens, for 1,000 chickens. And he said, I could talk to my team in person, eye contact. We were hammering, screwing, cutting boards, building this thing. I could touch what I was building, I could hug them at the end of the day, and I'm going to go to bed tonight and know that when I wake up in the morning, I can see my team, and I can go out and touch what I built.
And by this time, he's just crying. And it was an epiphany for me to understand when Wendell Berry talks about what are humans for, the desire of people to create, to build something practical, to be something that creates a personal, self-actualized legacy. You have to find that for you. A lot of people today never do, never do. And I would just encourage you to keep seeking. Because if you seek, you'll find. Good question, thank you. Another one?
AUDIENCE: You seem to think highly of solar, but I was just wondering how you account for its pitfalls, like the pollution created by the manufacturing and disposal of the panels, and just kind of-- and the net gain of practically zero, when you factor in all the disposal and manufacturing. Is it really this energy panacea? Is it just the lesser of all the evils?
JOEL SALATIN: Yeah, it's a great question. When I say solar energy, I don't mean solar panels, I mean photosynthetics. And the fact is, this may sound as a surprise to you. The fact is, we should be harvesting about oh, probably 20 times as many trees as we are. The fact is that we now have way more trees than we've ever had, even arguably more than there was before the Europeans came, because we're not using wood anymore.
We're just using it for lumber, we're not using it for burning. In fact, there's a lot of emphasis-- there's a lot of science behind the fact that wood smoke actually is the most magnetic particle to condense atmospheric moisture, and that we would actually have much more consistent rain patterns if we had a lot more smoky fires-- rather than petroleum, rather than nitrous oxide, and those kinds of things. So I'm a big believer in biomass. So when I say solar, I'm not talking about-- and I'm not necessarily opposed solar panels.
I'd rather not get into that argument, because I see both sides of that. I know where you're coming from, and I'm not going to debate that, OK? I'm just not. But I think that the biomass one is a no-brainer, because the forests are filled with diseased, crooked, failing trees that are actually net carbon dioxide exuders rather than cyclers. Not only that, but if we went to a pasture-based livestock system instead of an annual-based system, corn and beans, that would fundamentally change atmospheric carbon by sequestering it.
What we do on our farm, we call it Mob Stocking Herbivorous Solar Conversion Lignified Carbon Sequestration Fertilization
And that-- and that does not take chemical fertilizer, it does not take John Deere tractors, it does not take government subsidies, it does not take pesticides and herbicides. It's a completely cyclical system, so that the herbivore eats it on site, fertilizes it on site, and nothing gets moved except the final either milk, or meat, or whatever product. Totally different in an integrated system, as opposed to a segregated. And if that became the agricultural system, we would drop our energy needs by 20% or 30%.
And when you start dropping your energy needs, and you start producing more food on a tenth the energy, you suddenly get a lot of flows going in the right direction. The problem is that to farm like we do completely inverts the power, position, prestige, and profits of the entire food and farming system. And there's a lot of people that don't want that ship to turn around. That, you know, that's the bottom line. So I'm a big believer in biomass, I think-- I can envision, goodness, you know, then you get into the debate about energy costs, gas and diesel.
I think that we ought to-- I'll just go out, you know, I'm already off the cliff, so-- we should close-- we should close all of our foreign military bases and bring everybody home, let the people go wherever they want to. Trust me, Israel can take care of themselves, they're not going to be taken over, not until God says so. So Israel can take care of themselves. And bring everything home, and keep all that money at home, change our infrastructure, hoe our own garden, and be a light to the world, instead of being an empire that's trying to mind everybody else's garden.
And what happens is, that if energy went to whatever cost it's supposed to be, then it would stimulate a lot of these innovative alternatives. I can imagine, for example, on-farm little steam engines running domestic hot water and a generator, and where you generate all your electricity from the bottom up, instead of the top down, and you completely decentralize all of these major infrastructural systems. Then, guess what? If you put a solarium on the side of every house using plastic, you took all the diesel fuel currently carting tomatoes from-- where are we?
We're-- yeah, we're really, this is good, we're up north. If you take all the diesel fuel that currently carts California and Florida tomatoes in February to Syracuse, New York, and you took all that fuel, and you put it in plastic solariums on the side of every single building on campus, every house in the town, then everybody could grow their own mesclun mix and winter-hearty carrots, and beets, and things in the wintertime, eliminate the trucks. Now we don't have to build the roads, now you don't have as much traffic on the bridges.
You see, these things-- as soon as you start down a really different direction, all sorts of dominoes begin to fall. Just like when you start the wrong direction, the dominoes, whatever, fall the wrong way. You can make them fall the other way. And the answer-- the answer is not to simply slow down the direction we're going. If you're going the wrong way, you don't go where you want to go by simply slowing down how fast you're going the wrong direction. You go where you want to go by turning around 180 degrees and going a different-- you know, going a totally different way.
I am out of time, but it has been a total pleasure to be with you. Now, may all of your carrots grow long and straight, may your radishes be large, but not pithy. May the coyotes be struck blind at your pastured chickens, may all of your culinary experiments be delectably palatable. May the wind be always at your back, the rainfall gently on your fields, your children rise and call you blessed, and may we all make our nest a better place than we inherited, for His glory. Thank you so much.
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Joel Salatin, 57, is a full-time farmer in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley. A third generation alternative farmer, he returned to the farm full-time in 1982 and continued refining and adding to his parents' ideas. The family farm, Polyface, achieved iconic status as the grass farm featured in Michael Pollan's New York Times bestseller 'Omnivore's Dilemma' and in the award-winning film documentary, 'Food Inc.'
The Alan T. and Linda M. Beimfohr Lecture is sponsored by Chesterton House.