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Joel Salatin and the Rise of the Pasture-Based Farm

Joel Salatin. The New York Times calls him " the high priest of the pasture" and we call him our inspiration. If you don't know who Joel Salatin is, you are not alone but over the past five years or so, Salatin has moved into the limelight and into the minds of many as a celebrity farmer. With appearances in movies such as Fresh and the food horror movie Food Inc., Salatin has made a name for himself when it comes to what you do want on your plate.

Joel Salatin is a farmer and lecturer from Virginia who raises animals in a holistic way on pasture free of harmful chemicals. Some of Salatin's ideas on farming are unconventional but put into practice, they really work and are generally healing to the earth. Salatin calls himself a grass farmer and his first priority on his farm is creating the best soil possible. He uses his livestock to add fertility to his soils, rotating them onto fresh forages daily, sequestering carbon along the way. Salatin has quite a following and pasture-based farming has exploded in the past few years. Despite his contributions to the farming world, the best thing about Joel in my mind is his positive outlook on life, the guy is just as happy as a clam and he truly loves his job. Who doesn't love a positive guy?

Chris and I first heard of Salatin when we read Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma back in 2006. We got so excited about Salatin's ideas about farming and his simple, commom sense approach to business and farming that we just craved more infornation about him. Chris decided to go to Virginia to see if Salatin was all he was cracked up to be. He signed up for an intensive two day workshop that covered all of the basics of Salatin's Polyface Farm.

Upon Chris's return home, we became farmers. Salatin turned out to be much more than we had ever dreamed. We dived into any and all information about sustainable farming, read all of Salatin's books and articles and started to farm. Chris learned how to put his fears aside and just do it. Chris explained to me that on Salatin's farm not every angle on every structure is straight. He learned that Joel doesn't let the need for perfection hold him back, he just gets it done. Those words really helped us and we wouldn't be where we are today if we hadn't just taken the plunge into uncharted waters.

So on these cold winter nights when we aren't as busy in the fields and the season seems a long way off, we think back to when we first started farming and the reasons why we are passionate about what we do. We thank Joel Salatin and all of the other farmers in the numerous peiodicals, books and lectures that we have read and sat through. We know there are many, many farmers out there who have learned so much from Joel and none of us could do what we do without the hard work of farmers like the Salatins. Thank you!


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