Scaling up without selling your soul – Part 10


Finally, as we grow, we must never compromise quality. Plenty of great small business grow up to be ho-hum big businesses. Whatever growth occurs, it can never happen at the expense of quality. With clear conscience, I can honestly say that at 20,000 broilers they are better quality than when we did only 300. For sure, our beef at 500 head is better than it was at 20. That’s because our goals are not about sales; they are about quality.

One of our primary goals is that every year, we must have more happily copulating earthworms. Kind of the ultimate agronomic shindig. If the earthworms are happy, everything else falls into place. That goal drives how we handle manure, where we put animals, how we handle the landscape. It drives everything.

Is your business encouraging earthworms? Or a worthwhile counterpart? Change is inevitable. But change can be detrimental or positive, depending on what direction it heads. Too many great little businesses grow up to be bad big businesses. I desperately don’t want to be one of those.

As we grow, our suppliers should be happier. Our team members should be happier, more enthusiastic. Our customers should be more loyal. Our water should be purer. Our service should be better in every way. And our products should last longer, cause less pollution, stay out of landfills easier. At the end of the day, does any facet of our business require us to do some fancy talking? Maybe pull up a partition to hide something. Maybe keep us from full disclosure. Embarrassed? Require cleverspeak?

I’m reminded of Tyson claiming “Raised without antibiotics” on chickens when they figured out how to inject antibiotics in the chick before it hatched. Talk about cleverspeak. Same as those bucolic pastoral scenes on industrial organic eggs when the chickens are actually confined in a 10,000 bird house. Better is not cheaper. Better is not shortcuts. Better is not doctored reports. Better is just better.

As I close, let me confess that much of this wouldn’t fly very far on Wall Street. But if you look at it closely, none of this is anti-business. It just puts ethical and moral boundaries around human cleverness, or human capital. And ultimately, that has to be good for business.

As we consider what this level of philosophical innovation means, let’s be big enough to appreciate that western business thinking has not always been moral or ethical. A little easternism would do us all some good, realizing that the sum is bigger than the parts, it’s about holism, and everything is related. True innovative synergism occurs when we strike a balance between the parts-oriented western discovery and eastern moral, ethical thought. When we find the sweet spot, we’ll be able to SCALE UP WITHOUT SELLING OUR SOUL.

By Joel Salatin
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About Sheri Salatin

Sheri is married to Daniel Salatin. She is the marketing director at Polyface Farm and stay-at-home mom of three children. Sheri is passionate about clean food and is enjoying working the land along side her husband. When not farming, Sheri can be found reading, writing, sewing, baking and serving in her church family.

8 Responses to Scaling up without selling your soul – Part 10

  1. dave edwards says:

    I will probably never meet any of you personally in this life, so I want you to know how much I appreciate your gift to us. We live in turbulent times and I take comfort and courage knowing evil is put on notice because good men and families like yours do good as per the quote “evil happens when good men do nothing.” My wife and two children are in the adventure of micro farming in the Okanagan Valley. We have three acres and are slowly developing it into a poyface farm, the Edwards family farm. The worms look like their happy! thanks again. dave and family

  2. Myland Pride says:

    We can’t wait to come visit! We are so impressed by everything we have recently learned about your farm…I was sick and recently had to stop eating like every other uninformed American. My dietary changes have made a ton of difference. Though I don’t eat much meat, if I were to eat any it would be from farms like yours. We will come visit and buy as much as we can carry back safely. May turn into a quarterly drive across the countryside of VA. Maybe a B&B nearby!! Thanks for all you are doing to change the food lanscape in America. We need thousands more like you to overcome the poisoning that USDA and FDA are allowing to occur. God Bless you and your family and we wish you all bountiful blessings and success. Colonel Myland and Trish Pride

  3. CJ Morgan says:

    I am a 20 year old college student who grew up in a rural setting, working on small typical agribusiness farms in northeastern Ohio. Since a young age I have always felt that there was something wrong with our system. I started raising my own pork for 4-H and saw such a huge difference in quality that I was convinced locally grown animal and food products are the way to go and really started getting into the locally grown sustainable food movement. Now after stumbling across your farm and your back to nature approach I feel like this is what I want to do with my life, even though I’m currently in school to get a degree in the natural resource field as a park officer or game warden. I would love nothing more than to work or run a farm exactly like yours, I just wish I had a good starting place and I would be at it! Thank you so much for all the inspiration and motivation people like you truly do make a difference

  4. E Buechner says:

    After watching Food, Inc. I was inspired to check out your website and philosophy. Even though I don’t eat much “meat”, I truly appreciate your holistic approach to production. I wish more farmers had the integrity to follow in your footsteps, even though I realize that it is quite difficult in this fast-paced, capitalistic environment. All people are just trying to survive the best way they can. But, If more people were willing to stand up for their beliefs for a better world, then, well, this would be a better world. I must say that I am not a religious individual, and even though I gather that your approach is rooted in a moralistic viewpoint, morals go far beyond religion or political association and are at the heart of pure compassion for human nature and the world around us. Thank you for your compassion.

  5. Jamie says:

    Gday all my names Jamie and I live and run a beef farm in Vic austraila and I just love what joel does with his farm I am about to start doing the same things just want to know if u r coming back to Australia

  6. Nick Post says:

    Hello! Came to your site to educate myself a bit on what you do. I’m reading Ominvore’s Dilemma in an English class and loved your spunk and philosophies that were depicted (that was about the only entertaining part of the book, honestly. Good info, just info overload). I’m actually writing a paper that will focus on some of your vision. May the Lord continue His blessings upon you, your family and your farm!

  7. Hi! Thank you for your great work. After 36 years of serving the big farms and university research programs with our family business, I eagerly look to your philosophy for a new direction for farming in America.

  8. Hello Joel and family,

    Thank you for providing a blueprint for sustainability! As you suggest, this could be applied to any business. For instance, if the business started with the idea that any waste needed to be fully recyclable, and employee and customer satisfaction should come well before profit, it would revolutionize things…