Scaling up without selling your soul – Part 7
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7. STAY WITHIN THE ECOLOGICAL CARRYING CAPACITY
Numerous people have encouraged Polyface to become the Tyson of pastured poultry. But one of the distinguishing characteristics of an environmentally friendly farm compared to one that doesn’t care about the environment is how it handles the waste stream. In Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), including large processing plants, the waste stream overpowers the surrounding ecology, the landscape. That’s why they stink to high heavens.
But beyond that, waste must be carted all over the countryside to get it spread out because the nearby land simply cannot metabolize all that waste. In many places, feedlots, hog factories, and chicken houses generate 10 times the waste that can be ecologically metabolized on the land where the CAFO is located. Manure, guts, blood, feathers and whatever enter the global trafficking channels rather than staying where they were generated. Imagine if every time you swept your house and emptied your trash, you had so much that it spilled out of your yard and cascaded into your neighbor’s yard? Now you see why the industrial-sized butcher, baker, and candlestick maker have been kicked out of the village and banished to highly rural, out-of-sight areas.
As we’ve expanded at Polyface, we’ve carefully defined the ecological carrying capacity and refuse to haul manure or waste anywhere. This forces us to decentralize, stay divested across the landscape, and remain aesthetically and aromatically attractive.
We provide a habitat that allows each plant and animals to fully express its physiological distinctiveness—i.e. the pigness of the pig. In our Graeco-Roman western linear reductionist compartmentalized fragmented individualistic systematized disconnected paradigm, plants and animals are just inanimate piles of protoplasmic structure to be manipulated however cleverly the human mind can conceive to manipulate them. I suggest that a society which disrespects and dishonors the pigness of the pig to that extent will also view its citizens with an equivalent egocentric manipulative mindset—and other cultures. It’s how we respect and honor the least of these that creates an ethical, moral foundation upon which we honor and respect the greatest of these.
The beginning of civilization is civil, or civility. The hog industry right now is using our tax dollars to figure out how to pull the stress gene out of pigs so that we can abuse them more aggressively but they won’t mind. Talk about being uncivilized.The local ecology includes the workforce. When industrial processing plants overpower a community with low paid foreign workers, it destroys the community ecology. A business that can’t or won’t hire its neighbors due to poor working conditions, low pay, repetitive motion sickness, or anything else, is not neighbor friendly. Redesigning the business to fit, to nest into the local ecology takes innovation, but anything less will create social, environmental, and pathogenic upheavals.
This principle is one of the reasons why those of us in the healing food movement say our food is the cheapest on the planet: because we don’t externalize costs to society. Ours may carry a higher sticker price, but all the costs are figured in. We’re not destroying groundwater, giving someone food borne illness, or stinking up the neighborhood. Appreciating our landscape and people resource ecology and staying within those parameters is simply foundational to being a good citizen.
To be continued…
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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.
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5 Responses to Scaling up without selling your soul – Part 7

  1. Thomas Duck says:

    Good Morning

    My wife found you sight yesterday and we love the concept. I have been trying to get to the country for 40 years. A very long story. However I am persistent. We are looking to move to the suburbs of Portland. This is Alpaca, and wine country. The area is rich in small farms with organic being a primary theme. Lots of fresh fruits and veggies being sold at stands and local markets. I have been interested in sustainability for a long time and now seems like an even better time. God has a plan for me life and I think this is the next phase. Not a kid anymore but the gas tank is still pretty full. Which one one of the books would be a good starting place for us.

    • Sheri Salatin says:

      I would recommend that you start with Joel’s YOU CAN FARM 🙂 Blessings on your ventures!

  2. James L Tyree II says:

    I live in the suburbs of Portland and I am interested in helping you on your mission Tom.

  3. Liz Pabello says:

    This is so amazing! I am so moved by what you are doing! Thank you so much for the inspiration. I knew that it could be done, and now I have a model to follow. I will keep reading and hopefully, one day, will have a small organic farm of my own to inspire others with.
    Do you know of any in the Midwest that follow your model? (Chicago area)
    Liz Pabello

  4. Casey Willette says:

    Your lives are our role models. We have decided this is the way we want to take our lives and are going to accomplish it eventually. We have made babysteps but keep pushing forward. Thank you for all you do and for being an inspiration to people trying to better the world.