Scaling up without selling your soul – Part 9


At Polyface, we only raise meat chickens in the summer because that’s when they can be out on pasture. We work in the woods in the winter because that’s when the wood is better, since the sap is down. And the rattlesnakes aren’t around, either. This ebb and flow in the work cycle feeds our emotions with down times and sprint times. Enjoy this flow.

Industrial animal operations, in contrast, run full bore all the time. No breaks. Consequently workers get burned out, owners get burned out, and the children don’t want any part of it. In fact, most farm parents don’t want their kids to farm. That’s why the average American farmer is now almost 60 years old. The business axiom that puts age 35 as the median for any thriving economic sector is real.

In the winter we spend days just lounging around the fire reading books and playing board games. Yes, we sprint in the spring, summer, and fall, but we always have that light at the end of the tunnel to look forward to. We’re excited to see the last broiler go into the freezer in the fall because we’re rich and tired. We’re just as excited to see the new chicks arrive in the spring because we’re rested and poor.

We have many customers who push us to defy the seasons, build a confinement poultry house, and go into year-round production. But that would not only compromise our pastured product integrity, it would put us on a treadmill. Are you on a treadmill?

I recently visited a large e-corporation and all the employees I talked with were frustrated that they could never get breathing room. The pace became faster each month; expectations higher. Schedule some downtime. Some R&R. And let the business enjoy cyclical movement. It will energize everyone’s batteries. The assumption that scaling up the corporate ladder requires us to sacrifice our families and marriages is an unrighteous, evil axiom in America. Our frenetic, work-aholic lifestyles, contrary to popular opinion, are highly abnormal in the continuum of human history. The times of our lives will always trump the paychecks of our lives.

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.

7 Responses to Scaling up without selling your soul – Part 9

  1. Anonymous says:

    How could someone ask you to defy the seasons?!?! isn’t that the whole point?? please stay true to your beliefs…that’s why most of us buy from you!

  2. Monique says:

    I will continue to support the Polyface way of raising and selling meat. Thank you for your dedication to principles that can help ensure good, honest food.

  3. James L Tyree II says:

    As a field mowing contractor, I follow the seasons, and hope that this years winter, I can rest and still pay my bills. It will be an interesting process to figure out how to do that.Any suggestions? I am in Portland OR

  4. Ed Pitts says:

    I stated, “new chicks arrive in the spring”… Where do you get large amounts of chicks that are free of hormones?

  5. velvie mckenzie says:

    I was wondering the same thing as Ed. We are just starting out farming. We have been slowly replacing perimiter fence the past two years so we know our livestock is safe. We have also been purchasing breeding stock in cattle, old world Galloway which can get to be expensive. I had thought about using several species in a rotational format to break the parasite cycle and have went with muskovy ducks and heritage chickens. But most heritage chickens just dont get to that 6 lb mark with the Dolly Parton breast line our society wants. And keeping all those guys during the wi.ter is an oucher. I had avoided market broilers because their insides show they are highly stressed. Or at least the ones that my kids got for 4-H were. Heart liver and gallbladder were WAY bigger then normal. Is this because of the breeding or because they are fed nothing but grain? I hadnt contemplated the grain aspect until the middle of the last sentance. I am in SE Ohio. There are no sustainable farms here that i have been able to locate. There are so many questions I have. I hope to get this figured out then do internships with young kids kinda like a summer camp wvhere they learn how to feed their families and raise good healthy food. We have a diabetis and cancer pocket here. Tired of hereing about kids dying and i beleive with evey cell in my body its because what these kids are eating. So, i am going to invest in a coue of Joel’s books and pray it helps answer my questions and moves me along a little faster. God bless you for being a proverbial lighthouse for farmers. Wish i had found you when i first started. That way i wouldnt have lost precious time reinventing the wheel. But i have found you now and. I so appreciate your openness and willingness to share.

  6. Josh says:

    I have to say that your reasoning about why the average age of farmers is flat wrong and deceiving. In the Midwest and upper South, we lost an entire generation of farmers after the farm crisis. That had nothing to do with working conditions, and much to do with poor financial conditions created by bad Federal gov’t policy. Farmers spent years or decades staving off bankruptcy. Some were successful at that, but many were not. But even the survivors didn’t want their children to suffer through that again. I guess that fact doesn’t fit your narrative.

  7. Julie says:

    I realize this is an old comment thread; however, Josh, I believe that is the point Mr Salatin is making– the need to borrow & be always in debt, only breaking even when the next seed & equipment loan arrived (my grandparents & uncles have been caught in this vicious cycle) is a big part of the problem. This series of articles touches on this aspect in a previous post when they reveal how they acquired funding– slowly and surely. No one is villainizing victims of the farm crisis (crisEs)… only sharing a better way– better for ALL involved. Thanks!