Thoughts from Joel

A documentary videographer from Spain spent the day at Polyface today, getting pictures of cow moves, poultry processing, feathernet moving, and new pastured poultry salad bars. He interviewed me for an hour and as the conversation went along, he asked: “Is there a war?”

He was responding to my explanation of industrial food’s attacks on pasture-based livestock as anti-science, Luddite, and threatening to the world’s food production. After all, our chickens commune with Red Winged blackbirds who take our chicken’s diseases to the science-based Tyson chicken houses, destroying the planet’s food supply.

Anyone who thinks the heritage based, nutrient dense, pasture-based, low-energy, life-honoring model is winning has not kept up with the new attacks from corporate food. As long as our side stays below 1 percent of the food supply, we’re just an annoying gnat. But as people drop
out of industrial food, the food lord elitists ensconced in their corporate castles unleash their campaign to marginalize, demonize, and criminalize us.

Perhaps one of the funniest questions people ask me out on the speaking trail is: “How do your neighbors feel about you? Do they just come over to learn all the time?” Folks, not only do they not want to know what we’re doing, they actually believe the industrial food elitists who say we
threaten their livelihood with disease and will eventually destroy the planet’s food supply. To be fair, not all of our neighbors, but most.

Shortly after the videographer left, Wendy, our gatekeeper, called and said the man I had lined up only an hour earlier to bring us a load of sawdust on Monday was canceling
because of the way we abused our cows. I called him back and he refused to bring us sawdust at any price because of FOOD INC. He said what we represented was so reprehensible that he could not imagine selling us sawdust. I responded: “Well, I guess we know where you stand.” To which he replied: “Yes indeed. If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”
Animal abuse? Of course. If you don’t vaccinate, medicate, hormone inject–use all the science based techniques–you’re abusing your animals.

In other words, I’m sure this man would support police action against Polyface to protect the Shenandoah Valley’s agriculture from our anti-scientific methods.

You moms who refuse to get your children vaccinated for H1N1 are abusing your children just like I abuse our cows. The thought of denying them the latest science-based drugs is an act of war. Yes, we are at war. Obviously my sawdust guy has picked his side. And I’ve picked mine.
How about you?

Joel Salatin, October 9, 2009

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25 Responses to Thoughts from Joel

  1. Big Catalpa Farm says:

    We are one of your neighbors (8 miles or so over the hills and through the woods in Fishersville) and are grateful to have an advocate like you in our midst. We raise and sell produce. Our philosophy includes ecological farming (i.e.,we don't kill bugs except without our fingers)

    Honestly, I'm feeling a little militant about industrial food especially after reading the recent New York Times report on the woman who was exposed to e coli.

    I have boycotted all fast food and grocery store beef and spread the word to everyone I know. I do it out of solidarity to the woman who got sick and because feedlots gross me out.

  2. Aaron Base says:

    As conventional ag drone, looking to become a gnat, I've taken it upon myself to get educated. Which means attending the Mid Atlantic Grass Finishing Conference. This means I'm coming to Polyface! I can not wait.

    BTW, what's the weather like, I'm coming in from Oklahoma.

  3. Cerwydwyn says:

    If we're choosing sides, I'm on the anti-vaccination, chemical free side. Amazing about the sawdust man.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I can't believe what the sawdust supplier said. He watched the movie but apparently missed the point. Maybe he needs to see "Fresh: The Movie" as well.

  5. Throwback at Trapper Creek says:

    We have given up on our neighbors, they have been feeding hay since July, and we are still moving through stock-piled forage – talk around town is that we are doing "something" to make that grass grow. And you know what? They're right! Keep up the fight Polyface!

  6. Cyndi Lewis says:

    Wow! Has this world turned upside down or what? I've picked my side but I'm not looking forward to telling my 1 year old's doctor that she (and my other children)are not getting the H1N1 shot.

  7. Jaclyn says:

    I am a wannabe farmer living in Northern BC Canada. We have the same problems here. Everyone thinks its necessary to vaccinate healthy kids, get flu shots, take antibiotics for everything, and its safer to eat McDonalds than to eat spinach for fear of e-coli! It makes me want to scream the ignorance of people. And sadly there are more of your "sawdust suppliers" out there than there are educated and ethical farmers. We dont all need to be the ethical farmers, but should all support them at the very least!

    Know that there are many of us supporting you, and learning from you, here in BC 🙂

  8. Cyndi Lewis says:

    Just heard on the news that the powers that be have found a case of H1N1 in an actual pig. (In Minnisota, I believe.) They think the pig caught it from a child visiting the farm. What wacky laws will come from this?

  9. Carelli says:

    is it possible that the sawdust guy misunderstood and was confusing your cows with the industrial CAFO cows? maybe his brain is scrambled from too much HFCS!

    by the way, my cousin's wife had one of those bad flu shots years ago. she didn't get the flu but she did spend a year in a wheelchair paralyzed from the waist down. give me the flu anyday!

  10. Adam says:

    one of my good friends is literally afraid of eating anything that doesn't come from a package. she says its the germs, even though she knows that natural food has less bacteria etc. she can't explain why she has this fear, but she acts on it every day.

    the "science"-based industrial food system doesn't just use their "science" on antibiotics and food processing equipment. they use the same thought processes to market and advertise their products, and the result is just as sinister.

  11. Paige says:

    *sigh* I love misinformation….

    I take my stance somewhere in the middle. As a member of the health-care community, I have to recognize the benefit to some vaccinations and antibiotics in time of definite need. H1N1 is not one of them. The vaccine has been poorly tested and is a knee-jerk reaction to a panicking public. Honestly, in the general public, H1N1 is no more deadly that the "standard" flu and kills no more people and no different demographic of people than the standard flu. It just has publicity. Other vaccinations for polio, tetanus, and meningitis I see a need for–the chances of your being left disabled or dead by those diseases is high. Or a potentially harmful infection I see as meritous of an antibiotic–not the common cold, ear ache, stomach bug.

    I have a definite problem, however, with not allowing nature to take it's course and creating unnatural conditions. Antibiotic resistance has run rampant because people don't want to deal with a snotty nose or an ear ache for a few days–things that most antibiotics do nothing for as the offending agent was a virus, most likely. And it has become a huge problem in the livestock industry because we're making things live in unnatural, cramped, filthy conditions. I have problems with anything living indoors, without exercise, fresh air, and good food–whether that be an animal or a person. A sedentary lifestyle and an unhealthy diet (by far and large) makes for a society of obese, hypertensive, hypercholesterolemic, diabetic people with chronic pain issues and as well as a wildly poor food supply.

  12. Kim Sikes says:

    My side is beautiful, wholesome and righteous. That's why I'm sticking with Polyface. I have a chest freezer of your meat to get me through the winter. It's like a treasure chest of gold – only better (hey, you can't eat gold)! You don't want his evil sawdust germies to contaminate your animals anyway 😉

  13. Carey says:

    Keep up the fight (and talking about it here!)
    Nice reminder to bring this issue to the top of my prayerlist.
    Great job Polyface!

    Sw MO WAPF Chapter Leader

  14. Mommy Gourmet says:

    So clearly we live under a rock and finally got around to watching Food Inc. Ironically I read in a Gourmet about the slavery tomato pickers are literally kept in. Joel (husband) and I feel…I don't even know how to articulate it all, but the feeling starts at, what has happened to our world, and goes from there.

    My Aunt and Uncle were farmers in Indiana, working the land his grandparents worked, one day they were no longer farmers, I was a kid, now I want to ask why and what happened?

    My husband is from Staunton, we look forward to visiting your farm.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Piking up my first order today in Manassas. obviously ive taken sides since watching the FOOD INC movie. it just confirmed what ive always known and promted action with my wallet. the food bills going to double but oh well….

    I am a military officer and i have dodged the "REQUIREMENT" to take the H1N1 because it just didnt feel right. bosses werent happy but oh well…

    keep fighting POLY FARMS youre gaining more and more fans by the day.

  16. Nick Lemke says:

    I too was introduced to Polyface through the Food Inc documentary. I had always known that the industrial food system was flawed, but was still shocked to see just how so. In contrast, when Joel speaks of his way of farming, his passion and integrity are obvious. After the film, I began reading The Omnivore's Dilemma. We've just received our first buying club order and are anxious to begin enjoying the products. Thanks for the copy of Holy Cows. I'm learning so much that we've even decided to join a local produce CSA. Thanks for educating us.

  17. Tanya says:

    I also was introduced to Polyface through the Food Inc documentary and reading The Omnivore's Dilemma. I was horrified by what I saw in agribusiness and what it's doing to the food system. I feel like I am coming in late to the fight but I just (naively) believed that the FDA protected us and I suppose I believed the packaging when it said "organic" or "free-range". So, I am glad for the education. Would appreciate any other book or documentary recommendations. I am voting with my food dollars (placed my first order today) but are there any other things I can do to help?

  18. Anonymous says:

    Ellijay, Georgia We ordered the DVD Polyface Farm and feel excited about your operation and hope to come up some day soon. We grew up on a dairy farm here in Ellijay. Thanks so much.

  19. Rita says:

    I was introduced to Polyface farm from Food, Inc.The only thing I can sat is WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    People in Virginia are lucky, but what can you do if you live in Missouri?
    IF anybody reading this blog somewhere not too far from St. Louis,please contact me. May be we can get together someway and get some wonderful food.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I've just chosen sides. About 2 hours ago I finished watching Food Inc. I sat, crying, as the realization sunk in that though I nursed my newborn son (now 8 months old) and felt so proud that I was giving him the best nutrition, I ingested CAFO bred, factory-farmed, genetically modified garbage the whole time. God only knows what I have unwittingly served to him! But, thank God, I have eyes to see and ears to hear what is good. Polyface farms has a new customer FOR LIFE (double entendre intended.)

    By the way, I am a federal government employee; very saddened that the agency I work for is complicit in this travesty. Now the dilemma: do I stay and fight the good fight from within, or do I follow my heart and look towards other means of supporting my family? Funny thing is, this is just the latest of "signs" that it may be time to look elsewhere–the hypocrisy is just too much for any conscious person to bear.

    In any event, thank you for your work and commitment. I look forward to picking up my first order on March 20.

  21. Irena says:

    My husband and I watched Food Inc last night. Not going to go into detail about how I felt but can say that my breakfast today didn't taste the same. Ended up having two pieces of toasted wheat bread with orange juice. The documentary was another proof that there is something seriously wrong with the system. I am originally from Ukraine, raised on organic foods grown in our own garden,all seasonal foods, everything tasted great. Imagine my shock when I moved to US 10 years ago. I still can't eat vegetables or fruits, here, they have no taste, no smell. I have a 9 months old daughter and I am researching all I can to make sure she is eating only healthy organic foods no matter how much it costs. It is so scary, and so sad. Thank God there are at least places like Polyface Farm. We placed our first order last night and looking forward to picking it up on March 27th. I doubt I will ever go back to supermarkets to buy meats. Thank You to Joel and everyone on Polyface Farm for working hard and fighting.

  22. Andre Lochin says:

    The industrial system is not science based, it is big-profit based. Without science, we wouldn't have the many things we enjoy today, starting with computers and the internet, that we are using for this blog.
    Big business will corrupt science for its own benefit, but that doesn't discredit science itself. Science is the study of Nature.
    Without vaccines, many of us would be crippled by Poliomyelitis, Tuberculosis, … Here too, it is the abuse of a good technology that makes it bad in the end. The science itself is not bad, it is just abused.
    By demonizing science and scientists, we are attacking one of the victims of the industrial system.
    I am starting a pastured broiler operation on 2 acres, using Joel's model, and am learning as much as I can, including from unbiased science. I think Joel approach is actually very scientific, how he observed Nature and implemented natural principals to his model.

    It is very scary to see the power of big business today, how they can influence people opinion and government policies.

  23. Anonymous says:


    Thanks for dedicating your life to this. I'm just learning about sustainable farming and supporting local farmers. I'm going to join a CSA this year and am trying to break our families dependence on much of the grocery store produce. You are an inspiration.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Just halfway through "The Omnivore's Dilemma" . . . horrified and appalled doesn't begin to express my reaction. Where do we start??? God bless you and others who have the clear eyes to see what God provides for us on this earth.

  25. Linda says:

    I became familar with Polyface through Vision Forum's Entrepreneurial Bookcamp. I was thrilled to see it in Food Inc. Our family has a little farm of 6.5 acres in WA state and have been grass feeding our cows for years. After listening to you speak in the Entrepreneurial series, we bagan to rotate our cow. Of course, watching really brings clarity, so now we will be rotating differently. I've ordered your books and DVD from our local library and can't wait to begin my study on your farming methods. Looking forward to reproducing your method on our little farm.
    Thanks and God Bless