Holy Cows & Hog Heaven Discussion: Trust

The Farm Friendly Producer

Chapter 1 Discussion:

Joel says that integrity cannot be legislated, certified, formulated or place on a spreadsheet. Do you agree with this? Why or why not?

In your opinion what makes a trustworthy farmer? What makes food trustworthy?

Chapter 2 Discussion:

In this chapter, Joel talks about Polyface’s commitment to appropriate size. In your opinion is big always bad?

When is a farm too big? How would you define this?

Do you have anything else that you want to discuss from these two chapters?


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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 Holy Cows & Hog Heaven Discussion: Trust

  1. Mike McGraw says:

    Chapter 1: What makes a farmer trustworthy is not just about being trustworthy, that is just one aspect of what makes up some ones CHARACTER. Having character as a farmer is not any different than having character as a person. If you are striving to have a great character, than you need to endeavor to build the Six Pillars of character. These are the things that both PARENTS and SCHOOLS should be instilling in children.

    TRUSTWORTHINESS – Be honest; Don’t deceive, cheat, or steal; Be reliable — do what you say you’ll do; Have the courage to do the right thing; Build a good reputation; Be loyal — stand by your family, friends, and country.

    RESPECT – Treat others with respect; follow the Golden Rule; Be tolerant and accepting of differences; Use good manners, not bad language; Be considerate of the feelings of others; Don’t threaten, hit or hurt anyone; Deal peacefully with anger, insults, and disagreements.

    RESPONSIBILITY – Do what you are supposed to do; Always do your best; Use self-control; Be self-disciplined; Think before you act — consider the consequences; Be accountable for your words, actions, and attitudes; Set a good example for others.

    FAIRNESS – Play by the rules; Take turns and share; Be open-minded; LISTEN to others; Don’t take advantage of others; Don’t blame others carelessly; Treat all people fairly.

    CARING – Be kind; Be compassionate and show you care; Express gratitude; Forgive others; Help people in need.

    CITIZENSHIP – Do your share to make your school and community better; Cooperate; Get involved in community affairs; Stay informed; VOTE; Be a good neighbor; Obey laws and rules; Respect authority; Protect the environment; Volunteer.

    To follow all aspect of what makes a Farmer/Person have a great character is not easy and I will never begin to claim that I meet ever point ever day… but I do try. Lastly I feel a great measure of your character is that in the end you left the world a little bit better of a place than what you found it.

  2. Mike McGraw says:

    CHAPTER 2: A farm is too big when it is no longer sustainable…that you’re not just maintaining the boundaries of what the land can produce, but that you’re continuing to IMPROVE the soil of the farm. Many farmers squeeze the land like a lemon trying to get everything that they can out of it to make the lemonade without ever considering that all you have left is a useless lemon and no way to reproduce another lemon.

  3. Shrader Thomas says:

    I have a friend who is a really good chef. Self-taught. Amateur. The one thing he always got the most compliments on was his caramelized onions. They really were amazing. He would labor over those things for hours – thinly slicing and slow cooking them, coaxing out the natural sugars in the onions. After more and more people half-jokingly told him he should bottle them, he decided to give it a try. He cooked up a batch, slapped a label on them and brought them to a food show. No less a chef than Bobby Flay told him they were delicious. He thought he was set. His problems really started when he tried to mass-produce them. He couldn’t slow-cook small batches in his kitchen by himself for a consumer market, it just wasn’t possible. So he hired a team of large-scale food “experts” who claimed to specialists at making small recipes bigger. Well, they started adding sugar and caramel coloring to the big vats of onions they were producing – which was never something my friend would do. The “experts” tried to convince him that, in order to produce on a mass scale and be profitable, certain corners had to be cut. But the onions never tasted as good. So, after several failed attempts, he gave up on the idea. He decided he would rather keep making his own small batches for family and friends, rather than put out a sub-par product on a larger scale.

    And I think Joel is absolutely right to keep the scale of Polyface small and manageable – and to control his integrity himself. It would be easy to capitalize more on the brand name, but it shows what great respect he has for the customer, for the land, for his family and for himself that he does not.

    But you ask if big is always bad. And that’s a really good question. I tend to always think of big business and big government as being rife with corruption and being too big to be accountable and too big to care. If you ever have to call customer service for one of the giant corporations – Time Warner Cable, for instance – you know how maddening it is to feel like a tiny little insignificant speck. You wait on hold forever. The person answering doesn’t have any accountability to you. They just punch a time clock, and they don’t make the decisions, anyway. No matter how legitimate your comment or complaint, it seems to always fall on deaf ears. They are too big to fail, so they are too big to care. They are what Joel calls the modern-day empires: no soul, no conscious, no boundaries. Small, local businesses – food and otherwise – depend on relationships and trust with their customers. Like Joel says, everything has its natural, God-given scale and size. Some are bigger than others. So, maybe big is not always bad (Joel’s example of the elephant being a great one). But I think too big is always bad.

  4. Pam says:

    Integrity cannot be certified or place in a spreadsheet by man. It is an internal quality that is a foundation of who we are. As Billy Graham said, “Integrity is the glue that holds our way of life together. We must constantly strive to keep our integrity intact. When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.” John Maxwell further illustrates the point in his quote, “Integrity is not a given factor in everyone’s life. It is a result of self-discipline, inner trust, and a decision to be relentlessly honest in all situations in our lives.”

    I do believe there is a formula for integrity- it is faithfully adhering to the Bible’s commandments that include being stewards over the land and the animals.

    Trust is founded on TRUTH. Truth must be absolute in order to maintain trust. A trustworthy farmer is one who is truthful in accordance with his integrity. If his integrity is based upon absolute truth (Biblical world view) it will be based upon the formula given to us in the Bible in our treatment of each other, the land and the animals. A trustworthy farmer gives his word regarding the food he raises which, in turn, makes the food “trustworthy.”

    Big is a very subjective term. Big becomes “too big” when it leads to situations where the farmer is no longer able to ensure that the food reaches his customer in a manner that maintains the integrity of the product, thus destroying the farmer’s reputation of providing “trustworthy” food.

  5. Marci says:

    I think you have to build trust with people. Is your farm open for inspections from customers. Do you encourage them to look around. Are you open and honest with them. We had one batch of chicks that came and they started dying off in the brooder. We called the hatchery and she said that several batches she sent out were doing that. She said to save them, we needed to use antibiotics. We did that to save the chickens, but we called everyone who had already reserved chickens in that batch and explained the situation to them. We gave them choices… cancelling their order, getting some from another batch, or going ahead and taking the ones they ordered. We explained what the label said on how long it was in their system, etc. It is when you try to hide things like that, or never let your customers know when something goes wrong,that gets you into trouble.