Joel F. Salatin (born February 24, 1957) is an American farmer, lecturer, and author.
Early life and education
Salatin's father worked for a major petroleum company, using his earnings to purchase a 1,000-acre farm in Venezuela. The family left Venezuela in 1959 after the country experienced a military coup and President Rómulo Betancourt was elected in 1958 who created a program to redistribute land.
Influenced by their Biblical understanding of earth stewardship and J. I. Rodale, Salatin's parents, William and Lucille, relocated and purchased a farm in the Shenandoah Valley in 1961 and began restoring its land. In high school, Salatin began his own business selling rabbits, eggs, butter and chicken from the farm at the Staunton Curb Market. He then attended Bob Jones University where he majored in English and was a student leader, graduating in 1979.
Salatin married his childhood sweetheart Teresa in 1980 and became a feature writer at the Staunton, Virginia, newspaper, The News Leader, where he had worked earlier typing obituaries and police reports.
Polyface farm is a 550-acre (220-hectare) farm in Swoope, Virginia. The farmhouse was built in 1750 and added on throughout the years and was purchased by the Salatins in 1961. Tiring of writing for the newspaper, Salatin decided to try farming full-time. Each year, Salatin revised his organic farming techniques, which have low overhead and equipment costs, and the farm began to turn a profit. The farm grosses $350,000 and is deemed a commercial farm by the United States Department of Agriculture.
Salatin's philosophy of farming emphasizes healthy grass on which animals can thrive in a symbiotic cycle of feeding. Cows are moved from one pasture to another rather than being centrally corn fed. Chickens in portable coops are moved in behind them, where they dig through the cow dung to eat protein-rich fly larvae while further fertilizing the field with their droppings.
Salatin condemns the negative impact of the United States government on his livelihood because of what he considers an increasingly regulatory approach taken toward farming. He is a self-described "Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer", producing meat he describes as "beyond organic", which are raised using environmentally responsible, ecologically beneficial, sustainable agriculture. Jo Robinson said of Salatin, "He's not going back to the old model. There's nothing in county extension or old-fashioned ag science that really informs him. He is just looking totally afresh at how to maximize production in an integrated system on a holistic farm. He's just totally innovative."
Commenting on a New York Times op-ed contribution about sustainable farming and bovine methane production, Salatin wrote "wetlands emit some 95 percent of all methane in the world; herbivores are insignificant enough to not even merit consideration. Anyone who really wants to stop methane needs to start draining wetlands." Wetland methane emissions make up 20 to 39% of global methane emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He also said that most livestock producers use "Neanderthal management" that exaggerates the amount of land required, and that modern technology allows for far more sustainable land usage.
Salatin has been editor of the monthly agriculture magazine Stockman Grass Farmer promoting pasture-grazed lifestock, and teaches a two-day course on agribusiness marketing in conjunction with this magazine. He has authored twelve books including Folks, This Ain't Normal, You Can Farm, and Salad Bar Beef.
Salatin has spoken as a farming educator at a wide range of organizations including the University of California at Berkeley, and the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture. In 2020, he spoke at the Libertarian National Convention about limiting regulation.
In March 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Salatin declared he wanted coronavirus on his personal website Musings from the Lunatic Farmer. Salatin was widely condemned for his comments by the public and his peers.
In November 2019 Salatin wrote a blog post responding to a blog post by Chris Newman, another Virginia farmer, in which Newman critiques the small family farm model and describes an alternative, vertically integrated system rooted in collective ownership. Salatin said in his article that Newman, who is Black and Native American, was too early in his farming career to know whether he would be successful in the long-term, and that Newman would only "push would-be team players away" by complaining. In August 2020, Agdaily described Salatin's blog post as racially inappropriate, and criticized that he had described Native Americans as "hostile" to William Cody. After Salatin's remarks, Mother Earth News asked Newman to write for the publication for diversity in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Newman declined the invitation raising concerns about Salatin's article. After public criticism of the publication's support for Salatin, Mother Earth News ultimately severed its relationship with Salatin.
Salatin's farm, Polyface, is featured prominently in Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma (2006) and the documentary films, Food, Inc. and Fresh. Pollan became interested in Salatin because of his refusal to send food to locations beyond a four-hour drive of his farm, i.e. outside his local "foodshed". "We want [prospective customers] to find farms in their areas and keep the money in their own community", he said. "We think there is strength in decentralization and spreading out rather than in being concentrated and centralized."
Salatin and his farm have also been featured in radio, television and print media including Smithsonian Magazine, National Geographic, Gourmet, and ABC News.
- Salad Bar Beef (1996). ISBN 978-0-9638109-1-5
- Pastured Poultry Profits (1996). ISBN 978-0-9638109-0-8
- You Can Farm: The Entrepreneur's Guide to Start & Succeed in a Farming Enterprise (1998). ISBN 978-0-9638109-2-2
- Family Friendly Farming: A Multigenerational Home-Based Business Testament (2001). ISBN 978-0-9638109-3-9
- Holy Cows And Hog Heaven: The Food Buyer's Guide To Farm Friendly Food (2005). ISBN 978-0-9638109-4-6
- Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories From the Local Food Front (2007). ISBN 978-0-9638109-5-3
- The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer (2010). ISBN 978-0-9638109-6-0
- Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World. Center Street. 2011. ISBN 978-0-89296-819-0.
- Fields of Farmers: Interning, Mentoring, Partnering, Germinating (2013). ISBN 978-0-9638109-7-7
- The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs (2016). ISBN 978-1455536979
- Your Successful Farm Business: Production, Profit, Pleasure (2017). ISBN 978-0-96381-098-4
- Polyface Designs: A Comprehensive Construction Guide for Scalable Farming Infrastructure (2020). ISBN 978-1-7336866-1-7 (Together with Chris Slattery)
- "High Priest of the Pasture," New York Times, May 1, 2005.
- Philpott, Tom. "The racist roots of Joel Salatin's agrarian dream". Mother Jones. Retrieved 2020-11-20.
- "Joel Salatin - Biographies". Mother Earth News. Retrieved 2020-10-20.
- Gabor, Andrea (2011-07-25). "Inside Polyface Farm, Mecca of Sustainable Agriculture". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2020-10-20.
- Frisch, Tracy. "Sowing Dissent". The Sun Magazine. Retrieved 2020-04-22.
- Vintage [BJU yearbook] (1979), 366. Salatin was a member of the Inter-Collegiate Debate team, the winner of the Daniel J. Carrison Americanism essay contest, and was named to Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges.
- "Interview: Joel Salatin". the Guardian. 2010-01-31. Retrieved 2020-10-20.
- Gabor, Andrea (2011-07-25). "Inside Polyface Farm, Mecca of Sustainable Agriculture". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2020-04-22.
- "Joel's Speaking Topics". www.polyfacefarms.com. Retrieved Jul 6, 2021.
- McMilliams, James E. (August 12, 2012). "The Myth of Sustainable Meat". New York Times. Retrieved 30 January 2015.
- Salatin, Joel (2012-04-17). "Joel Salatin responds to New York Times' 'Myth of Sustainable Meat'". Grist. Retrieved 2012-11-24.
- Laanbroek, HJ. "Methane emission from natural wetlands: interplay between emergent macrophytes and soil microbial processes. A mini-review". Ann Bot. 105: 141–53. doi:10.1093/aob/mcp201. PMC 2794055. PMID 19689973.
- "Stockman Grass Farmer - The Grazier's Edge - Ridgeland, MS". www.stockmangrassfarmer.com. Retrieved 2020-10-20.
- "Joel Salatin's Grazier's Marketing School, Jackson, MS Octoer 28 & 29, 2021 ― The Stockman Grass Farmer". www.stockmangrassfarmer.com. Retrieved Jul 6, 2021.
- "Speaking Schedule". www.polyfacefarms.com. Retrieved 2020-10-20.
- "Joel's Bio". www.polyfacefarms.com. Retrieved 2020-10-20.
- "Famous farmer and activist Joel Salatin gets blowback for declaring: 'I want coronavirus!'". The Washington Post. March 26, 2020. Retrieved October 20, 2020.
- "Whining and Entitlement". thelunaticfarmer. 2019-11-22. Retrieved 2020-11-02.
- "Small Family Farms Aren't the Answer". 2019-07-25.
- "Chris Newman: Typing truth in the fight for equity in farming". AGDAILY. 2020-08-20. Retrieved 2020-10-20.
- "MOTHER EARTH NEWS STATEMENT AND ANNOUNCEMENT OF STEWARDSHIP FESTIVAL". The Lunatic Farmer. Retrieved 2020-10-20.
- "Business Week, August 10, 2007". Archived from the original on May 23, 2011. Retrieved Jul 6, 2021.
- "Joel Salatin - Guest Presenters". Calvin University. Retrieved 2020-10-20.
- "The Heinz Awards :: Joel Salatin". heinzawards.net. Retrieved 2020-10-20.
- Figueras, Ligaya (October 2, 2015). "Celeb farmer Joel Salatin talks sustainable farming". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved October 3, 2015.