I’ve decided I like Joel Salatin. I knew there was something intriguing about him when he stepped on the screen in Food Inc. It was funny because there is this stereotype of farmers as stupid, which isn’t really true, but Joel stepped on the screen wearing overalls and this hat and I was like, really? But, as soon as he opened his mouth I felt completely guilty for not giving the guy a chance. He was incredibly articulate, passionate, and really seemed to know what he was talking about. I believe his bit in The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan makes these characteristics of Joel stand out even more.
I love when he makes Michael Pollan examine the grass, and makes him do farmwork. I think that it’s amazing that he is so unapologetically who he is as this Christian, Conservative, Libertarian, Environmentalist. Joel receives no subsidies for his love of grass such as corn farmers do, and he places his farm above organic, something that he rightfully should after the book’s examination of organic. I mean, maybe I missed something, but I had no idea that organic had turned into such an industrial machine, which, frankly, worries me. I also love that he refuses to ship Michael Pollan food and says that if he wants to try some he’ll have to come to Swoope to try some. I feel like that statement speaks wonders about how he sticks with what he believes.
I also am intrigued by his home life. In his colonial style home with little to no news, no TV, alcohol, caffeine, and homeschooled children Joel Salatin seems to have regressed into the colonial era of living completely off the grid, and yet, there is definitely a part of me that is jealous. Dr. Boyer Lewis has often told me that no one wants to go back in time, but this actual pastoral image stirs up such a nostalgia, as Pollan puts it, that it’s hard not to. However, I wonder how idealistic it is. I mean, he’s making it work and it’s successful, but is this a realistic dream for food everywhere? If it is are people not doing it because it’s not efficient enough? Do people not think that unsustainable things are called unsustainable for a reason?
Joel Salatin’s farm is not the imagined image on the cover of some packaging at Whole Foods, and he is not trying to create something that is unnatural, and over complicated, while he is still being complex, he is the real deal, and doesn’t pretend to be something that he’s not. Pollan says, “What makes this pasture’s complexity so much harder for us to comprehend is that it is not a complexity of our making.” (195) There’s something that is so fascinating in the way that it all can work without us, and maybe that’s what’s scary to people in the food industry.