How Joel Salatin & Polyface Farms Changed the Face of Modern Agriculture


 Photo credits: Justin Rhodes Youtube Channel & Polyface Farms

When Joel Salatin speaks, people listen. His influence on modern agriculture is undeniable and his name is recognized by almost every aspiring farmer. He's a voice of hope in the increasingly mechanized and industrialized farmscape.

But what makes Joel and Polyface Farms stand out from the crowd? They do things different. And they have been doing it different for almost 60 years.

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He was born in the US, but his family relocated to Venezuela shortly afterwards. They tried farming there but it did not work out and were forced to move back to the US. That was when Polyface Farms was born. A 550 acre tract in Swoope, VA became a farm and a home for the Salatin family.

Young Joel Salatin

Cattle was the primary focus of the farm in the early years. The only problem: the soil and the "pasture" were completely ruined. This made it virtually impossible to graze the cattle on good quality grass.

They were offered with a variety of solutions that all the neighbors had thought of that "worked" for them. Something like "Just build a feed lot" or "Throw some 10-10-10 fertilizer on that pasture". But is that sustainable? Would that even work long term? Probably not so it was back to the drawing board.

The solution they needed: rotational grazing. This radical new concept for grazing cattle was about to change their whole farm. It started out slow only moving the cows every week or so into a new paddock. They noticed a change in their pasture almost immediately. While moving the cows often and letting the land rest afterwards, they were seeing an explosion of whole new growth. The once dead and barren land was now sprouting with all new life and perennial grasses!

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Polyface Farms

Within a few decades, the farmscape was completely transformed from a grey and lifeless wasteland to a lush and healthy pasture. The cattle business was booming and Joel was looking for a new way to expand the business. That's when pastured poultry was born.

He got the idea to run egg-laying chickens behind his cows. This would serve as a double purpose, collect fresh beautiful eggs and cut down on the fly population that the cows bring in. He could also use the same land he was already using for grazing, so it was essentially another business right on top of the one he already had. A win-win!

Within no time another game changing invention was born, the "chicken tractor". This mobile chicken coop was the key for Polyface farms to stack another business right on top of another! (Hence the name Polyface - many faces) This coop would protect the helpless broiler meat chickens from predators and give them shade from the heat. All while keeping them on fresh grass and cutting feed costs!

His neighbors had all thought he had lost his mind. Decades of farming the same way and then this guy comes and tries to change everything. Who does he think he is? What right does he have? That's how he earned the name "Lunatic Farmer"

Well sometimes being a "lunatic" is what it takes to make the change you want to see.

After countless speeches, books and years farming Joel Salatin is finally seeing the fruits of his labor. His influence is seen in farms around the world. A new generation of farmers will look to Polyface as the modern standard for a sustainable, profitable and ethical farm.

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Photo credits: Justin Rhodes Youtube Channel & Polyface Farms

 


1 comment


  • David A Reed

    It only makes sense to rebuild the land that sustains us.


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