Joel Salatin advocates a better way to raise food
Farmer/lecturer Joel Salatin champions 'moral farming' as a better way to raise food. 'What is a moral way to raise a chicken?' he asks.
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What Americans do to pigs, chickens, and cows speaks ill of the nation’s moral health, he says. “A culture that views its life from such a manipulative, disrespectful stance will soon view its citizens the same way and other cultures the same way. It’s how we respect the least of these that creates a moral-ethical framework.”Skip to next paragraph
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Don’t be confused: Salatin is no crunchy-granola transplant to Appalachia. He graduated from archconservative Bob Jones University in Greenville, S.C., with a degree in English. While he appreciates the “bearded, beaded, braless, Woodstock revolution” set who make up the bulwark of environmentally conscious farming, he’s delighted that half of those coming to visit his farm nowadays are involved in the home-school movement.
It’s this broad appeal that makes Salatin unique, says Teresa Heinz, the American philanthropist whose foundation recently awarded him a $100,000 award for his work.
“Salatin is a person who is accessible conceptually and conceptually acceptable to a huge number of people – not just the Massachusetts guys, but people from anywhere,” Ms. Heinz says.
What breaks Salatin’s heart is that the rest of the religious right has been largely uninterested in picking up the banner of environmental stewardship.
“I think the whole religious right community should be very apologetic and repentant that we – who should have carried the banner of Earth stewardship – got co-opted on that message,” he says.
But his position as a darling of the environmental left but with increasing cachet and respect from the religious right may make him the catalyst in bringing the two groups together.
“Buying food as a community is a very fundamental Christian value. It’s a value of many religions, and it’s a value of the liberal community as well,” says David Evans, who owns Marin Sun Farms, 40 miles north of San Francisco. “I like to believe that around food production is where we can become more politically neutral. Everyone should be around the table on these issues.”
Like Salatin, Mr. Evans refuses to sell his products beyond a roughly four-hour drive from his farm. By following Salatin’s model of marketing directly to local restaurants, farmers’ markets, and grocers, Evans has tapped into a community-based form of economic growth.
“We were growing at 50 to 100 percent a year for the last 10 years,” Evans says, adding that sales between June 2008 and August 2009 increased by 100 percent. “It’s easy to adopt [Salatin’s] practices because he has proven results.”
In partnerships with local ranchers, Marin Sun Farms grosses roughly $3 million per year by selling to three public school districts, 49 restaurants, and Stanford University’s dining services, among others. Salatin, by comparison, sells to roughly 2,000 families through local “buying clubs” and about 50 restaurants, including a Chipotle franchise in Charlottesville, Va.