Many of you know of Joel Salatin, The Lunatic Farmer at Polyface Farm. Many of you on the other hand don’t realize it, but you do know Joel. He is considered to be the “most famous farmer in the world.” He is one of the main subjects of the documentary “Food Inc.” and of Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma.
Over the years I had forgotten that Joel was one of my earliest inspirations. Through Food Inc, other documentaries he’s appeared in, and reading his philosophy and life work through Michael Pollan, he was one of the very first people to wake me up to the truth behind the food that I was eating. He taught me about factory farming. He taught me that just about very bite I was taking was consuming the planet that I loved. He inspired me to change my food and thus my life.
Most of the people we see on TV today are entertainers. Joel is indeed an entertainer as well. It is part of his nature. But at the same time he is one of the most genuine humans I’ve spent time with.
The environmental movement is full of green washing, polarized thinking and misinformation. Joel stands out as a person who is truly in touch with the intricacies of the human relationship with the earth. He goes deep, deeper than most of us care to go.
I spent a few days with him at his farm and he shared his knowledge. I walked around with some new insights into sustainable and regenerative farming. We sat around the table and talked for many hours sharing stories and farm fresh meals along with his partner Theresa.
Joel also wrote a blog about our time together. You can read it here (and a blog from my second visit with him)
Is he weird? Yes.
Is he delightful? Yes.
-Joel Salatin (writing about me).
If even Joel thinks I’m weird, then I know I’m doing things right!
UPDATE: Since spending time with Joel I learned that he has some beliefs that are not equitable to women and people of color. By hearing the stories of others interactions with him as well as reading some things online, it is quite clear to me that there are ways in which his beliefs and actions do not align with mine nor my desire for an equitable and just society. When he was approached by both women and people of color he was defensive and responded in ways that showed his male and white superiority beliefs. As a white man in his older age who lived in a very different time from me, this is not a great surprise but it certainly was a disappointment to learn.
I have learned to still have respect for colleagues even when I disagree with some of their belief systems and actions. I do think Joel has made very valuable contributions to our society and to our food systems. I am not going to write him off as a human or write off his contributions to society because of the racism and sexist that has been indoctrinated into him by our society. At the same time, I have chosen not to put my time, energy or resources into promoting people who are not doing the work to create true equity and justice for our society which includes Joel. Rather, over the last handful of years I have put the vast majority of my resources into supporting women of color who are apart of this movement and that is what I will continue to do.