Sunday, November 8, 2009

Long After Human Cleverness Has Run Its Course...

Remember Joel Salatin? Of Polyface Farms?

No? Well then you need to get on down to the library and read The Omnivore's Dilemma immediately!

For those of you who do remember his name, I'm sure you smiled on the inside just like I did to read his name. As it says on his farm's website, "Polyface, Inc. is a family owned, multi-generational, pasture-based, beyond organic, local-market farm and informational outreach in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley."

That's right. And it's the sole reason I must travel to said Shenandoah Valley someday. I simply must visit this farm.

Joel Salatin is the farmer Michael Pollan is lucky enough to visit and work with for a week, who refers to himself as a "grass farmer," because all of the animals he raises -- and everything on his farm, for that matter -- are an interconnected web with grass-eating at the very center of that web. Remember the happy piggies whose tails curled (pigs' tails curl only when they are happy) as they rooted for fermented corn kernels amongst the cows' winter bedding and droppings? Or how Pollan calls Salatin up, asking the farmer to kindly ship him one of his famous grass-fed steaks -- and Salatin refuses, because California is too far from Virginia, making it impossible to justify the expenditure of fossil fuels that will go into getting it cross-country? Or the chickens whom he moves from patch of pasture to patch of pasture each day, cycling them through on a schedule that ensures the symbiotic relationship between the earth, grass, cows' munching and treading with their specially evolved hooves, and chickens' scratching is intact and even thriving? Joel Salatin became my hero before I even read the last page of that book.

I don't have particularly strong feelings either way on the benefits or hazards of drinking raw milk (though I pretty much lean in its favor and am guessing the "hazards" are made up, as Salatin suggests), but I certainly do think if one wants to drink it, one should absolutely be able to. Salatin's recent post on raw milk and its regulations on is very interesting. And anything Joel Salatin has to say, I will listen to!

I found this passage from his post really spoke to me:
The same curative properties espoused by raw milk advocates exist in a host of other food products, from homemade pound cake and potpies to pepperoni and pastured chicken. Real food is what developed our internal intestinal community. And it sure didn’t develop on food from Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations[*] and genetically modified potatoes that are partly human and partly tomato. Long after human cleverness has run its course, compost piles will still grow the best tomatoes and grazing cows will still yield one of nature’s perfect foods: raw milk.
I love that he talks about how "real food" (food that you and I make every day, from scratch) has curative properties. I believe it does indeed. And I love the line, "Long after human cleverness has run its course...." I wonder, has it? It often feels these days like it has. It feels today like going back to basics -- the compost-grown backyard tomato -- is the truest, newest technology we have for making real, curative food.

* Have questions about what's a CAFO? And why they are not good?

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