Alumni Programs

The New / Old Face of Farming

by R.J. Burt

Summer 2008

Joel SalatinAs the June twilight set in, a steady stream of over 300 Greeners and area residents poured onto campus and overfilled Lecture Hall 1. They gathered to hear organic farmer Joel Salatin talk about his Shenandoah Valley miracle.

Salatin's Polyface Farm has achieved near-legend status after being featured in The New York Times' bestseller "Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan.

Illustrating his talk with a lively slide presentation of life at Polyface, the self-dubbed "Christian, libertarian, capitalist, organic farmer" described how his "low tech, high yield" process can generate for American farmers "a white-collar lifestyle" while nurturing animals and stewarding resources.

With a delivery style evocative of Mark Twain and Will Rogers, Salatin used humor and passion, wit and wisdom to drive home his point that agri-business is bad for farmers and bad for the country. It is, he asserted, grounded in unsustainable management practices based on questionable science.

Earlier in the day, Salatin met with students and faculty members and visited the Organic Farm. Background: In 1961, Salatin's parents, William and Lucille, moved their young family to Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, purchasing the most worn-out, eroded, abused farm in the area. Using nature as a pattern, they began the healing and innovation that now supports three generations. Today, the farm represents America's premier non-industrial food production oasis.

The event was sponsored by Olympia Climate Action, Olympia Food Coop, Bainbridge Island Graduate Institute, Olympia Slow Food and The Evergreen State College.

Learn more about Joel Salatin and Polyface Farms