Everything He Wants to Do is Illegal

What should you know about food, farming and the meat you eat? Farmer and writer Joel Salatin sounds off on government regulations, pasture-based farming and more.

| October 2008

  • Joel Salatin
    Joel Salatin raises pastured poultry and grass-fed beef at Polyface Farms in Swoope, Va.

  • Joel Salatin

Joel Salatin is a farmer at the forefront of the trend toward local food and grass-fed meat. Many people first became familiar with Salatin’s complex and eco-minded approach to farming when he was featured in Michael Pollan’s bestselling book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. But Salatin also is well known within pasture-based farming and libertarian circles. He’s especially vocal about government regulations that make life difficult for the small farmer — his most recent book is titled Everything I Want to Do is Illegal. He’s also the author of You Can Farm and Holy Cows and Hog Heaven (excerpted here in Mother Earth News). Salatin kindly agreed to answer some questions for us about Polyface Farms. Hold onto your hat! Here are Salatin’s candid thoughts on government regulations, high grain prices, vegetarians and making money at farming.

Grass Fed and Beyond Organic

Tell us a little bit about Polyface Farm.
We’re located eight miles southwest of Staunton, Va., in the Shenandoah Valley on 550 acres (100 open and 450 forest). We also lease four farms, totaling an additional 900 acres of pasture. We sell “salad bar” (grass-fed) beef; “pigaerator” pork; pastured poultry, both broilers and turkeys; pastured eggs and forage-based rabbits.

Your livestock and poultry are grass-fed, and your farm is “beyond organic.” Do you find people are familiar with those terms? 
More and more people are aware of the compromise and adulteration within the government-sanctioned organic certified community. Weary of 6,000-hen confinement laying houses with 3 feet dirt strip being labeled “certified organic,” patrons latch onto the “beyond organic” idea. It resonates with their disappointment over the government program. When Horizon battles Cornucopia, for instance, to keep its organic-certified industrial-scale dairies, consumer confidence falls.

Intuitively, people understand that the historical use of the word “organic” identified an idea and a paradigm rather than a visceral list of dos and don’ts. And now that the high prices have attracted unscrupulous growers who enter the movement for the money, people realize that no system can regulate integrity. That is why we have a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week, 365 day a year open-door policy. Anyone is welcome to visit at anytime to see anything, anywhere. Integrity can only be assured with this level of transparency.

When someone asks if we’re certified organic, we respond playfully: “Why would we want to stop there? We go beyond organic.” That response generally leads to an info-dense discussion and people come away with renewed awareness, rather than just another case of hardening of the categories.

How has the public’s attitude toward your products changed in the last few years? Do you find it easier to sell grass-fed meat now?
Public awareness is definitely up. In the 1970s when I was selling grass-finished beef and pastured poultry, nobody had even heard of the word “organic,” much less “grass finished.” Now, thanks to New York Times bestselling authors like Jo Robinson and Michael Pollan, the awareness is huge.

5/2/2018 9:28:33 AM

how do I prove to Hobart Village in wi that I have right to raise chickens for food. Presently have 18 chickens on 8 plus acres but am considered residential so am allowed only 6 and I am not suppose to process for food.

9/7/2010 6:48:44 PM

(Continued) I knew something wasn't right, something had to change. So after much turmoil I went and read up on the "evil" Weston Price website. When I overcame the conditioned reflex of disgust at the notion of eating an animal, (an actual living moving KICKING SCREAMING animal!) the message, the studies, the data, all began to make sense. I've only been eating meat for the past 4 months, and I already feel more energetic as opposed to the old lethargy; my health checkups have been looking up as well. My mom even said I'm "glowing with health," now looking at photos from the past years, I have to agree. The weight is coming down as well, slow and steady. The things Salatin say are true, but he is also a good salesman/preacher, so the way his message comes across might turn some people off. The best we can do for the animals is to let them express their nature; and the best we can do for ourselves is to allow ourselves to express our own nature, and always be thankful. Some recommended reading: http://www.westonaprice.org The Omnivore's Dilemma *The Vegetarian Myth (eating plants won't stop animals from dying, organic does not equal to humane treatment of animals, etc. important, terrible things.)

9/7/2010 6:17:18 PM

To all the angry vegetarian/vegans here, I've been a vegetarian for the past QUARTER of my life, and my health has been on the decline for most of it. The first few months I felt great, with all the crap clearing out of my system on a diet of plant-only foods. But it was because ANY diet, even one devoid of all traces of animal-nutrients, is better than the typical way of eating for the average American like myself. My mother became increasingly worried and commented on how "greenish yellow" I appeared, but i just ignored her and went my own way; after all, my conscience is all clear that no animal had to suffer a hellish existence to provide for me. Now I'm was not ignorant of the basic nutritional needs of a human body, I have taken several courses in human anatomy, nutrition, and sports nutrition, so I was convinced that I've been giving my body all it needs to function properly. How wrong I was. Even with all the spinach and supplements I was shoving in my mouth my iron count was dropping like a dead body. I also needed more protein even though I was eating about 50% more than required, through lentils, beans, grains, and mostly soy. I work out frequently, at least 5 days out of 7, but my muscles just refuse to grow. That didn't stop the waistline from growing though; in the past 5 years alone my middle expanded by 8 inches. My growth also stunted right when I "came clean."

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters

click me