Intro: Making a Living on a Homestead
If you’ve ever wondered how to make a living from a homestead, there’s a man who can tell you: Joel Salatin is that man. His family owns Polyface Farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.
Homesteading is – or should be – something like a closed circle. Everything supports and contributes to the success of everything else, looped in an endless cycle of healthy natural feedback. The result is a variety of different products – meat, eggs, fruits, vegetables – which the farmer can sell to earn income, all while making sure the land is nourished and protected. Salatin does this by following the cycles of nature, both in plant growth and in animal behavior.
Salatin operates his “beyond organic” operation by employing radical principles: Rather than fighting nature, he works in conjunction with nature. (Radical, no?) His success proves small farmers can use holistic management techniques that fly in the face of agri-business practices and even surpass the governmental “organic” certification (which Salatin dismisses as little more than bureaucratic paperwork but does little to help nature).
Salatin is an agrarian gladiator who enjoys sharing his expertise. But watch out: the man brooks no tolerance for conventional agricultural “wisdom.” Instead, he’s here to show small farmers how to make a profit from their land while maintaining healthy, sustainable practices.
Cows graze on grass, grouped in herds as instinct demands. They are moved to fresh forage daily so they don’t graze in their own waste. Behind them comes “eggmobiles” – floorless chicken tractors which allow free-range meat birds to scratch up the cow droppings, eat bugs, and sanitize the grass, just as birds do in nature. Pigs forage on pasture in summer, but during winter they bed down in “pigaerators,” which oxygenates the winter waste products of the cattle. The resulting compost is the backbone of the farm’s fertility program. “We’re really in the earthworm enhancement business,” says Salatin. “Stimulating soil biota is our first priority. Soil health creates healthy food.”
Because everything is grassed-based – as nature intended – it heals and maintains the landscape while producing nutritionally superior meat, eggs, fruits, and vegetables.
“Mimicking natural patterns on a commercial domestic scale insures moral and ethical boundaries to human cleverness,” notes Salatin. “Respecting and honoring the pigness of the pig is a foundation for societal health.”
Salatin offers advice to small farmers on how to earn income from the land without selling their souls. “I’ve seen way too many successful small businesses gobbled up by deep pockets with shallow values,” he says. “We haven’t bought a bag of chemical fertilizer in half a century, never planted a seed, own no plow or disk or silo – we call those bankruptcy tubes.”
Are you interested in joining the homesteading revolution? Do it the right way. Listen to what this wise farmer has to teach.
Editor’s Note: Lehman’s hosted Joel in June 2018, where he presented at our Country Living Workshop. For the latest store events and visitors coming to Lehman’s, check out our store events page.