Joel Salatin, the farmer who wants the system to be crop
Joel Salatin will soon be in Quebec where he will lead, together with Mycelium, a workshop exploring how to set up a thriving, profitable and ethical small farm. Want to know more about this stubborn farmer so called “Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist-lunatic-farmer”? Mycelium asked him four questions. His answers should convince you that he should be heard.
You want people to stop being blind consumers and to become their own food producers. What is the big dream?
My dream is that we develop agricultural systems that are economically, ecologically and emotionally enhancing. That means that agriculture will increase, rather than deplete, the quality of the commons — clean air, fertile soil, abundant and clean water. Food should become more, not less, nutrient-dense. The use of pharmaceutical drugs use should plummet, not increase. Communities should be more, rather than less, food secure. Ultimately, our food and farming system should heal the land.
More and more people in America think that you are “the most influential farmer in the country.” How do you explain that?
If I were the most influential farmer as you say, I’d have more clout. But mainstream agriculture views me as a Typhoid Mary, bioterrorist, animal abuser. If my paradigm became widely adopted, it would completely subvert the power, position and prestige of the current food and farming system. That’s a lot of minds to turn around, and a lot of jobs at risk. Upton Sinclair said something like it’s awfully hard to get a person to believe something when their paycheck requires them to believe something else.
What could – or should – politicians do? Are they part of the solution?
Politicians don’t have to do anything except get out of the way. Rather than being a veil of protection between innovative farmers and self-serving industrial interests, politicians have become the lackeys of the big players. That denies society the benefit of innovative producers who exercise far better ecological stewardship and could, as a result offer better food at better prices. When the government gets between my lips and my throat, I call that an invasion of privacy. To choose my body’s fuel is one of the most basic human rights, and yet the politicians have decided that such freedom cannot be tolerated.
When the politicians hold society hostage like this, it can only be characterized as obscene and tyrannical. By what authority should anyone be able to deny consenting adults to voluntarily choose to engage in neighbor-to-neighbor food trade? There are only two types of people who could possibly applaud such an intrusion – first, those who believe that citizens are too incompetent and stupid to make the most elementary decisions, second, those who fear that freedom will jeopardize their market monopoly. I can’t think of any other reason to defend such anti-democratic food policies.
What change in the food system would you like to see before dying?
A Food Emancipation Proclamation that would liberate food from the shackles of government bureaucrats who deny producers and consumers the freedom to interact in trade. If I want to come to your farm, ask around, smell around, look around, and purchase my body’s fuel from you, by what right should anyone–including the government–be able to tell the two of us we can’t exercise our voluntary food choice? Allowing direct producer-consumer food trade, without threat of government sanctions, would unleash an avalanche of integrity food entrepreneurship and innovation in our communities. Thousands and thousands of stifled, stigmatized farmers desperately want to make a living on their land and serve their neighbors with food far superior to the industry’s options. Denying society a superior alternative is equivalent to domestic terrorism.
If you’ve never had that visit from a gun-wielding government agent confiscating your milk, or eggs, or chicken pot pie, this may sound extreme. But for those of us who have been at the other end of the gun barrel, I assure you that the government/industrial complex is violent, serious, and not friendly toward freedom of choice. That so few people realize how much food integrity they are denied indicates how profoundly we’ve abdicated our visceral food responsibilities. I envision a day when I can milk a cow and sell a glass of milk to a neighbor who wants it without fear of facing the government’s gun barrel. I envision a day when I can dress a chicken, cook it, and add some vegetables from my garden, and sell the succulent chicken/veggie pie to a neighbor, without being arrested as a criminal.
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