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Joel Salatin: The Promise Of Regenerative Farming

Original Content
By Adam Taggart
Sunday, March 13th, 2016

Joel Salatin: The Promise Of Regenerative Farming

Original Content
By Adam Taggart on
Sunday, March 13th, 2016

Front man for the sustainable/regenerative farming movement, Joel Salatin, returns to the podcast this week.

Next month on April 23rd, he'll be joining Adam, the folks from Singing Frogs Farm, permaculturalist Toby Hemenway, and Robb Wolf at a speaking event in northern California. He'll be speaking on the power that's in our hands to make much smarter choices regarding the food systems we depend on: 

Joel Salatin: Farmers get beat up for a number of things: producing what they produce, the way they treat animals, they way they treat the land . I want to point out that the power is not in the farmers. From a voting standpoint, prisoners/inmates are a lot more powerful of a constituency block in the culture than farmers are. So let’s put this in perspective: the power is in the customer. And so if you want things to change on the landscape, if you want things to change regarding chemicals, pesticides, GMO – name your issue — if you want change, well, you've got to make a change.

I think that too often consumers take the convenient way out and say 'Well, if farmers would just do things differently, everything would be better.' The truth is that farmers have always followed the market. If people refuse to buy genetically modified organism food, farmers won’t produce it. It's really that simple. It doesn’t take a government agent, a bureaucracy, a police state, a new law. I mean, all of this could be changed just by consumers taking a more active and aggressive role at financing what they say they believe in from the outset.

Chris Martenson:  The part that I really love about what you are up to — that the whole regenerative movement is about, what permaculture is about — is this whole idea that people can choose do things better. That we can both farm and be regenerative at the same time. That we can be in symbiosis with the larger landscape. We see how industrial agriculture is the opposite of that with collapse in bees butterflies and other pollinators, butterflies, poisoned streams, disappearing soils — all of that. One of the critiques of sustanable farming that keeps popping up in the media is 'That's all nice and everything, but we really can’t feed the nation, let alone the world, with such farming practices.' How do you respond to those charges? 

Joel Salatin: At no other time in human civilization have we thrown away 50% of edible human food. We're doing that right now. Nobody in the world goes hungry because there's not enough food; they go hungry because they can’t get to the food. They can’t access it: they're too far away, a bomb blew out a road, somebody held up a Red Cross truck with an AK47 — name your thing. But it's socio-political stuff, logistical stuff, transportational stuff — it has nothing to do with the fact that there's not enough food. There is absolutely plenty of food on the planet. That's Nnumber One.

Number Two is that there's a tremendous amount of unutilized or underutilized land. I mean just take the US: we have 35 million acres of lawn and 36 million acres used for housing and feeding recreational horses. That's 71 million acres. That's enough to feed the entire country. And I haven’t even gotten to golf courses yet. I’m not opposed to horses, I'm not opposed to lawns, I'm not opposed to golf courses. What I am suggesting is that any Chicken Little running around shouting 'The sky is falling! We can’t feed the world!' is simply not true. There's a tremendous amount of available land that can be utilized.

Number Three: the land that we are using for farming, we're using it in an extremely inefficient way. Monocrops/monocultures are extremely inefficient. What is efficient is what nature does using very intricate, complex, relational polycultures. The beginner’s backyard garden is more productive per square yard than the most elite monocrop industrial operation that just produces one crop. Why? Because even in a rudimentary backyard garden where you're mixing plants and vegetables, there's a symbiosis and a synergy and an increase in productive capacity that happens there. So we can grow a lot more than we are. And that's especially true with how we raise our cattle. Our beef and diary raising is extremely inefficient because we aren't managing our pastures in a choreograph the way bison and wolves evolved to float across the native American prairie. It should give us all pause to realize that, 500 years ago, there were more pounds of animals being produced in what would become the US than there are today — even with chemical fertilizers and John Deere tractors. There were way over 100 million head of bison, over a million wolves, 2 million beavers — the antelope, the elk, the prairie chickens, the pheasants, the turkeys, the water fowl, the prodigious amount of life on the landscape and waterscape was just far beyond anything we can imagine today. What we have done is we have taken all of this amazing life and we have relegated it to the fringes — trading it all for our nuked suburban lawn, a monoculture of nothingness.

The truth is we can be far, far more productive. On our farm, by moving the cows every day to a fresh paddock to model the animal movement in nature, we're getting 5x the county average production per acre. That's without planting a seed or buying a bag of chemical fertilizer in over 50 years. These principals work. Imagine if the neighbors all got 5x the county average, and then their neighbors got 5x, and then the whole state. My goodness, the truth is that we haven’t even scratched the surface on production. Not only can our system feed the world, ultimately it is the only system that actually can. 

For more information about the speaking event Joel will be keynoting in Petaluma, CA on April 23, click here.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Joel Salatin (56m:49s)

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– Peak Prosperity –

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