Joel Salatin is the self confessed lunatic farmer who is featured in the films Food Inc. and Fresh. He runs Polyface farm. “We are in the redemption business: healing the land, healing the food, healing the economy, and healing the culture.” MADGE was lucky enough to attend two talks by him at the Lake House in Daylesford recently. Here are his essential components in a local food economy:
* Need to make agriculture aesthetically and aromatically sensually romantic
* Needs transparency to build the reputation
* Embedded in the community
* Solar driven, i.e. use animals and lightweight fences , fertiliser in-sourced and not from outside, retain surface runoff water, value added on farms
* Jeffersonian intellectual agrarian concept
* Collaborate with others
2) Young people on the farm
* We need the best and the brightest for land stewardship
* The average age of people in healthy industries should be around 35. In the US farmers are 60 years old on average
* Most innovation starts very small. Current regulations tend to stifle this and this needs to change
* Polyface has an apprenticeship and intern programme
* Someone has to watch the money
* Need to divide into categories to show exactly what part of the business is making/losing money. Joel has 180 categories.
* Needs a gregarious story teller
* If you can’t do it yourself, outsource ie one group of produce growers employs someone to market for them. They pay 10% commission but it frees them up to farm.
This is often where local food systems fail. As they can’t achieve economies of scale, instead they need to be collaborative, creative, fluid, responsive and be where people are. Polyface farms sales are:
* 25% on farm sales
* 35% direct to restaurants within 40 mile radius. Always has the delivery as a separate cost on the invoice otherwise produce ends up subsidising the transport. Chefs are welcome to collect from farm. Can also outsource delivery and contractor can see exactly income available.
* 45% metropolitan buying club. Uses the internet to have a running inventory so people can see what is available. Delivered 8 times a year. Drops pre-ordered, pre-sold food at hostess houses that others collect from.
Other creative examples given were:
* A school bus turned into a traditional town store complete with counter, shelving, pot belly stove and chairs to sit and chat. Produce collected from farmers and driven into the city to sell to office workers. It is so successful now converting a second bus into a mobile kitchen staffed by chefs to show people how to cook. This attracts customers to the chef’s restaurant as well.
* Sponsors send vans to inner city food deserts
* Box scheme community supported agriculture. Farmers stay on the farm but consumers get fresh food. Examples in Australia would include the Food Connect systems in several cities and other box schemes.
* Internet based system run by people with a background in pizza delivery. Has 30-40 farmers. Customers place an order by Tuesday 8pm. Wed am gofers are sent to pick up the produce, collated that evening and sent out on Thursday morning 5-8am. Delivery by moonlightling pizza deliverers.
* The vital catalyst – someone who realises that life is more than the supermarket
* Needs to be: philosophically consistent, appreciate seasonality, rediscover kitchens, realise how expensive processed food is, “don’t go shopping – go to the pantry”
Joel Salatin was enthusiastic and full of interesting and inspiring ideas. It is obvious that he takes great delight in nurturing young farmers and that his dedication is paying off as ex-apprentices often set up nearby therefore increasing the diversity and depth of the local food economy. As Joel said “Change this food system one bite at a time and heal our planet.”
Joel will be running workshops in Australia later on this year.
Watch Hope in a Changing Climate to see how a landscape of bare hills was turned into a beautiful productive landscape.
Patents on Seed, The Turning Point. Munich, Germany, July 19th 2010; 10.15 am to 3.15 pm. Conference to discuss the negative impacts of patents granted on plants and animals. Will also look at necessary changes and how to implement these.