Book Review: The Sheer Ecstasy of being a Lunatic Farmer by Joel Salatin

Discussion in 'Random Ramblings' started by ukuleledave, Aug 9, 2013.

  1. Thanks for the review, but pick a book about chickens next time.

    0 vote(s)
  2. I have read the book, and you're nuts.

    0 vote(s)
  3. I have read the book and you're right.

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Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. ukuleledave

    ukuleledave In the Brooder

    May 9, 2013
    Mayberry, NC
    Book Review: The Sheer Ecstasy of being a Lunatic Farmer by Joel Salatin (Chelsea Green Publishing)

    Joel Salatin is the author of Folks, this Ain't Normal, Pastured Poultry Profit$ and
    Everything I want to Do is Illegal, and he is a "lunatic Farmer." He's doing everything
    wrong on his farm, according to modern farm practices. He grows grass for his cows and chickens to graze, he avoids pesticides and antibiotics, and he cares about the "pigness of pigs." Oh, and his fences are all crooked. He's clearly off his rocker.

    If you have a chicken tractor, or have "Googled" the term, you probably have come across some discussion of Salatin. Salatin's method of chicken raising is not unique to his Polyface Farm, but he is a genuine Pied Piper of grass fed animals. Polyface Farm is the home to pigs, chickens, rabbits and cattle. And lots and lots of grass.

    Salatin mentions backyard chickens only in passing, but his methods and mania are clearly adaptable to the small-time. Salatin sends beef cattle into the fields to eat grass and produce manure, then later sends chicken in to spread the wealth of fertilizer, peck at the fly larvae and produce excellent eggs. Layers, cattle, broilers and even pigs have a hand, or hoof, in improving the soil. Salatin needs that soil to be healthy, since he is
    primarily a grass farmer. He doesn't plant wheat, corn or other fertilizer-intensive annuals. He grows the commonest of perennials:grass.

    I assumed his chicken tractor would look pretty. Or at least presentable. Backyarders, according to the photo in this book, his broilers live in fairly large 2x4 framed structures of wire and old tin. I'm not criticizing, I'm just pleased that his "pasture schooners" are at least as cobbled together as mine.

    This book started me thinking about the amount of grain I am buying for my birds, and the quality of my back yard grass. I live in a grass competitive neighborhood. I only
    avoid fertilizer because of my frugal nature, but I doubt I'll buy any after reading
    Salatin's books.

    Salatin is trying to promote a very knowledge based farming style, and it's clear he's
    done his homework. He lost me for a bit in the discussion of farm fertilizer, and of the
    chemical balancing act he employs at Polyface Farm. He describes the damage being done to farmland by modern pesticide and fertilizer based farming, and tries to offer an
    alternative. In doing so, Salatin steps on a few toes - including farmers'.

    Salatin describes a talk before a Ruritan Club "after I'd finished, an old farmer on the
    front row, arms crossed resolutely across his chest, verbally assaulted me. 'Let me get
    this right. You don't have a plow. You don't fill a silo. You don't combine wheat. Well
    sonny, then you don't do any farming then do you?

    Salatin's method requires smart, professional farmers. He admires the US founding
    fathers - many were well-educated gentlemen farmers. Based upon Salatin's experience, most folks figure farmers are our dimmest bulbs.

    "The more and longer a culture creates a perception, the closer reality comes to that perception. If farmers are supposed to be the dumbest class in society, who do you think will ultimately dominate that vocation? The perception becomes a self-fulfilling wish. How many farmers read books? Not very many."

    Salatin might want to start his pickup truck by remote control.

    You'll like chapters titled "Small is Okay" and "Portable Infrastructure" and I
    especially enjoyed the last chapters covering community. Salatin won't ship his food, and prefers the notion that his method of farming will catch on, and most people will be eating food produced locally, from people they know.

    If you have a heart for small-scale farming, you might also look at his You Can Farm.
    His newest book Folks, This Ain't Normal continues Salatin's critique of moderm food
    production. Chelsea Green Publishing has a bargain on three of his books. (3 books)
    If the link is dead, the deal is gone, but the website is:

    (I'm not associated with the publisher, or with Polyface Farm. I'm just a ukulele-playing
    chicken-raisin' school teacher.)

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