Joel Salatin on Ecologically Profitable Farming – How New Farmers Can Get In and How Existing Farmers Can Convert. (PVP019)

“You can’t have profit and destroy the ecology, and you can’t save the ecology without a profitable business.”Joel Salatin

Joel Salatin talks a lot about how young people can get into farming by establishing synergistic relationships with older farmers as he tries to dispel the big belief that you need land to farm.

He touches on the farming business and how conventional farmers can start to transition to a perennial based agricultural system.

He also drives home the point that each of us can be the change that we want to see in the world by just trying to control what is in our own sphere of influence.  

This episode of the podcast is the audio from an interview that I did with Joel Salatin of Polyface Farm back on May 22, 2013 in Big Bear Lake, CA.

Key Takeaways from this Episode:

  • Convert a little bit of acres at a time, when converting a large amount of land from an annual based system to a perennial based system. 
  • Converting a corn, soybean operation over to grassfed beef.  It would take a year to plant the grass, an d it would take another year to come into production.  You could start grazing it the second year and 3 years out you would be making more money per acre than you would on corn and beans.
  • Possibly sell some land to get yourself enough wiggle room to convert your farm over to a more regenerative agriculture system.
  • Prune off enterprises that don’t work.  Maybe you can’t figure them out.   It doesn’t fit your marketbase or your unfair advantage.  Each enterprise has to carry its own weight.
  • Beware of the enslavement of highly capitalized infrastructure.  Too often that infrastructure controls the decision making process for right or wrong due to the amount of money invested into it.
  • Use in place infrastructure to help transition to a perennial polyculture.  That equipment is already in place.  Make use of it.
  • Take the Stephen Covey approach.  Control your own sphere of influence.


Notable quotes from this episode:

  • “What’s wrong with us creates more GDP than what’s right with us.”  Wendell Berry
  • “If you keep giong the way that you’re going, then you’re going to end up where you’re headed.”  Chinese Proverb
  • “Be the change that you want to see in the world.”
  • “With good herbivore management, a perennial system will out compete an annual system of any stripe.  Any stripe.  And in fact that’s what built the soils of our prairies that we are now mining with annuals.”
  • “So yeah, if you’ve got the infrastructure, and it’s paid for, and you have this unfair advantage of being able to do the water, go ahead.But it’s a perfect example where so many times our infrastructure, our highly capitalized infrastructure, begins to dominate our decisions.So what we buy, that was supposedly bought to liberate us from the constraints of nature, and from the constraints of the ecological balance sheet become actually then an enslavement in the future, because we are emotionally and economically enslaved to that highly capitalized infrastructure.”
  • “Now, if you go to a diversified operation where you have stackable symbiotic enterprises and you for example integrate plants and animals in the system then you can compete as a small producer because your value adding all of your production through to a final product.   And then if you direct market, then you even become more financially successful.Because the average farm is getting all of it’s income off of just production.  Well that’s only a ¼ of the retail dollar, the other ¾ come from processing, marketing, and distribution.So if you start wearing all of those other hats, from the evil middleman who makes all of the money; if the middleman makes all of the money, then I want to be one.  Pick me, pick me.So if you start taking some of your dollars, not just from production, but from processing, distribution, and marketing, you can sit on a four legged stool instead of a one legged stool and reduce the risk of your income.”
  • “The point is that the corn and beans are being grown to be mechanically harvested to be shipped somewhere to be fed to herbivores.  Why not just forget planting the annual, plant the perennial… or replant the perennial, let the animal self harvest, self fertilize.  The efficiencies of self harvest, of self fertilization, and elimination of all of the equipment for tillage and fertilization is astronomical.”
  • “A farm that is conventional and wanting to make a change didn’t get wherever it is overnight, and it won’t get out of wherever it is overnight.  And the bigger the farm it is, the harder it is.”
  • “I would advise them to sell some land to create a cushion to make the change.  That creates some wiggle room that is needed, because changing is financially disturbing.”
  • “If everyone of us would do what we know we could do if we really got passionate about it, it would so change our world that we can’t even imagine what tomorrow’s dawn would bring.”

Joel Salatin On the Next Generation of Farmers


Joel Salatin on Economically and Environmentally Sustainable Farm Businesses

The stated NY Times article. Wells Dry, Fertile Plains Turn to Dust – The Link. “We’re on the last kick,” he said. “The bulk water is gone.”

"Portions of the High Plains Aquifer are rapidly being depleted by farmers who are pumping too much water to irrigate their crops, particularly in the southern half in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Levels have declined up to 242 feet in some areas, from predevelopment — before substantial groundwater irrigation began — to 2011." Source NY Times.

“Portions of the High Plains Aquifer are rapidly being depleted by farmers who are pumping too much water to irrigate their crops, particularly in the southern half in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Levels have declined up to 242 feet in some areas, from pre-development — before substantial groundwater irrigation began — to 2011.” Source NY Times.

Stephen Covey’s book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that Joel mentions:


More information about Joel Salatin & Polyface Farms:
Polyface Farms
Polyface Farms on Facebook


Fields of Farmers on Amazon.

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