Our Mentor

From the TOFGA lectures of February 2009, and the Polyface Intensive Discovery Seminars of 2009 & 2010, as transcribed and paraphrased by Martin:

In Joel Salatin’s words: “These are passionate, value-based thoughts, sound bites we should be discussing … we gotta get our philosophy right.”

“I believe in something bigger than myself”.

“Science is subjective, not objective!  There is no way to put in enough double blind studies to handle all the parameters.”

Joel describes himself as a “Christian Libertarian Environmentalist Capitalist Lunatic”

“Our industrial food systems have no connectedness, we’ve ostracized our food system, and in doing so we’ve cut the environmental cords, the emotional cords – and it just gets worse and worse.”

“Western-reductionist-Greco-Roman-linear-fragmented-focused on greed and envy – cannot continue, has cost us our soul.”

“These pasture-based operations can be economic, profit-based, employee-centric, fuel-wise, animal respectful – you don’t have to compromise any of these!”

“Create stewardship through creating value.” (MP note:  As with The Useful Wild Plants Project:  we take care of what we value!)

“Faster Bigger Cheaper” doesn’t engender health, our culture must change, that is the problem, there is no longer any “culture” in agriculture.

“Animal husbandry, food production systems have morphed into “inanimate pieces of protoplasmic structure subject to be used as we desire.”

“How we view life, animals, or even other cultures, defines our culture.  If we have reason to respect it, it is positive.  If not, it is evil.”

“At the end of the week we have to ask, the industrial/hubris system versus our system based on humility – eaters, farmers have to ask, “What was accomplished this week, was it good?””

“No reason to have any concentrated feeding system with fencing technology available.”
“First you try to understand, before you can be understood.”

“Direct marketing develops consensus, support and security for all.”

“Not fully utilizing our resources to full extent – need to use the creativity, character and resources between our ears.”

“Drove children away, disconnected them, taught them wrong, with expensive a single-use agriculture paradigm, single-use infrastructure.”

“When you can unite an eclectic group of friends, you know you are onto something.”

“Constantly look for things to do to massage relationships.”

“Collaborative, synergistic efforts – are what you want.”

“Opaqueness, misunderstanding & disconnectedness are the hallmarks of the modern industrial food system.  We want folks to sit down to dine – dance with someone they know!”

“World is starved for appreciation and affection; they will go to you, make it work for you, give it to the customers.”

“You need short term disturbance, a long period of rest.  This rules many things.  Disturbance key to innovation.  Problem with the “bailouts”:  preventing disturbance then innovation cycle to occur.  When you artificially prop stuff up, you mask the weakness.”

“How many things win, versus how many things lose?  That’s the question we need to be asking on our actions.”

“We are “wired to remember what stops us” – get over it … get over worry, failures – don’t grieve over them.”

“Before you become old and wise you must first be young and naïve.”

“Don’t have a chip on your shoulder – yeah you toil, work hard, but so what, and so what if some don’t appreciate it.”

“Have a happy, healthy, generally positive place for people to come and enjoy.”

“Why don’t we have enough good products so that we don’t have to bombard the airwaves, blow $2 million on mainstream media for 30 seconds.  Use word of mouth!”

“Make your luck!”

“Industrial Revolution – we cast away a lot of knowledge, 1950’s was the climax – i.e., breast feeding bad, formula good.”

Three stages of the economy/culture since 1900:

  1. Industrial – forgot how to cry, duty only, duty good
  2. Informational – started back towards soil, hippies
  3. Regenerative – now, reuse, recycle, reinvent, reconvert, food system now being developed

“Use human ingenuity, build redundancy into the landscape, resilience, buffering.”

“Leverage microclimates.”

“Don’t be a prisoner of “work done right, versus work done.”  If we are scared to screw up or chastised if not perfect – we won’t do it, and will stifle the imagination.”

“Start making paradise now.  Don’t wait to dot all i’s, cross all t’s.”

“When animals do the work, profit becomes “size neutral”.  “Scaling is the issue we are all dealing with.”

“Big challenge is economics of scale in distribution of food.  Farmer’s markets have a bigger energy footprint than Walmart!”

“Ethnic may be a good direction to go, in markets. But you can’t get TOO weird – you can find Buddhists, and you can find Nudists, but you can’t find too many Buddhist Nudists.”

“Allow the animal to express its individuality through habitat management.  Innate desire allows a pig to express his “pigness”.  This is a high moral, ethical plane.”

Nature sanitizes two ways:

  1. Decomposition/composting
  2. Rest & sunshine.

“Don’t want to sterilize, want fertile, vibrant life in bedding.”

“Need density of community for core life.  It takes 6 to get a village.”

“Trust chlorophyll, one of nature’s detoxifiers.”

“Sterility is not good for anything except surgery.”

99 % of pathogens don’t inter-speciate, ie go from one species to another – moving in other species breaks the cycle, 21 day cycles seem to predominate

“Perennial pasture”:  how did nature build the soil?  Used herbivores, predators, fire.”

“The cow is the best converter of solar energy to biomass.”

“How can we overlay the wildebeest soil building model in the modern production model?  They mobbed due to security concerns, kept moving, aggressively eating when they could.”

“Growth is not really what you want.  Cancer is growth.  What you want is HEALTH – in all dimensions.”

“1900 benchmark” – humans have been eating a lot longer prior to 1900 than after, so far.  But 98% of foods in the shopping market today were not there in 1900.

“Are we going to realize the tradition our 3 trillion of partner organisms (bacteria and fungi on humans) are familiar with?”

“Normal today, is not normal, historically.”

“If factor out deaths prior to age 12, childbirths, etc, life expectancies comparable to 1800’s.”

“Be the first to cast bread on water, it will turn into something you won’t believe.”

“Every business is limited by the reach of its top management team, by its ability to manage its workflows.”

Eleven core values (they say there are ten, but there are eleven that Joel has espoused) that they decided they wouldn’t violate, in order to prevent a really good business from growing up into a really bad business:

  1. No sales target.
  2. No trademarks or patents.
  3. Use/develop incentivized, commission-based collaborators.
  4. All waste streams metabolized by farm.
  5. Clearly defined market boundary.
  6. Continuous improvement – quality must always go up.
  7. No advertising – growth ONLY by viral means, happy customers, spreading word, “organically and serendipidously as a result of faithful service”.
  8. No IPO.
  9. Stay within ecological carrying capacity.
  10. People answer the phone.
  11. Stay seasonal.

Wanted 500 diversified bio-regional food clusters in 10 years (didn’t get there, but made progress).

“Only 10 % of farmers are marketers.  A lot of people work out in the country for a reason – because they don’t integrate well with other people.”

“Our culture is run by Conquistadors – don’t have little metal helmets and swords, but act that way, globalists care only about expansion, growth, bottom line – which is not sustainable behavior.”

“Lignified carbon is the way nature builds soil”

“In 10 years we could sequester all the CO2 emitted since the Industrial Age date if all operators converted to this philosophy.”

“Sacredness, nobility of agrarian lifestyle”

Advice for a young person:  “Whatever you do, do it with faith in that day, spirit, heart, work hard, learn, and the opportunities will present themselves.  Give yourself over to a mentor.  Don’t bother planning a detailed career path – who amongst us is doing what we had planned on doing?”

“All of us pick our points of inconsistency.  Admit it.  Get over it.  Live with it.”

From dinner lecture, excerpts from “Everything I want to do is illegal.”, TOFGA, 2/2009:

“What we are facing is not a conspiracy, but rather a “Fraternity of Common Paradigm””.

“Barriers to entry which have been/are being fabricated are dooming the capitalist system – when we prohibit people from trying a new idea, when a prototype can’t make a profit early on due to too much compliance, too many ridiculous rules and regulations then we are destroying our system.”

“A 16-year old can barrel down the highway at 70 mph, but it is illegal for him to operate a cordless drill in a workplace … “

“It’s not about safety; remember, safety, like science, is subjective!  Bungie jumping, smoking, etc. – these are things lots of people do things that are really unsafe, it is your choice not to do so.”

“Ebay – if, to use Ebay, you had to be a certified computer operator before you could begin, had to have an electrician run your extension cord and powerstrip, had to have a fire marshall inspect your fire extinguisher over your computer … then Ebay would have never happened.”

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