When Joel Salatin, the owner of Polyface Farm, was asked what it was he did for living he answered: growing grass. Could something so ordinary and practically worthless sustain a flourishing farm? The film Polyfaces by Australian director Lisa Heenan, screened at the LSFF 2015 in world premiere, is full of smart answers to very basic questions – Joel Salatin is in fact a real expert on smart answers.
The Salatin family moved to the neglected Polyface Farm at the beginning of the 1960s. Joel Salatin’s father came from a traditional farmer family, which was unconventional even in today’s standards. The neighbours thought they had lost their marbles – they did not understand why he wasn’t growing corn like the rest of them. Instead he was moving cow herds and chicken and turkey flocks alternately across pastures, as if he was playing a chess game on the grass. And in fact he was – the best fodder for animals is grass. Grow enough grass, let the animals graze and you don’t need to care about fodder, getting rid of dung or worry about infections. The Salatins use the method of mob-stocking when they drive a big herd of cows to a small part of the pasture for one day. They graze everything that comes in their way and the next day they move to a new fenced-in square. Dung is left alone for three days so that worms and beetles develop in it and then the chickens are brought there. The chickens pick out all living creatures and spread the manure across the pasture where it gests mixed with soil overturned by the cows. When it rains the loosened soil full of natural manure comes to life and gives rise to a new harvest of food for more cows. And it goes on and on in this way.
You can read the interview with the director Lisa Heenan in this article.
The Salatins not only know everything about farming, they also have an open heart and an ever open door. Every year, crowds of young people arrive to gain experience on their farm so that they can start farming themselves. Joel Salatin’s reputation of a “guru” of alternative farming is well deserved – not only is his farm more productive than the neighbouring farms, he also devotes his energy and charisma to inspire new generations of farmers as well as customers. For it is the customers’ shopping choices that have the power to support food producers who farm in conformity with common sense. The concept of farming that produces food of the highest quality and heals the soil at the same time just might be our hope for the future. However, this would require a situation when farmers like Joel Salatin are no longer seen as lunatic farmers and their methods become a standard main stream procedure.
The film Polyfaces is screened at the LSFF 2015 in world premiere. Since everything is connected, and not only on Joel Salatin’s farm, we also bring you Michael Schwarz’s In Defense of Food in European premiere. It is based on the book of the same title by Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma published in 2006. One of its main characters is – who else but – Joel Salatin. The book The Omnivore’s Dilemma made Polyface Farm famous all over the world and made it possible for LSFF 2015 to host the premieres of two great films about how our relationship to food influences our relationship to the world and to other people.
– owner of Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia, USA
– uses regenerative farming method with high yields, his produce is renowned for its quality
– promoter of alternative agriculture, author of You Can Farm; Folks, This Ain’t Normal; Salad Bar Beef
– winner of 2009 Heinz Award for special focus on environment
– became famous after the publication of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, in which he argues against traditional farming methods