One Man’s Farm Isn’t All Of Farming
The News Leader has carried many fine stories about Joel Salatin’s Polyface farm. Monday’s was no exception. Sadly, Joel lacks the good graces to avoid seizing these opportunities to malign fellow farmers who don’t adhere to his methods. I have silently endured his pointed, snide remarks towards fellow farmers who farm on a different scale than he. Though Polyface caters to a unique niche market, that’s exactly what it is; a niche market. However, I suspect his niche market provides a more lucrative opportunity for promoting his books and selling himself on the lecture circuit. We have the safest, least expensive, most abundant food supply in the world, thanks to American farmers. Polyface-type farms will never be able to supply America’s needs.
I proudly grow for Virginia Poultry Growers Coop which produces antibiotic and hormone-free meat. We provide excellent farming practices for our birds. Their bedding is fluffed and freshened twice weekly, an endless supply of clean water and the most nutritious food available is provided, as well as a barn which during this recent heat wave was cooler than our house. I would much rather eat a grain-fed bird, grown in a controlled environment than one that’s been scratching around for its meal in a pile of cow dung. Doesn’t sound appetizing to me!
Regarding Joel’s comments about Avian Influenza, birds kept outside are more susceptible to AI and other diseases. The leading cause of AI is wild fowl such as ducks and geese. Backyard growers, a category Polyface falls under, are not required to report AI as we are. I have no problem with this. The strains we have seen aren’t harmful to humans. Yes, Polyface provides a fine service to those seeking his products but the rest of us feed the nation and beyond. Let’s try respecting each other.
I am extremely disappointed in the News Leader buying into this bashing of our agrarian community. Farming is still the No. 1 industry in Augusta County, and you should respect and support it.
More To Polyface That ‘Niche Farming’
Chuck Sevigny’s Monday letter castigating The News Leader for running a positive article about our farm epitomized the gross prejudice and hatred emanating from the industrial-academic-bureaucratic food fraternity.
*He says, “Polyface-type farms will never be able to supply America’s needs.” Our production per square yard far surpasses industrial farms, and without the need for toxic rescue chemistry and drugs.
*He says industrial poultry factories use the most “nutritious food available” and disparges our chickens’ “scratching around for its meal in a pile of cow dung.” His system worships human cleverness, viewing chickens as so many inanimate blobs of protoplasmic molecular structure, in typical Conquistador fashion destroying heritage wisdom. We are to ask: “Does it matter if the chicken can express her ‘chicken-ness’?” That’s the foundation for respect. Why is genetically engineered grain more nutritious than fly larvae?
*Sevigny shows his lack of scientific knowledge by claiming that outdoor birds are more susceptible to Avian Influenza. The federal chicken police desperately tried to find an outdoor bird with AI during the last taxpayer-indemnified epizootic, but could not find even one. Two of the federal veterinarians working in the task force sat in my living room and told me that everyone know the problem was too much poultry on too little land crammed too tightly into houses, but saying so publicly would result in immediate employment termination (i.e., they’d be fired.) So, who’s playing the fool?
*”We have the safest most abundant food supply in the world” is Sevigny’s altar. What is “safe?” Irradiation, genetic engineering, feeding chicken manure and dead chickens to cows like Valley farmers are doing today, pesticides, ionophore transplants-this is safe? If growing it faster, bigger and cheaper were a noble goal, we’d all aspire to be the fattest guy in the room.
We welcome anyone to come and see our farming practices and compare it to others. Finally, note which system clogs our school systems with English as a Second Language space and creates social spasms due to inhumane working conditions. Eating is a moral act.
There’s a fine line between clever and wise
It’s sad to see “natural” Valley farmers like Joel Salatin attacking their high-yield farming neighbors-like Chuck Sevigny-who represent the world’s greatest farming triumph.
I’ve debated Joel, in Staunton and on national public TV. He hates to admit that his farming system would take far more land to produce our food, but it’s true. The famed Rodale Institute recently reported that its pampered organic fields produce one-third less food per acre than an average conventional farm. Instead of nourishing its crops with nitrogen fertilizer, Rodale uses scarce cropland to grow green manure crops-and leaches more nutrients per ton of food into local streams.
The world is already farming half the land not covered by sand or ice. We’ll need twice as much farm output by 2050, mainly because 7 billion people will then be rich enough to eat as well as Valley residents do already.
Farmers like Chuck Sevigny have doubled U.S. meat yield per acre since 1970, using nitrogen fertilizer, high-yield seeds, safety-tested pesticides and pharmaceuticals to keep their livestock healthy. That’s why America is gaining forests and the Shenandoah still has its trees.
We should also commend Chuck, and all the other confinement poultry producers for minimizing our risk from avian flu, cholera, and the other epidemic diseases that co-evolved between humans and farm animals. The “Asian flu” that killed 70,000 Americans in the 1960s originated in Asia’s backyard poultry flocks. Twenty-five Chinese have recently died from a pig-borne disease. The World Health Organization is trying to move Asia’s poultry and hogs into confinement houses like Chuck’s. If Valley farmers grew lots of chickens Joel’s way, wild birds would be spreading annual bird flu epidemics here too. When human well-being and the preservation of our wildlands are at stake, we can’t afford to confuse clever with wise.