How much do you know about the food system and farming practices here in the United States? I have been learning about them recently, but my education got a big boost a few weeks ago when I saw Polyfaces: A World of Many Choices - a beautiful documentary about Polyface Farms.
Joel Salatin is the face of Polyface (oops, that was a pun), which is his home in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia - and a multi-generational, very unconventional, oh-so-cool farm. Polyface means "many faces," and the farm's emblem is the simple outline of a tree, containing a cow, containing a chicken, containing a fish. As alluded to, the uniqueness of their farm is that they don't focus on only one crop or animal, but they create a symbiotic relationship between pigs, cattle, rabbits, and chickens, by strategically moving them around the fields, woods, and ponds that make up the farm. They help each animal to live the way it was designed to live, engaging in the functions that not only make it happiest but also contribute to the well-being of every other organism on the farm - not to mention whoever may eat the animal down the road.
The film covered how richly the Salatin's animal rotation system builds the soil and the land's fertility. It also gave a snapshot of daily life on the farm (which, in the summer, includes the Salatin's internship program for young farmers), and some things Polyface has put its hand to, such as an annual "field day" for the community, tours of the farm, sales and delivery of their products, and an on-site farm kitchen. The entire operation (especially some scenes involving juicy, delicious-looking tomatoes) seemed too good to be true in comparison to my experience of our food system as I shop in grocery stores and drive through farm-lands on road trips.
Here's how all of this relates to the library: Joel Salatin is not only a famous farmer, but he's also the author of 10 books. I was so interested in the ways of his farm, that I began listening to the audio-book version of Joel Salatin's newest book, The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs. You can probably tell from this title that Joel is a bit kooky - what's really funny is that the book is hardly about pigs, though they do serve as one of the many illustrations of Salatin's points throughout. From what I gather, this new book is different from his previous ones in that it is written specifically to call out Christians who believe it's okay not to steward the earth well. His others aren't religious at all. The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs has been even more eye-opening than the documentary was for me - in ways both disturbing and inspiring. Even though I'm not a farmer (though now I want to be!), I can't wait to read more of his books to learn more about the animals, the environment, the industry, and how I can contribute to a healthier food system.
Salatin encourages everyone to "farm" to the extent that they can - raising backyard chickens for eggs and feeding them with table scraps instead of filling up landfills, composting, adding on solariums to homes and churches for growing food in the winter, planting fruit trees and vegetables instead of growing a lawn, and collecting rainwater. He also encourages buying locally whatever food you can't grow yourself. So I thought I would provide a few related resources at the end of this post. There are many of us in Albuquerque interested in such things! If you know of anything I am missing, we'd love to hear about it in the comments.
Joel Salatin's Books +
Books by Michael Pollan
Plowing with Pigs by Oscar and Karen Will
Worms Eat My Garbage by Mary Appelhof
Local Organizations & Farms in New Mexico
Old Town Farm
Red Tractor Farm
Rio Grande Farm
Farm to Table
New Mexico Farmers' Markets
The Micro Farm Project
Permaculture in Wikipedia
Seeds of Change [based in Santa Fe until 2010]
Also, check out our Home & Garden LibGuides which includes great information about our Seed Library, composting, mulching, water conservation, mini-farming, and xeriscaping.