Joel Salatin, 56, is a full-time farmer in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. A third generation alternative farmer, he returned to the farm full-time in 1982 and continued refining and adding to his parents’ ideas.
The farm services more than 5,000 families, 10 retail outlets, and 50 restaurants through on-farm sales and metropolitan buying clubs with salad bar beef, pastured poultry, eggmobile eggs, pigaerator pork, forage-based rabbits, pastured turkey and forestry products using relationship marketing.
He holds a BA degree in English and writes extensively in magazines such as STOCKMAN GRASS FARMER, ACRES USA, and FOODSHED.
The family’s farm, Polyface Inc. (“The Farm of Many Faces”) has been featured in SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, GOURMET and countless other radio,television and print media. Profiled on the Lives of the 21st Century series with Peter Jennings on ABC World News, his after-broadcast chat room fielded more hits than any other segment to date. It achieved iconic status as the grass farm featured in the NEW YORK TIMES bestseller OMNIVORE’S DILEMMA by food writer guru Michael Pollan and the award-winning film documentary, FOOD INC.
A sought-after conference speaker, he addresses a wide range of issues, from “creating the farm your children will want” to “making a white collar salary from a pleasant life in the country.” A wordsmith, he describes his occupation as “mob-stocking hervbivorous solar conversion lignified carbon sequestration fertilization.” His humorous and conviction-based speeches are akin to theatrical performances, often receiving standing ovations.
He has authored eight books, four of them how-to types:
- PASTURED POULTRY PROFITS: Net $25,000 in 6 months on 20 Acres
- SALAD BAR BEEF
- YOU CAN FARM: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Start and Succeed in a Farming Enterprise
- FAMILY FRIENDLY FARMING: A Multi-Generational Home-Based Business Testament
- HOLY COWS AND HOG HEAVEN: The Food Buyer’s Guide to Farm Friendly Food, is an attempt to bring producers and patrons together in mutual understanding and appreciation
- EVERYTHING I WANT TO DO IS ILLEGAL: War stories from the local food front.
- THE SHEER ECSTASY OF BEING A LUNATIC FARMER
- FOLKS, THIS AIN’T NORMAL: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World
His speaking and writing reflect dirt-under-the-fingernails experience punctuated with mischievous humor. He passionately defends small farms, local food systems, and the right to opt out of the conventional food paradigm. Four generations of his family currently live and work on the farm.
Joel Salatin was a great addition to our series, “The Ethics of Food and the Environment.” This series brings scholars, policy makers and practitioners to campus to reflect on the ways that what we eat and consume can raise moral questions. After hearing these presentations — from some of the world’s leading climate scientists — members of the audience often wonder what they can do. That’s where Joel’s talk really resonated. With great humor and passion, Joel presented an intriguing alternative to conventional food production, and inspired the audience to connect to local food systems.
Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society
Director, Bowen H. McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society
Professor of Philosophy and, by courtesy, Political Science