Food for Thought: A Brunch with Joel Salatin

Yesterday was the 5th of May, Cinco de Mayo, a big celebration in Northern New Mexico, as you can imagine.

It was also the 350.org ‘s Connect the Dots event with actions going on worldwide like this one of firefighters in the Santa Fe Forest remembering the largest wildfire in New Mexico history that was connected to climate change.

My family and I spent our day at another lower profile, albeit just as important event, the Food for Thought brunch at the Camino de Paz School and Farm in Santa Cruz, New Mexico. The brunch’s guest speaker was Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms.

Set in the idyllic country, 23 miles north of Santa Fe, Camino de Paz is a private Montessori middle school for students in grades 7-9. The farm provides a model classroom for the hands-on learning that goes on here. Camino de Paz is also a working biodynamic farm where the students tend to goats, sheep, horses, and chickens while raising crops that they sell along with their eggs, goat milk, and hand-made soaps through their CSA and a farmer’s market. Students even learn to use a QuickBooks program to manage their farm-related businesses.

The young learners understand their connection to the earth and the larger eco-system around them. This observation wasn’t lost on Joel Salatin who spent the day before working with the students on the farm. Salatin lamented that today’s youth are at risk for hospitalization due to injury sustained from walking into utility poles while being consumed by looking at an electronic screen and wearing ear buds.

Looking slimmer than I’ve seen him in the past, Salatin talked about the unconditional love one receives from working on a sustainable organic farm. “The chicken’s not thinking about it’s divorce” and “the cow  doesn’t care about the Dow Jones Industrial Average.” The animals radiate complete love in being allowed to live their life to the fullest potential of their being while working as a partner in this symphony of creation.

Therein lies the physiological difference in how Salatin, the Camino de Paz kids, and local sustainable agriculture people view food differently from most the rest of the country. One this side, the small farm, sustainable foodies see our food system as biological; it has resiliency and can heal.

The corporate industrial agribusiness worldview is that this system is mechanical, reductionist, linear. That’s why, as Salatin puts it in an interview, “we can pull DNA structure and genes from a pig and put some in a pepper plant and some in a salmon and have a brand new life form; that’s a parts-oriented thing, like pieces of an engine.” The latter system lacks respect. As Joel calls it, honoring the “pigness of the pig” and the “cowness of the cow”.  And a society that views life with “that kind of conquistador, mechanical, disrespectful, manipulative mentality will soon view its citizens the same way and other cultures the same way,” asserts Salatin.

This was food for thought as we enjoyed the breeze, the love that created the delicious farm meal, and the interconnectedness of all life at Camino de Paz. For another course, check out Salatin’s new book, Folks, This Ain’t Normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World.

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