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Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal: War Stories from the Local Food Front

4.16  ·  Rating details ·  1,723 ratings  ·  173 reviews
Drawing upon 40 years' experience as an ecological farmer and marketer, Joel Salatin explains with humor and passion why Americans do not have the freedom to choose the food they purchase and eat. From child labor regulations to food inspection, bureaucrats provide themselves sole discretion over what food is available in the local marketplace. Their system favors industri ...more
Paperback, 358 pages
Published September 17th 2007 by Polyface
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Apr 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: permaculture
Joel, you are right but you are nuts and I need to take breaks when reading your book to get the righteous 'tone' out of my head. Since talking to you in person went so badly, my only wish is this: May your daughter become a feminist, recognize oppression everywhere, and bring that also to your dinner table. Yeah, sometimes it sucks to be a farmer, but you've got to figure out a system to help those whose lives suck even more. I only bring this up because you do, you white male, privileged enoug ...more
Feb 16, 2010 rated it really liked it
With a title like Everything I Want to Do is Illegal you might expect that Joel Salatin wants to do things that others might find morally questionable, or certainly well outside the norm. And while the latter, at least, might be true in a sense, that in and of itself is a sad commentary on our country, because all Salatin wants to do is to raise and sell to his customers what he believes (and many satisfied customers will agree) is the best animals and animal products in the world, and he wants ...more
May 14, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Okay, ignore the racism, misogyny, xenophobia, etc, and this is a really good book. The ideas pertaining strictly to agriculture are wonderful. If I could rewrite it to get rid of the former list of issues, it would be my bible. As such, the notes I took will have to do.
Apr 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who watch "The 700 Club" for entertainment purposes
Small-time farmer takes on big-city bureaucrats. This guy is a kook! Fascinating! It's in the spirit of the Humanure Handbook and Countryside Magazine with some Focus On The Family stuff thrown in. A little disturbing; wildly entertaining. ...more
Feb 10, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is a book that would make Robert Heinlein rolled over in his grave, yet he would completely agree with it. It is a book to make me, the mildly rebellious anti-authority person I am, become a raving Libertarian. It also will make you think twice, if not three times, before you buy meat at the grocery store again.
The author of this book is a farmer in Virginia. He is trying to run a small farm and sell the products from his farm. Most of the things he wants to do, sell eggs, fresh chicken and
Sep 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who eats.
This book offers fascinating insights into the processes involved in modern food creation, how this has changed, and why. It makes a very strong argument for the need to preserve (or bring back) local farms, pointing out the fallacy of the legislation that currently makes this so difficult. While I can't claim to agree with all of the author's view points (he talks about much more than just food and farming in the book), I fully agree with his philosophy that we should openly discuss our beliefs ...more
Aug 17, 2012 rated it did not like it
This book seems to me, designed to make, at times, some statements that generalize and sound aggressive enough, with the purpose of catching one's attention quickly. The one major turn-off for me, among others, was in page 310: "I don't know anyone who thrives on a vegan diet, I've met many folks who are on a vegan diet, but I've never met a healthy one". And so on- you get the idea. You can't generalize statements such as this one, and believe it.... ...more
Jun 07, 2012 rated it it was ok
When it comes to farming I think he's a genius but when he starts talking about other topics (immigration, abortion, social security) I get very turned off by his opinions. He really exposes how the USDA is owned by industrial farming and corporations. All in all I can't say I recommend this book. ...more
Nov 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: farming, 5-star
Joel Salatin is my hero. In Everything I Want to Do Is Illegal he recounts personal stories about some of the struggles he's had with the "food police", anyone from the USDA to local state-level inspectors, etc. Anyone who thinks smaller-scale farmers have it easier needs to read this book. The most amazing thing to me is that Polyface Farm is still going strong despite all the obstacles the Salatin family has had to constantly overcome! To sum up everything Joel Salatin has to say in this book ...more
Mrs Robin
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book needs to come with a warning that reads, "WARNING:Will make your blood pressure rise, your eyes see red, and smoke protrude from your ears." Seriously! The war stories shared in the book are beyond ridiculous! But they serve a purpose! They show you that big government is not the way to go. That big government doesn't truly care about you or your health or your freedom. O no!!! They want to enslave you, control you, and they do this by pulling a blind over your eyes and telling you tha ...more
May 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
This thoroughly enjoyable book is at once humorous and infuriating. Humorous because of Joel’s genuine, down-to-earth writing style that just makes you chuckle throughout. Infuriating because of the jumble of insane bureaucracy he reveals.

Joel can be pretty far out with some of his political views, but that adds to the appeal of the book. Joel defines authentic — he lets it all hang out, doesn’t mince words, and states things plainly.

Whether you agree with him or not, he’s a likable guy whose th
Jun 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Joel Salatin has described himself as a 'lunatic farmer' - but most of the ideas he expresses in this book I find eminently sane and sensible. He and his family have a mixed farm in Virginia, USA, a holistic kind of system with rotations of animals (chooks follow cattle, for example, and clean up parasites), plus pigs, forest and timber. They also process their own animals and supply the local market.
However many of these productive and regenerative activities, producing wholesome nourishing fo
Mar 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
As I get closer and closer to my goal of living on a farm, I'm trying to understand and read more about it all. I'm only on page 5 (thanks to a preface and an introduction) but with such good reviews from other Goodreaders I'm crossing my fingers this one won't let me down.

-Just finished this book and hmmmmm, it was interesting. Gives me new thinking on the farm life and just proves how the government is basically controlling everything we want to do in order to make a living and live a living.
Sep 11, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfic-etc
I finished it finally!

Ugh. There was a lot in this book about the food industry and other things that I didn't know previously. I had never heard the term "manure lagoon" before. I wasn't even aware of the practice. I didn't know that the cows that become the beef that is on most grocery store shelves are fed chicken poop and even chicken carcasses on a regular basis (and the USDA is ok with it and even encourages it). I'm not a vegetarian, but by choice I don't eat meat often so I probably was
Aug 08, 2011 rated it liked it
This is a great book for understanding the struggles that true believers of sustainable farming are up against. It is a detailed account of the bureaucratic red-tape family farmers need to navigate in order to make a living and do so in an environmentally sensitive, small business model, high quality product manner.

Salatin makes it easy to understand his point of view by walking the reader through several scenarios that he's experienced firsthand. Salatin's observations, whatever the politics of
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book and liked the author's matter-of-factness and down-to-earth sense of humor. It’s a tirade about how our food system laws and regulations favor the industrial giants and tend to run small farmers out of business. All the while offering some very funny stories. It was thought provoking and blood boiling! Salatin has a very libertarian mindset for which I can relate but some might find a bit out there. He shows how a more intimate relationship between the consumer and the produc ...more
Apr 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food-and-cooking
If you don't know who Joel Salatin is, he is the all-natural, very opinionated Virginia farmer that was interviewed in the documentary Food Inc. He is quite the libertarian and does not shy away from sharing his political views on nearly every topic under the sun, food related or not. The book could have used another round of editing - it repeats itself and there are grammar issues.

But despite all of that, I'm really glad I read this book. Joel explains how the U.S. food industry is set up to b
David Galloway
Mar 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
I'm becoming quite the fan of Salatin's writing. Being a family farmer who wants to accomplish as much as possible on his own farm, Joel Salatin often finds his farm visited the USDA or other regulatory agencies who tell them that he must wash his eggs in chlorine for them to be considered clean, that to charge even $1 admission for tour groups turns his farm legally into an amusement park, that raw milk will kill people, and that he can sell ground pork from his pigs directly on his farm but if ...more
Susan Rainwater
Dec 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Salatin's engaging and persuasive argument rests on the fact that he, as a highly intelligent, moral and ethical man, wants to do the right thing. However, being moral and ethical is not a scalable idea. It's a personal commitment. While I enjoyed to book immensely, I could not help thinking that the reason we have the regulation system that Salatin so hates is that most people can't be counted on to be intelligent, moral and ethical.

I applaud Salatin's work and think he's right that a lot of t
Aug 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Salatin is a "beyond organic" farmer, to use his own words. He writes about the struggles and triumphs of being an independent farmer in America, with some particulars relating to his state of Virginia. He shares his frustrations with bureaucracy and how the food system stifles the production of local, high quality, safe food. He writes on a myriad of topics related to a farmer, but it is very relatable by anyone who has aspirations to change the food system/culture in this country as well as be ...more
Jun 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I'm about halfway through. Finished it. This one might just be my new "Bible" of sorts.

Here are some of the takeaway points I got:
* "Schizophrenic thinking" when you're skeptical of anything the Pentagon may announce, but implicitly trust the USDA's announcements; or the same arrangements with any number of other organizations
* The barriers to entry in the food industry are such that it can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to sell 1lb of cheese to a neighbor
* Inspectors have unilateral
Oct 27, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2009
Joel Salatin is a small farmer who has found a niche providing a unique product--meat uninfected by the industrial food system. In this book he compiles a list of complaints on how the government works to undermine his efforts, and the efforts of like-minded small farmers.

The government's various agencies work in collusion with industrial farmers to push out the small, independent farmer and leave the American diet to industrialized food and all its undernourished animals, contaminated meat, and
Sep 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
It's nice to see that someone gets as annoyed as I do that our government spends an insane amount of time, effort and energy to solve problems that shouldn't even exist in the first place. Salatin does have some ideas I think are nutty tangents (like suggesting that we have an illegal alien problem due to abortion) but I'm sure he would insist that all his points are connected. No matter what your political persuasion or belief system, I guarantee he will offend you at some point in the book, bu ...more
Alli Wilson
Jun 20, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: farming-food-etc
Some really good points about how the USDA needs to change but all told in a long repetitive rant with not-so-subtle religious overtones.
Eleanor Lubell
Jul 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I am entirely serious when I say that everyone who is interested in food or politics should read this book.

For conservatives, it offers a compelling account about why deregulating agriculture and fostering local food is VITAL to preserving American's freedom, as well as the traditional values conservatives claim to stand for.

And for those on the left, I cannot think of a better book to recommend as an introduction to libertarian ways of thinking. Salatin spares you the hard philosophy and inste
Apr 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Joel Salatin is the best kind of contrarian: passionate yet good-natured, eloquent and straightforward, and honest and unafraid to take on all sides.

This book is his manifesto against the burdens the state imposes on virtually every level and layer of his business. Between progressive regulators and Republican corporatists, Salatin shows how all sides—in different ways and for different reasons—destroy liberty, protect entrenched players and “mainstream” views, and hurt the relationship between
Melanie  Clark
Apr 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author is spot on about many topics related to agriculture and the food we eat. I do wish he would not politicize or generalize so much. "He must have voted Republican." or "The religious right..." as if everyone in that category thought the same thing. He has no idea what anyone thinks unless they tell him. Further, what is the religious right? He seems to be a God fearing Man. Would he not fit in that category? ...more
Jul 26, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food-politics
I'm sorry, Joel. I couldn't finish this. Heck, I could barely get into it.

This actually IS a good primer on the war in the countryside that's being waged between local producers and government. If you can get past the tone: Joel alternates between teacher, preachy and screechy.

Make no mistake: there IS a war being fought over food production and the deck is stacked in favour of large producers, feed lot cattle, battery cage chickens and massive hog operations. You'd think that properly cared for
Mar 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Salatin is the outgoing and outspoken Virginian farmer who appeared in the documentary Food, Inc. His book is an extended rant that sometimes requires a little page flipping to get through, but his examples are well-documented and backed by a multitude of legal references and personal experiences. Each chapter focuses on a different challenge that small farmers face today--primarily because of FDA regulations created for large-scale food producers that have severely debilitated smaller operation ...more
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Joel is a nationally renowned speaker on organic farming and "relationship marketing." He is on a mission to develop emotionally, economically and environmentally enhanced agricultural enterprises, and facilitate their duplication around the world. Part of that goal is to produce the best food in the world.

Joel espouses an agricultural paradigm shift that sees plants and animals as partners rather

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