Nancy McKibben's Reviews > Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World

Folks, This Ain't Normal by Joel Salatin
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it was amazing
bookshelves: food-and-cooking, non-fiction, reviewed
Recommended for: readers interested in sustainable agriculture, food, Big Agriculture, and what we can do about it

Folks, This Ain’t Normal
By Joel Salatin

Despite the folksy title, this book is a manifesto written by a farmer who takes the scholarship of agriculture to places that I hadn’t expected it to go. Clearly there is much more to farming than the little we city folk know of it, and Salatin, both erudite and down-to-earth, is just the man to set us straight, which he does not hesitate to do.

The book’s title is its theme: the way we live on earth is not historically, traditionally, or culturally normal. Salatin has impeccable credentials as the foreword points out:
Personally, I have long thought that Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm was an excellent example of how high-value, direct-marketed farms like his could be an engine for rural economic development. Joel currently has fourteen employees; he buys all of the supplemental feed his pastured chickens and pigs eat locally, and his animals are all processed locally. Using sweat equity, he has built a two-million-dollar-a-year food business without any government loans, assistance, or subsidies. To me that’s a story that should be on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.
Salatin has not, to my knowledge, been so far featured, because our culture has accepted Big Agriculture, factory farms, farm subsidies, and many other anomalies as the new normal.

I learned a lot from this book. Salatin is a pioneer of synergistic farming, although he would probably insist that he is only doing what farmers have done for centuries. His chickens, for instance, are pastured in mobile hen houses that protect them while allowing them to range and eat insects, and are moved to a different area of pasture each day, which also fertilizes the pasture.

He talks about the American tendency to anthropomorphize animals, often to their detriment. A visitor to the farm, for example, criticized Salatin for leaving his cows crowded together, when in reality they were only exhibiting their herding instinct. He explains the importance of diversity on a farm, and how the raising of animals and the raising of crops are not only complimentary, but necessary.

Salatin raises many troubling issues. He believes that the function of the USDA and the FDA are to limit market distribution (drive out the small farmer) rather than to protect consumers and farmers, and he has plenty of anecdotal evidence and statistical research to support his belief. His scientific, agricultural, and financial expertise belie the image of the farmer as a hayseed, and helps the reader appreciate the intellectual challenge of farming.

And did I mention, he’s funny? This is a serious book, but Salatin retains his sense of humor.

Salatin suggests, at the end of each chapter, steps that his readers may want to take in their personal quest to limit Big Agriculture and eat better food. It’s a thought-provoking book, and a must-read for anyone who cares about food or farming.

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Reading Progress

September 28, 2013 – Started Reading
September 30, 2013 – Finished Reading
October 27, 2013 – Shelved
October 27, 2013 – Shelved as: food-and-cooking
October 27, 2013 – Shelved as: non-fiction
October 27, 2013 – Shelved as: reviewed

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