Tag Archives: Joel Salatin

Side Hustle to Dream Job

Whereas Mike Rowe encourages people to explore the trades as a permanent position or a jumping point to starting your own business, Joel Salatin regards that a backup job is necessary to transition into farming full time. Both are right, of course. If you have the interest and natural ability to be an electrician or other, you can make a lot of money! However, if your dream is to be a farmer or, for that matter, any startup self employed career, a good supply of cash on hand and steady income before starting makes the idea a dream rather than a nightmare.

Consider Joel’s latest musing on the subject – food for thought.

NEW FARMER BACK UP

The Lunatic Farmer

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NEW FARMER BACK UP

            My post last week about whether or not farm aspirants should attend college stimulated some extremely thoughtful and heartfelt responses; thank you all for chiming in.  I was going to leave the discussion there but one young fellow asked if trade school would be beneficial to have a skill as a back up plan to the farm.

             I always loved Gene Logsdon’s books and writings and am disappointed I never met him personally.  His Contrary Farmer is iconic in sustainable ag writings.  About the only thing that stuck in my craw about him, though, was his adamant position that a small farm was not economically viable on its own.  He declared that you really needed an off-farm income to support the farm.  His writing filled that bill.

             I don’t disagree with Gene lightly, but when this question came out of the comments, I couldn’t help but think of Gene’s position.  While I do NOT agree that an off-farm income is necessary for success, I DO agree that it’s wise and can smooth some rough edges. 

             Almost no entrepreneurial venture starts pure.  Either it taps into an existing nest egg or it transitions using income from other sources to finance it until it scales to stand-alone viability.  I’ve always told folks who want to go from zero to full-time farming to have at least one year of living expenses before making the leap.  Scratch starting takes time to get things up and running.

             That nest egg would include being able to buy a property launch pad for cash.  Teresa and I were blessed with second-generation mortgage-free land, but didn’t jump until we had 1 year of living expenses in the bank.  I fully expected to go back to off farm income when that ran out; it never did.  But, during those first few years, I picked up some side jobs:  built a fence for a friend, helped another friend plant trees in the spring. 

             Teresa and I lived on $300 a month in the farmhouse attic, so these little side jobs of $1,000-$2,000 a year were huge in keeping us afloat as we struggled to get our production and sales income high enough to cover all our living expenses.  Fortunately, firewood sales were good at the time and I sold enough of that in the winter to keep gas in the car and utilities paid.

             Although I had not been to trade school, I had acquired skills just growing up on the farm:  building fence, planting trees, running a chain saw.  I’d say these were equivalent to saleable skills you might acquire at vocational school learning a trade like plumbing, electrical, small engine repair, welding, construction.

             While I wouldn’t say my bottom line disagreement with Gene Logsdon has changed, I would agree that at least starting out, a fall back option with a marketable trade is certainly wise, even if you never have to use it.  Chances are, if you have a marketable skill, opportunities will knock on your door to enable you to leverage that skill.  If you can synergize your willingness to help with some mastery, it makes your worth go way up.

             So yes, if you want to farm I would encourage knowing a trade, whether you do an apprenticeship or go to a vocational school.  In what I call the triumvirate of practical income strategies–building, growing, repairing–possessing a skill that complements growing (farming) offers another leg to your income stool.

             I appreciated the probing question and this chance to examine a bit more of the college/farm nuance.  It’s certainly not black and white.  Income redundancy never hurt anyone.  One more reminder:  achievability is easier the lower your living expenses .  Eliminating the mortgage, driving a $5,000 car, living in a camper, becoming a master of personal doctoring–these are all ingredients in the secret sauce of farming launch success.

             What are your favorite farm-complementary vocational skills?JOEL SALATIN

MARCH 3, 2021

Comments (10)

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Kevin Pennell 9 hours ago · 4 Likes  

Finally, something I can comment on.
I am a small farmer in Mississippi. I raise sheep and pastured poultry.
Before I pursued my farming dream, I was an electrician. I completed a five-year apprenticeship, and worked as a Journeyman for a few years before farming; and though it may seem like an unrelated trade, the skills, know-how, and work ethic I picked up during my apprenticeship was INVALUABLE in my farming venture.
Besides having practical knowledge of electrical theory, installation practices, and building codes, I also learned to calculate concrete, read blueprints and manufacturers schematics (which came in handy when I read Polyface Designs), and how to plan a project through. I learned the value of having a plan, and working hard to see it accomplished. I toughened my hands up. I learned that electrical tape makes a good bandage. Always lift with your legs. Do it right the first time. Have a positive attitude.
Watching the change in my attitude and work ethic during my apprenticeship really gave me a huge confidence boost. It was the greatest period of personal growth in my life, and I didn’t start until I was 22.
Also great to know that if farming doesn’t work, I have something to fall back on.
My apologies if this is hard to read, my written English skills need some work.

WILL 3 hours ago · 0 Likes  

It reads just fine. I’m a pipefitter making the transition soon. I agree 100 percent the skills you learn will never be wasted. Just the problem solving you are required to have being in the trades has helped me exponentially when it comes to thinking outside of the box with small scale farming.

Alex Sanderson 9 hours ago · 2 Likes  

A trade for income is valuable, yes. Any trade on a farm is absolutely invaluable. Whether it keeps purchase or repair costs down or helps with invention and innovation.

George 9 hours ago · 1 Like  

Tinkering still makes a lot of sense.

Sam 3 minutes ago · 0 Likes  

Thank you for answering my question and for the good advice. Also thanks to the people in the comments for sharing their stories. I do a lot of odd jobs already, cutting grass, landscape work, tilling gardens, etc. It might not be skilled work, but I’m building a reputation as someone who works hard. It seems like if your willing to work hard, jobs find you rather than you finding the jobs.

I thought about selling firewood, but it probably would not be worth it without a dump truck and front end loader. There’s so much good wood where I live that goes to waste.

I’ll think more about an apprenticeship or trade, and see where I am at the end of this season. What I would really like is a dependable winter job, during my off season.
Thank you again so much for the advice!

Permaculture Pimp Daddy 38 minutes ago · 0 Likes  

I’ve been an IBEW journeyman electrician for the last 24 years. While every tradesperson I know was out buying new trucks and houses my wife and I were saving, learning and doing. We were following your example.

I retired from the trade two years ago and now spend every single day joyfully working my farm.

Teresa Seed 4 hours ago · 0 Likes  

Just to say, Kevin Pennell, your English skills are well-nigh impeccable, you might have been self-deluding on that score!

Bonnie 7 hours ago · 0 Likes  

Absolutely agree that an apprenticeship of some sort would be an excellent “Plan B”, in the event that your farming endeavor hits an unexpected roadblock.
Another similar idea is to gain skills needed by a farmer, by using Paul Wheaton’s skill-building program (www.permies.com). This link shows the details:

https://permies.com/wiki/156601/Podcast

Plumby’s grandkid 7 hours ago · 0 Likes  

Not sure it complies as a trade school vocation – but my cousin married into a Northern Illinois big farm family. They are big farmers but are also known in their county for being the go to people for professional tax preparation. Their son even went from school to working for the IRS – before returning to the farm when the dad had health issues (and grain price reached 8 dollar corn) That always seemed to me to be a particularly smart play.

BJ 8 hours ago · 0 Likes  

Your advice to know a marketable trade is spot-on, and I don’t think it is at all in conflict with your disagreement with Logsdon about needing an outside income to support the farm. Having a back-up plan (along with the ability to implement it) is wise in just about any endeavor, whether it’s your life’s work or anything else. Not that one would pursue the trade to support the thing he or she really wants to do, but simply as a fall-back or temporary solution if and when it’s necessary. In a perfect world, we would all be able to simply pursue our passions and not worry about anything else. But in the real world, and especially in uncertain economic times, a backup plan not only is wise, it seems almost essential, even if the new farmer takes your wise advice and starts with at least a year’s worth of “nest egg” funds. The back-up skill will provide peace of mind, if nothing else, and I believe that having peace of mind will help facilitate the success of the farm.

NEXTAGRICULTURE COLLEGE:  TO GO OR NOT

© 2018. JOEL SALATIN. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Food System is Broken

Here, Joel is describing a legislative action in his state which might help consumers and producers both.  Other states have already stepped up to make these changes.  But, the back story as to why it is needed is the interesting part of his story here.

Self ascribed ‘Lunatic Farmer’, Joel Salatin, is a gifted speaker, writer, and farmer.  He and his family operate Polyface Farms in Virginia.  His blog is a fascinating and helpful insight into the difficulties farmers and ranchers of small holdings face.  During this time of renewed interest of purchasing locally from local abattoir, I’m going to reblog those of his which address why local butcher shops and farmers do what they do and charge what they charge.  I hope the series will be helpful.  However, we are realists and know that once the huge foreign owned packers are back up and running, consumers will be back at Wal-mart buying cheap imported meat processed, in some cases, by illegal aliens.

The comments are worth reading as well, but you’ll need to click through to his blog site.

 

PRIME ACT NOW

            Yesterday I did a podcast with Kentucky Congressman Thomas Massie on Free the People and the discussion turned to his 5-year-old bill the Prime Act.  It has not gotten traction until now.  In the last ten days, he’s picked up 18 co-sponsors.  That’s pretty dramatic for a bill that couldn’t get a handful for 5 years.

             People want to know what to do that would be beneficial during these disturbing times.  Here is something you can do.  Call your Congressman today–yes, just pick up the phone and call–and ask if he/she supports the Prime Act.  This simple bill would unleash the full power of regional food security on the livestock sector, which you know is in complete disarray right now.

             When CEO and legacy family member John Tyson looks at a CNN camera and says “the food system is broken,” that’s a big hairy deal.  He and his ilk have spent their lifetimes creating this system that now can’t get burgers to Wendy’s and is foaming chickens, breaking broiler eggs, dumping milk, and euthanizing hogs.  So imagine that rather than 100 mega-processing facilities around the country handling 80 percent of the meat, poultry, and dairy, we had 200,000 small facilities scattered all over, distanced, if you will, doing this processing?

             That is where the Prime Act comes in.  Right now, custom slaughter houses that do beef, pork, and lamb are under health department and USDA sanitation oversight, but they do not have an inspector or the inspector’s paperwork on site.  These abattoirs service a person who brings in a live animal and wants it custom processed, like if you wanted to commission a woodworker to make a special table for your dining room.  Without all the onerous inspection paperwork and under-foot bureaucrats, these smaller community-based abattoirs can operate easier and cheaper.

             Inspection requires a host of additional licensing, infrastructure, paperwork (Hazardous Analysis Critical Control Point), bathrooms, inspector offices, and even prescribed hours of operation.  Minimal compliance to get a license, even for the smallest plant, is estimated at an average $1 million.  That’s a high entry fee.

             As a result, right now in most counties, including mine (Augusta) you cannot raise a cow and legally sell a pound of ground beef from that animal to a neighbor without exporting it to another county with an inspected facility and re-importing it.  But our county has a couple of operating small custom abattoirs within minutes of our local farms.  We used to have a dozen when I was a kid.  They can’t legally sell you a pound of ground beef; you have to buy at least a quarter of beef at a time.  That’s a $500 entry fee to buy local.

             The Prime Act simply says that custom slaughtered meat can be sold within the state.  Why should everyone who wants to get neighborhood raised and processed meat be required to buy it in $500 increments?  What if a neighbor only wants  T-bone and a pound of ground?  What if the neighbor doesn’t have a chest freezer?  The current regulations are both price and poverty discriminatory.  In addition, they force massive unnecessary transportation energy and time.

             What about food safety?  Folks, recalls come from the big plants, not these small custom places.  A burger patty at McDonald’s has pieces of 600 cows in it; a burger patty from a custom house has only one cow in it.  The risks are exponentially less in a smaller, community-based facility.  Scale exemptions exist throughout our country, from day care to elder care to requirements to provide medical insurance to employees.  Scale does matter.

             Congressman Massie told me yesterday that many former operators of these small facilities have assured him that the day the Prime Act passes, they will re-open their doors and gladly solve the processing bottleneck in our broken food system.  Few legislative initiatives could offer a more simple, comprehensive assurance of food security and marketplace competition to the 100 mega-processors that dominate our dysfunctional food chain.  It’s the Prime Act.  Massie says don’t email and don’t write a letter.  Call; he says if 12 people call on a subject, they own their congressman on that issue.

             Will you be part of the solution?

Surprise Marketing Strategy

The self ascribed ‘Lunatic Farmer’, Joel Salatin, is a gifted speaker, writer, and farmer.  He and his family operate Polyface Farms in Virginia.  His blog is a fascinating and helpful insight into the difficulties farmers and ranchers of small holdings face.  During this time of renewed interest of purchasing locally from local abattoir, I’m going to reblog those of his which address why local butcher shops and farmers do what they do and charge what they charge.  I hope the series will be helpful.  However, we are realists and know that, by and large, once the huge foreign owned packers are back up and running, consumers will be back at Wal-mart buying cheap imported meat processed, in some cases, by illegal aliens.

The comments are worth reading as well, but you’ll need to click through to his blog site.

BEST MARKETING PLAN EVER

             Like local-oriented direct-market farms around the country, we’re dealing with a tsunami of  interest.  Suddenly everyone wants our meat, poultry, and eggs.  Where were they last year and the year before?

             For roughly 3 years we’ve been brainstorming and trying to hold onto sales.  The biggest hit we’ve ever taken was when Wal-Mart became the world’s largest vendor of organic.  Of course, this is industrial organics; produce from hydroponics and meat from factory farms.  But organic nonetheless.

             Ever since that happened half a dozen years ago local outfits like us have been scrambling to hang onto customers.  We haven’t panicked, but the new reality shocked us into realizing we could lose everything if we didn’t stimulate sales.  And then along came door-to-door delivery.  Another hit.

             Many people think here at Polyface all we do is move cows around and the world is our oyster.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  When we started this 50 years ago, we were the only game in town.  We enjoyed that distinctiveness for about 30 years but gradually things changed.

             Other farmers began duplicating our systems–not that we tried to keep them secret.  Good grief; I wrote every trick into books and made them available to wanna-bes.  Even many apprentices stayed in the area and began competing with us.  Between more farmers, industrial organics at Wal-Mart, and on-line home-delivery, we realized we were fast becoming obsolete.

             Now we’re laughing.  How could we have known that the best marketing strategy in the world was a pandemic?  If only we had known.  Just hang in there until the pandemic and all will be well.

             Now, for the first time in a decade, we’re rationing.  Yes, rationing.  The temptations to compromise are profound.  If you’ve watched the news, you know what’s happened in the pork industry.  A farmer called us yesterday offering us slaughter-weight pigs at $110 apiece.  Folks, it costs us $500 to raise a hog.   Do you see the temptation to buy them and turn a fancy profit in a day?  But they weren’t raised on GMO-free feed; they weren’t raised on pasture; they weren’t the 1950s-style genetics that put taste and fat on a hog.  We said no, of course.

             Instead of pulling our hair out on marketing strategies, we’re wrestling with who gets what.  If you let a retail store have eggs and don’t put them on line people think you’re playing favorites.  Goodness, Teresa went out this morning to grab a package of link sausage to fix for breakfast and had to make grits instead–we don’t have enough sausage for our own breakfast.

             Why should all these people suddenly flocking to us get product over the folks who have been with us for 20 years?  If we shut down a sector of our patron base, will they ever come back to us?  How fickle is this?  After the hype and panic, will all these Johnny-come-latelies stick around, or will they go back to Costco?

             We can’t expand beef unless we have more grass.  We can’t get more grass without more land.  We can’t get more land without farms to rent.  We can’t rent more land without land lords who want to partner with us.  No complaints here; just explaining that you can’t turn a biological system, a whole ecology, on a dime.

             And so as we ration and meter out pieces of availability to our broad customer base, we’re dealing with frantic calls, accusations of favoritism, and the angst of people fearful of running out of food.  And you can’t buy a home freezer until August–they’ve all been snarfed up by the folks who stocked up early.  If anyone wants to buy farm property to secure their food supply, we’re open for partners.  We’ve had some wonderful response to this in the past; who knows what the future holds.

             Do you think this sudden interest in local integrity food will outlast the crisis?

MEAT SCARCITY AND OVERTIME

            By now all of us are well aware about the glitches in the meat and poultry processing food chain in the U.S.  It’s severe enough in pork and poultry that animals are being euthanized rather than going to processing.  Beef will probably not get to that point simply because beef grows slower and therefore has more forgiveness.  A month of holding pattern for a chicken is a long time; for a beef it’s not that long.

             As a result of these industry problems, the crush on smaller community-based abattoirs like the one Teresa and I co-own here in Harrisonburg (T&E Meats) is unprecedented.  With our facilities and crew we can only handle a certain number of animals per week and when the slots are filled, they’re filled.  We’ve had a sudden surge of perhaps 30-40 percent in slot requests.  Even Polyface can’t get in with all the animals we need processed; then we’re short and customers complain.  Sheesh.

             We’ve never run Saturday work or a second shift, but we’re examining all those alternatives now to squeeze some more use out of our concrete, stainless steel, and building.

             Hang with me here, because this will no doubt infuriate you like it does me.  Our small plant of about 20 employees is located on a roughly 1.5 acre lot surrounded by other small businesses.  It’s been on that lot for some 70 years.  We’re federal inspected which means an inspector pokes and sniffs at livers and looks over paperwork each day.

             The inspector has an office in the building to keep records but he’s only there less than an hour a day.  He goes to other plants during the day.  Of course, he has the right to pop in any time he wants to and see anything he wants to.  He also has the right to immediately shut us down if he sees egregious violations of his interpretation of the voluminous subjective codes.

             The way the system works is this:  if a plant owner passes all the compliance and licensing requirements, the federal government issues an establishment number which authorizes the facility to engage in business.  The stamp is called the “Blue Buzz” and it’s the little round blue circle on all federal inspected product that carries the FSIS (Food Safety Inspection Service) acronym and establishment number.  That license also requires the federal government to supply, at no charge, an inspector for up to 8 hours per day.

             If you need one for more than 8 hours per day, then the business and not the government picks up the tab at a time and half rate for every hour more than 8.  What you have to appreciate is that in the case of a small plant like ours, the inspector is actually only on site an hour a day and sometimes less.  He or she is not there on location for 8 hours; not anywhere close.

             But here’s the catch.  As we begin discussing running on Saturday or operating for an extra couple of hours to try to accommodate more of these local farmers who desperately need animals processed, the government requires us to pay a time and half inspector rate for every hour we OPERATE more than 8 hours, regardless of whether an inspector is there or not.

             The inspector shows up each day, checks things, and then leaves.  Why can’t that check be good for 10 hours instead of 8?  Or for 12 hours instead of 8?  He’s not there anyway, so if the system trusts us not  to cut corners in the 6th hour of an 8 hour shift,  why would it be suddenly risky for us to operate another 15 minutes past 8 hours?  It makes no sense whatsoever, but it definitely changes our economic picture dramatically the moment we have to pay $75 an hour for someone who isn’t even there.

             This is the kind of foolishness foisted upon local abattoirs by a scale-prejudicial system that refuses to accommodate or budge in order to alleviate the desperate need of people for food and farmers to get it to them.  This is accounting by the government.

             Is it time to build an underground railroad for processing?

Thank your Kate Simon for the photo!

Glitches in System

The self ascribed ‘Lunatic Farmer’, Joel Salatin, is a gifted speaker, writer, and farmer.  He and his family operate Polyface Farms in Virginia.  His blog is a fascinating and helpful insight into the difficulties farmers and ranchers of small holdings face.  During this time of renewed interest of purchasing locally from local abattoir, I’m going to reblog those of his which address why local butcher shops and farmers do what they do and charge what they charge.  I hope the series will be helpful.  However, we are realists and know that once the huge foreign owned packers are back up and running, consumers will be back at Wal-mart buying cheap imported meat processed, in some cases, by illegal aliens.

The comments are worth reading as well, but you’ll need to click through to his blog site.

MEAT SCARCITY AND OVERTIME

            By now all of us are well aware about the glitches in the meat and poultry processing food chain in the U.S.  It’s severe enough in pork and poultry that animals are being euthanized rather than going to processing.  Beef will probably not get to that point simply because beef grows slower and therefore has more forgiveness.  A month of holding pattern for a chicken is a long time; for a beef it’s not that long.

             As a result of these industry problems, the crush on smaller community-based abattoirs like the one Teresa and I co-own here in Harrisonburg (T&E Meats) is unprecedented.  With our facilities and crew we can only handle a certain number of animals per week and when the slots are filled, they’re filled.  We’ve had a sudden surge of perhaps 30-40 percent in slot requests.  Even Polyface can’t get in with all the animals we need processed; then we’re short and customers complain.  Sheesh.

             We’ve never run Saturday work or a second shift, but we’re examining all those alternatives now to squeeze some more use out of our concrete, stainless steel, and building.

             Hang with me here, because this will no doubt infuriate you like it does me.  Our small plant of about 20 employees is located on a roughly 1.5 acre lot surrounded by other small businesses.  It’s been on that lot for some 70 years.  We’re federal inspected which means an inspector pokes and sniffs at livers and looks over paperwork each day.

             The inspector has an office in the building to keep records but he’s only there less than an hour a day.  He goes to other plants during the day.  Of course, he has the right to pop in any time he wants to and see anything he wants to.  He also has the right to immediately shut us down if he sees egregious violations of his interpretation of the voluminous subjective codes.

             The way the system works is this:  if a plant owner passes all the compliance and licensing requirements, the federal government issues an establishment number which authorizes the facility to engage in business.  The stamp is called the “Blue Buzz” and it’s the little round blue circle on all federal inspected product that carries the FSIS (Food Safety Inspection Service) acronym and establishment number.  That license also requires the federal government to supply, at no charge, an inspector for up to 8 hours per day.

             If you need one for more than 8 hours per day, then the business and not the government picks up the tab at a time and half rate for every hour more than 8.  What you have to appreciate is that in the case of a small plant like ours, the inspector is actually only on site an hour a day and sometimes less.  He or she is not there on location for 8 hours; not anywhere close.

             But here’s the catch.  As we begin discussing running on Saturday or operating for an extra couple of hours to try to accommodate more of these local farmers who desperately need animals processed, the government requires us to pay a time and half inspector rate for every hour we OPERATE more than 8 hours, regardless of whether an inspector is there or not.

             The inspector shows up each day, checks things, and then leaves.  Why can’t that check be good for 10 hours instead of 8?  Or for 12 hours instead of 8?  He’s not there anyway, so if the system trusts us not  to cut corners in the 6th hour of an 8 hour shift,  why would it be suddenly risky for us to operate another 15 minutes past 8 hours?  It makes no sense whatsoever, but it definitely changes our economic picture dramatically the moment we have to pay $75 an hour for someone who isn’t even there.

             This is the kind of foolishness foisted upon local abattoirs by a scale-prejudicial system that refuses to accommodate or budge in order to alleviate the desperate need of people for food and farmers to get it to them.  This is accounting by the government.

             Is it time to build an underground railroad for processing?

Thank your Kate Simon for the photo!

Leather Goods or Compost?

The self ascribed ‘Lunatic Farmer’, Joel Salatin, is a gifted speaker, writer, and farmer.  He and his family operate Polyface Farms in Virginia.  His blog is a fascinating and helpful insight into the difficulties farmers and ranchers of small holdings face.  During this time of renewed interest of purchasing locally from local abattoir, I’m going to reblog those of his which address why local butcher shops and farmers do what they do and charge what they charge.  I hope the series will be helpful.  However, we are realists and know that once the huge foreign owned packers are back up and running, consumers will be back at Wal-mart buying cheap imported meat processed, in some cases, by illegal aliens.

The comments are worth reading as well, but you’ll need to click through to his blog site.

HIDES AND LEATHER

HIDES AND LEATHER

            Teresa and I co-own a small abattoir (slaughterhouse) in Harrisonburg that employs 20 people and is our closest federal inspected facility.  We get our beef, pork and lamb processed there; it’s about 40 miles away.

             The buy-in occurred about 10 years ago when the couple who owned it were in their 80s and in declining health.  Without a succession plan, the facility was in danger of closing when they finally couldn’t do it anymore, so I spent several years actively searching for a buyer.  The eventual partner wouldn’t buy it without us putting in a big stake to ensure Polyface’s continued patronage.

             I’ve learned a lot in this experience and one of the things that’s most disconcerting is how the world of hides has changed.  Lest I lose anybody in this discussion, let me remind everyone that leather–yes, leather that’s on car seats, purses, shoes, luggage, belts–comes from animal hides.  The most common is from cows.

             Back 20 years ago, abattoirs received about $40 a hide.  Salted down on site, hides would be piled up and brokers would pick them up once a month and send them down the value chain toward tanning into leather.  As tanneries left the U.S. (like so much manufacturing) due to over-regulation, China became the new destination for these hides.

             As consolidation accelerated in the industry, larger and larger processing plants enjoyed preferential service from the brokers.  If a broker could pick up a tractor trailer of hides at one stop, that of course was far more efficient than stopping at half a dozen small community abattoirs in order to get a load.  Over time, the prices paid to small abattoirs began dropping.

             At massive processing plants where 1,000 beeves are processed in a day, shipping containers sit on site to receive the hides and head straight for a port and the trip over to China.  In a few short years, what used to be a $50,000 income stream for a small abattoir dried up.  Literally.

             At our small facility in Harrisonburg (T&E Meats) we process between 2,000 and 3,000 beeves (plural of beef) a year.  But none of those hides makes it into leather.  Nobody will come and pick them up.  Guess what happens to them?  They go to the landfill, where we pay a tipping fee.  Yet another compostable item the ecology grew and needs to replenish the earth, thrown away.

             Guess who pays that?  The facility has to pass that cost back to the farmer who’s getting the animals processed.  But as a small plant operator, realize the shift in economics.  What used to generate a substantial income has now become a substantial liability.  This $100-$200,000 swing between income and expense is economically devastating to a small community facility.

             When people accuse farmers like me of being elitists because our prices are higher than Wal-Mart, much of the higher price issue has nothing to do with efficiency or production costs.  Rather, our higher prices have more to do with these kinds of scale discriminations within the system.  We’re literally squeezed out.

             To add insult to injury, though, consider the disrespect this places on the animals who have dutifully served us and given themselves for our nutrition to summarily throw such a useful component of their lives in the landfill.  It’s unconscionable that as a society we’ve let ourselves fall to this level.  Of course, a complicating factor is that the world uses less leather today with faux fiber everywhere you turn.  So buying genuine leather products is yet another way to honor the lives of the animals who adorn our dinner.

             Last week, we launched a new trial here at Polyface.  We brought back 12 beautiful hides and have found an outfit in Florida that will tan them.  Hopefully we’ll be able to offer them in the next few months.  They make great (and beautiful) rugs, bed coverings and wall hangings.  At least we honored those 12.  These are striped and gorgeous hides.

             What leather product have you bought lately?

JOEL SALATIN

Musings from The Lunatic Farmer

The Lunatic Farmer, Joel Salatin, strikes at the heart of a matter once again.

Circumventing Virginia

CIRCUMVENTING VIRGINIA

            By now all Virginians know that today our Governor Northam implemented new executive orders mandating wearing masks in all businesses.  Graciously, he said if you were eating you could take it off.  And you don’t need to wear it if you have “health reasons.”

             It includes no criminal or civil violation which means police and law enforcement have nothing to do with this.  Business owners must insure compliance and if they don’t, the ultimate enforcement agency is the health department, which can revoke licenses for the business to operate.  That’s the cudgel.

             My constitutional attorney friends who wanted to challenge the order on constitutional grounds (freedom of expression, warrantless seizure of “secure in their persons,” etc.) but realized the governor was clever to not make any punishable violations.  That means nobody could sue on constitutional grounds because you only have legal standing if you’ve been cited for a criminal violation.

             But my friends devised an ingenious loophole.  It’s the Health Information Protection Act (HIPA) which mandates medical confidentiality and includes punitive fines of $75,000 for violators.  What’s a violation?  If someone demands health information from you, that’s a violation.

             So you walk into a place of business without a mask.  An employee accosts you for noncompliance.  You simply say “I can’t wear the mask for health reasons.”  If the employee asks what they are, proof, or anything AT ALL, it’s a violation of HIPA and punishable by a fine up to $75,000.  If wearing it causes mental stress, that’s certainly a valid health reason.  If wearing it makes me worry, or reduces by blood oxygen, or makes me fearful, those are all valid health reasons.

             Interestingly, the Virginia Chief of Police Association is vehemently opposed to the governor’s order due to putting store owners in confrontational situations in a setting that will make identifying individuals impossible.  The very notion that bureaucrats sat around a table deciding it was okay to make businesses antagonize their customers with constant confrontations shows these officials have no respect for business, common decency, or social order.

             If an employee physically attacks a customer to remove him from the premises, of course, assault and battery charges can be brought against that individual.  Can you imagine being a store owner and being put in this situation?  If I’m soft on noncompliance, I’m subject to bureaucrat extortion and if I’m hard on it, I’ll spend all day every day irritating customers.  It’s the nuttiest situation you can imagine.

             Where are the people pushing for diversity?  For freedom of expression?  For
my body, my choice?”  Crickets.  Remember these credentialed public experts told us to use hydrogenated vegetable oil, DDT, anti-microbial soap, eat the food pyramid with Twinkies and Cheerios on the foundation, embrace GMOs and now welcome nano-particles into our bloodstream.  Do you believe them?

             What’s the end game?  Mandatory vaccination?   Folks, the virus is out here; it’s in the microscopic soup.  Putting your faith in a mask and vaccine is a false hope.  Why can’t we attack poor immune systems with the same evangelistic fervor we’re mandating placebos?  This is getting squirrely.

             I’ve been called a murderer all my life, so being called that now is nothing new.  Forty years ago the government officials asked me which half of the world I wanted to die due to the inefficiencies of my kind of farming.  Then powerful officials asked why I wanted to kill children by not endorsing highly productive Genetically Modified Organisms.  Then they wondered why I wanted to increase heart attacks by selling meat.  And now they wonder why I want to destroy the planet by having a cow.  Being labeled a murderer is nothing new, but it does often define the innovative heretics who dare to seek, find, and believe something different.

             If you’re in Virginia, will you comply?

Farmers Are Obsolete – Joel Salatin

I don’t always agree with Joel Salatin, but he seldom fails to inspire critical thinking.

Reblogged from The Lunatic Farmer  Joel Salatin

FARMERS ARE OBSOLETE

            A major article published in The Guardian last week by George Monbiot, producer of the film Apocalypse Cow, reports that very soon we won’t need farmers any more.  I know, the tendency for us reasonable people is to just laugh this off and dismiss it as idiocy, but believe me, this is the serious narrative driving food policy around the planet right now.

             The article is about a Helsinki, Finlind company named Solar Foods that uses modified bacteria and supercharged hydrogen from water to brew proteins in giant vats.  Supposedly the energy comes from water an sun.   The plant-based fake meat movement, of course, uses either soybeans or field peas as a protein base.

             In this Finnish process, the feedstock is simply water and manipulated microbes.  According to Monbiot, the yellow froth created by this process can be arranged into meat, milk, eggs, fish–virtually anything.  Leftover carbohydrates can of course be made into crackers and pasta.  With complete faith and obvious enthusiasm, he claims that “all farming except fruit and veg production is likely to be replaced by ferming:  brewing microbes through precision fermentation.”

             A huge sector of the planet now believes we are all going to die by 2040.  I’m more than 60 years old and I’ve been hearing this all my life.  Paul Ehrlich said we’d be out of oil by the early 1980s and he was quoted like a god in the 1970s.  I well remember watching documentaries in grade school that said by the 1990s we’d be in an ice age due to atmospheric carbon dioxide buildup.  Or we’d be bombed by the Russians first, or we’d all be crispy critters in a nuclear holocaust.

             May I go on record today as saying we will have farmers in 2040?  Monbiot, quoting a group called RethinkX predicts that by 1935 we’ll see a 90 percent collapse in the beef industry and the dairy industry will be all but nonexistent.  And I suppose we’re all going to eat the same thing planet-wide:  fermented proteins.

             Oh, and get this, because of the efficiency of these vats, all this microbial slurry will be produced in the desert since that’s where the best solar energy is, and it’ll be so cheap we’ll all eat “handsomely” (his word).  No hunger.  Everybody eating only what’s good for them, on pennies a day.

             And the snow only falls in the fields and not on the roads; the leaves fall into neat little piles, and it only rains at night.  Camelot here we come.  And all of us on the planet will be grateful to dine out of a microbial slurry that surely will be democratically arranged socially so big companies and governments will not be able to control the new food supply.

             Monbiot’s anger at current orthodox farm policy, animal treatment, ecological destruction, nutrient deficiency and all the other dysfunctions of the food and farming system are real and correct.  I say “amen.”  But the answer is not hydrogen-infused microbes in slurry vats; the answer is correct food and farming.  We know how to do it.

             Just imagine if Monbiot’s exultant vision of this vat-froth future came into reality.  Every single food morsel would be identical.  No terroir.  No breed differences.  No cultural heterosis.

  That anybody thinks we can distill soil intricacies, plant and animal intricacies, the human micro-biome intricacies into a single manufactured microbial hydrogen-infused froth is simply living in la-la land.  This whole message would be laughable if it weren’t so serious.  I can tell you that some scientists and politicians actually believe this kind of stuff and make policies accordingly, like taxing beef as if it is a hazardous substance.  Whenever I read this kind of stuff, I sit back, take a deep breath, and remember that 500 years ago the planet produced far more food than it does today–with no waste.  People didn’t eat it all, but the pounds of animals on the planet was far higher 500 years ago than it is today.

             Do you think we’re all going to be dead by 2040 unless we eat microbial froth and eliminate livestock?

Faith, Family, Farm

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