Folks, This Ain\’t Normal

by Joel Salatin

Joel Salatin runs an organic farm in Shenandoah Valley that amazes me- the systems he has worked out to cycle all the nutrients, to have the animals and crops support each other. I\’ve wanted to read one of his books since I saw him speak in part of a film.

This book is all about what\’s wrong with our current food system. He discusses so much: how people ought to live closer to the land, be in connection with the food they eat, store up for winter, etc. How kids need to be involved in household chores. How ruinous packaging is to the environment. That pasture-feed beef is actually better for the environment that turning to a completely vegetarian diet (I hadn\’t heard this before). Raising cattle for food isn\’t good or bad, depends on how it\’s managed. Questioning how healthy soy products are (really?). The glories of compost. The preciousness of water. The horrors of GMO\’s. The immense difficulties small farms face in getting their products to consumers- regulations and rules tying their hands every step of the way, it sounds like. I didn\’t know that chickens are omnivores- in warm months of course they eat insects, in the winter it used to be common for farm boys to kill rats, squirrels, etc. to feed the chickens protein once a week. I\’m sad to read about older farmers desperate to find a young person who will take their land and continue to farm on it- because often their kids don\’t want to. I learned why Virginia has famous ham- the climate is perfect for butchering hogs. If food is too preserved to start rotting when left out on your kitchen counter, Salatin thinks you shouldn\’t be eating it! He details a lot of reasons why chemical fertilizers became common usage, that I had not considered before. He says that properly grazed fields build soil faster and sequester carbon better than forests- using his own land as an example. And that\’s just a little sample of the subjects covered in here. I\’m not sure if I agree with all his statements or ideas, and a lot of it sparks further reading. I\’m definitely interested in a few of his other titles now: Everything I Want to Do is Illegal and The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Famer.

The only thing I didn\’t like about the book is it feels like it was drawn from TED talks he gave. He stuffs it with a ton of information- a lot of it quite brief, but really gets your mind racing with questions. Not a lot of detailed sources or data to back it all up- and he gets pretty worked up about certain subjects. Railing on big businesses and government decisions, often interjecting side remarks and comments like \”let\’s get real, folks\” and \”come on, now!\” I would have appreciated more in-depth examinations of the subject matter.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5            361 pages, 2011

more opinions:
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