Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Small Is Okay: An Excerpt from The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer

The following is excerpted from Joel Salatin’s latest book, The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer. It appeared originally on the web at Flavor Magazine.

Before industrialism, farms were localized and seasonal. The ebb and flow of production and activity followed a pattern dictated by local economies, weather, and availability of nearby materials…

Compare that to today’s confinement turkey industry, which started just 30 miles north of our farm in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The only reason the industry started there was because an entrepreneur named Charles Wampler began raising turkeys in confinement. Eventually the breeding program at the USDA research farm in Beltsville, Maryland, developed the double-breasted turkey. By that time, the pharmaceutical industry was up and running to supply cheap medications so that the birds could be kept alive in extremely unhealthy and unnatural conditions.

The entire industrial food system was only possible because of antibiotics for animals and pesticides for plants. Without those two things, these anti-nature production models would not exist and humans would still be dependent on multi-speciation, intricate relationships, and indigenous conditions… Today, this industry completely dominates the local economy and community to the point that most people believe it is the local economy. But it has a tainted underside that is worth examining. First, it requires hundreds and hundreds of farmers to grow these turkeys. In the wisdom of the business model, as a vertical integrator, the turkey company owns the hatchery, the birds, the feed, the processing, and the marketing. The farmer signs a contract that requires him to supply a house and labor. In many cases, since the farmers don’t have the money to build a $300,000 football-field-sized house, they mortgage the farm to borrow the house construction money. Often, this is borrowed from the turkey company, thereby giving two income streams to the turkey company: interest on mortgage payments, and turkey sales. This arrangement converts the farmers from autonomous decision makers to a completely dependent class of people—dependent on exports, off-farm inputs, and outsourced decisions. . . . The bottom line is that in my region, to disparage the poultry industry is akin to assaulting America. Good patriots agree: not only is this poultry industry good for our local economy, it is in fact the foundation of our local economy. And to suggest anything else is to hate your neighborhood. If you suggest we may have been better off without it, you’re in favor of massive unemployment, bread lines, and homelessness. In fact, you’re a lunatic who must be silenced. . . . Continue reading this excerpt at Flavor Magazine. The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer is available now.


The New Farmers’ Almanac: A Collection of Essays for Beginners

What agrarian future can we realistically build together? This is a question the Greenhorns hope to answer in their latest book, The New Farmers’ Almanac 2015. Greenhorns is an organization for young farmers—a non-traditional grassroots network with the mission to promote, recruit and support the entering generation of new farmers. It exists to celebrate young […] Read More..

How to Achieve Resiliency Through Radical, Self-Reliant Gardening

In today’s world the marketplace distorts our values and our dependence on petroleum keeps us from creating truly sustainable agriculture. So, how can we achieve true wealth and at the same time make society around us more resilient? The answer, Will Bonsall believes, is greater self-reliance in both how we grow our own food, and […] Read More..

Bramble On: The Ins and Outs of Growing Raspberries

Fresh, ripe raspberries picked straight from the garden in the morning. What could be a better start to your day? According to Michael Phillips, author of The Holistic Orchard, growing your own berries is entirely possible for anyone with a bit of space and a passion for the fruit. Brambles grow from the north to […] Read More..

Turning Meat into Money: How to Raise and Sell it Ethically

The consumer demand for grassfed, pasture-raised, and antibiotic-free meats is on the rise, putting farmers and ranchers in a unique position to make a decent living on meat that is produced ethically. But, how exactly do you turn meat into money without resorting to the large-scale industrial techniques of today’s confinement-operations? Look no further than […] Read More..

How to Grow Strawberries Indoors

It’s strawberry shortcake season, which means strawberry harvesting season. But for those of you with no outdoor space for gardens, fear not—you can plant, weed, and harvest all from the comfort of your own home! That’s right: it is possible to grow strawberries indoors, from small spaces. According to R. J. Ruppenthal, author of Fresh […] Read More..