Speak with Farmers

Friday, June 11, 2010 - 6:10 am

Speak with Farmers

Joel Salatin, the farmer featured in this clip (jump to the 4:20 mark) from the 2008 documentary Food, Inc. and owner of Polyface Farms, has found a way to be profitable while staying true to his family’s ideal that nature’s design is still the best pattern for the biological world. After hearing Ellen Davis speak so eloquently about stewardship of land, I couldn’t help but think of his words and Professor Davis’ advice on getting informed about how our food is produced:

Ms. Tippett: So apparently my senior editor, Trent, is Tweeting this conversation we’re having, and he has had a question come in from a student of yours who loves you …So it is how do city dwellers, urbanites, relate to an agrarian mindset without romanticizing it?

Prof. Davis: I think the best way to do that is to listen to farmers and to meet farmers. As we’ve been talking about, that’s easy to do now because there probably isn’t an urban area —
Ms. Tippett: Right. They’re in your city. Right.

Prof. Davis: Yeah, exactly. They’re in our city. So talk to them and find out what they’re doing, what their hopes are, and also what their struggles are. And I don’t know any farmer who isn’t struggling. And it doesn’t matter what model of farming they’re using. If they’re using small farming, trying to get off the grid, or if they are involved in industrial farming, I don’t know any of them who are not struggling and to some degree suffering. So I think that’s the most important thing that we can do in order not to romanticize it. I’d also suggest that you can read some of what is happening in new modes of agricultural research. Because some people think that when I or others are talking about agrarianism, we’re sort of talking about going back a hundred years, if not 2,000 years. But it’s not an exercise in nostalgia.

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is the cofounder of On Being and currently serves as chief content officer and executive editor. He received a Peabody Award in 2007 for his work on “The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi” and garnered two Webby Awards (in 2005, and again in 2008). The Online News Association nominated his journalistic work multiple times in the general excellence and outstanding specialty journalism categories. Trent’s reported and produced stories from Turkey to rural Alabama, from Israel and the West Bank to Cambridge, England.

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