Courses/WorkshopsLivestock

Joel Salatin Returns to Australia

by Milkwood Permaculture

We were rather impressed with Joel Salatin when he came to Australia last year. So were one or two other people. Aside from being the most entertaining farmer that we’ve ever met, he’s really onto something. Multiple somethings, even.

To call the Salatin’s farming practices at Polyface Farms in Virginia USA ‘innovative’ is a bit of a massive understatement. Joel’s unique approach to productive small-scale farming, that focuses on great ideas, biomimicry, and what can only be called truly regenerative agriculture, are fast becoming legendary.


Feathernet chicken house at PolyFace Farm (used over summer months)

Take the Polyface Pastured Poultry systems, for example. These are home-made systems, built up over time as funds and materials allow, to produce free-range eggs (in the feathernet system) and pastured broilers (in the chicken tractor system).

In the feathernet system, the chickens are free to roam during the day, and protected in their portable hutches at night by shepherd dogs, in a setup moved every three days. Uh huh, you say – I’ve heard of that one before. The broilers are in a chicken tractor system – enclosed cages moved daily. Yup, you say. Heard of that one too.

The thing is, this is considered by many to be the farm that launched the pastured poultry movement as we know it today – the Salatin’s virtually wrote the book on it.

But here’s what really sets the polyface model apart: the incredible production of the above systems (the feathernet system currently produces over 40,000 eggs a year), the design of the systems (simple but designed to minimize energy inputs, including labor) and how they are integrated into all the other animal systems of the farm to reduce disease and increase fertility.


Saladbar beef system at Polyface, munching its way across the landscape


Forested Polyface Farm pigs doing their free-range piggy thing…

While I won’t launch into a full description of Polyface’s Salad-Bar Beef system (holistically managed beef herds which are followed by the feathernet system to break down the manure) or their pigerator pork system (forested foraging herds of pigs which are moved about at a rate that stimulates the seed bank in the forest floor, increasing diversity for the next round), I will say that Polyface’s techniques are exciting to anyone wanting to run a seriously productive and ‘beyond organic’ small farm.

On top of Joel’s many how-to books which outline PolyFace’s techniques in detail, and which have seen a huge uptake of Polyface-esque techniques worldwide, there’s the marketing side of things. How to get your fabulous eggs, your beef, your cheese, your whatever, to the buyer in such a way that your farm actually makes a profit, and henceforth allows you to keep farming?

Polyface’s processing and marketing techniques are at the heart of the re-localised food movement – and they work: Process as close to home as possible. Sell as close to home as possible. Know your customers. Set up buying clubs. Set up systems that cut out the supermarket chains and keeps you, the farmer, in touch with the people doing the eating.

We’re not just talking about taking your produce to farmers markets here, far from it – this is next-level stuff. Polyface is an example of a pioneering, ethical small farm that is breaking boundaries around how farmers can deliver nutritionally dense food to dedicated, involved consumers.

But wait, there’s more! Polyface has a really smart intern system, with whose labor they fuel their production. Wanna-be farmers come in, confident farmers come out. And the farm in the middle gets the crew it needs to function.


Joel Salatin in a feathernet system

Needless to day, when Joel Salatin dropped all this knowledge (and more) into the workshops he did across Australia last year, it was like a bomb going off. I have never seen so many people in the one room so freaking excited about farming. And some of them were already farmers! And some were not, and didn’t intend to be. Not until Joel Salatin came along, anyway.

So RegenAG are excited to announce that Joel Salatin is coming back for another series of short workshops this year, as part of RegenAG’s 2011 course series.

If you’re a farmer, or think you might like to be a farmer one day, I would highly recommend coming along:

You can get more info on these workshops and book in via RegenAG.com

Joel Salatin & Polyface Farms – some resources:

8 Comments

  1. Its great that Joel is practicing permaculture and making money on its food production while training new farmers for free.

    Papanui farm in NSW has pastured poultry (plus holistically managed beef cattle) and produces 1,400 open range eggs a day. That’s around 500,000 a year, over 12 times Salatin’s production! Mark and his wife Di run the entire farm with only two staff to help sort and pack eggs. Mark also does all his own direct marketing. Its an astonishing amount of hard work.

    Any of you aspiring farmers out there, i strongly suggest working on a holistic commercial farm rather than a typical permaculture site.

  2. The original (linked) article talks about 40,000 DOZEN eggs per year. So around the same production numbers as Papanui.

  3. whoops – thanks for that clarification Douglas – I muffed that stat! btw the Polyface model actually pays their interns and apprentices, even better than training them for free… something we’re hoping to move towards at Milkwood also…

    it was great to have Mark from Papanui at the Joel Salatin workshop we ran in Mudgee last year – lots of folks were stoked to talk to someone successfully doing pastured poultry in the central west! I’d love to see that place one day soon…

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