Polyface Farm (Part 3)

This is continued from “Polyface Farm (Part 2)“.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

~ John 10:10 -11 ~

If this way of farming produces abundant, healthy food, with lower expenses, risks and dependence on outside systems why don’t all farms work this way?

There are three main reasons why more farms aren’t run this way (concepts pointed out by Joel during the tour, but we flushed them out in our own words below).

1. Change is hard – Change is always hard, it may be exciting, but the unknown is uncertain. It is extra hard if all you know is one way to do things. It is extra, extra hard if you have invested in the facilities and equipment for industrial agriculture, with contracts with these industries. Change is hard!

2. Lies are powerful – Industrial agriculture is built to benefit Big Pharma and Big Ag. The costs for fertilizer, shots, vets, feed, pesticides, etc. mean huge profits for the Pharmaceutical and Agricultural industries. Then add on that most pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, pesticides and all the transportation is based on petroleum, there are huge profits for Big Oil. These are three powerful players with huge bankrolls to influence government policy (and subsidies), education (of what farmers should do) and outlets (to control advertising and sales). These entities thrive on lies about how the food system should work and strive to keep it working that way, even if it is unsustainable, as we see happening with food shortages around the world. (We talk about how sad it is that people are starving “in the world, over there” because power hungry groups block food distribution. We have the same problems here. They are just so close that we don’t see them.)

3. More manual labor – Most farms today are run by a few technicians and a lot of machines. Moving chicken tractors around the field, calling cows to the next paddock, planting seeds in mulch, etc. all take manual labor. Sustainable farming takes the expenses that were going to the Pharmaceutical, Agricultural and Petroleum industries and invests it into people. These farms aren’t full of machines and a few technicians, they are full of a community of people with a few machines interacting with plants and animals on a healthy farm. This change of mindset and farm setup can be a hard jump to make (though more and more are making it).

As we thought about it, we realized that these same influences impact the decisions families make. Why don’t more people raise their own food, train their own children and have the peace of birth at home (the ways that things were done since the creation of the world until modern history). 

Change is hard, when all you know is what your parents and the society around us has done. That doesn’t make it right or best, it just makes it what we know and change is hard. We are trapped in the worldly system in numerous ways we don’t even realize, or even if we do we are often too tired or too busy to make a change.  

Lies are powerful. We have been told that the professionals can train our children best and that women need experts and machines for a healthy delivery. While there is a (rare) need for intervention at times, the peace of a homebirth, possibly with a skilled midwife, not only doesn’t have these problems, but often knows how to peacefully take care of problems that are considered medical emergencies in the hospital. However, there is big money and big advertising, promoting our need to follow the world’s systems. And for education… no one knows, loves and can care and mentor your child better than you as you seek to love the Lord above everything else.

Finally, more manual labor. Sending children off to industrial schools seems easy. Eating and living any way we like seems convenient as we buy our foods and don’t have to plant, water, weed, cook and prepare them. Then we can let the hospitals fix our health issues. Letting the system take care of our health, responsibilities and problems is tempting. 

As we break free from the world’s systems, we have more freedom, but as we teach our children, great freedom comes with great cost and responsibility. We need God’s mercy and grace daily to live out our faith.  In the meantime, our life has more substance with richer personal relationships. His blessings are manyfolds just like the crop a farmer plants. Hard work? Yes! Rewards? Yes, we always reap more than we sow. All for His glory! 

Perhaps you have had a prompting that something isn’t right with the world’s systems, but you haven’t had the evidence, energy or desire to give it much thought. You follow the flow against your will and hope for the best since everyone else is doing it anyway. Our prayer is that we would have ears to hear and eyes to see and then to obey as God leads. We pray the same for you.

The trip to Polyface Farm was a wealth of knowledge about how the world works and our place in it. They will answer any questions about farming or anything else, as they want to help others duplicate this sustainable way of life.

The more we understand God’s amazing no-waste system, the less we feel we know. We have so much to discover, to learn, to apply and to embrace. We don’t have our own farm yet (though anywhere can be a “homestead”), but we still had so many insights and are excited to see where God takes us next in his plan for our lives! Writing this post is our first step of response as we reflect and apply what we do understand. 

And therein lies the most important point. It’s not that everyone should have a farm, raise their own food, home educate their children, no longer need a doctor, etc. The point is that everyone should earnestly pray, seek God and follow the ways he lays out in his Word and leads by his Spirit. The “default” should be to invest into our relationship with Christ, seeking him and his ways, rather than defaulting to the ways this world presents as solutions and distractions.

We fail over and over and over again. We struggle and fall and need to get up again, repent and move on. Life is hard and gives plenty of opportunities for growth as Christ makes us more into his image.

While Joel has many books about how to do sustainable farming, his book “The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs: Respecting and Caring for All God’s Creation” gives a bigger view of the “Why” and “How” God created the world to work. We recommend it as a book that every Christ-follower at this time of history would benefit from reading (or listening to Joel read on the audio book). It is not the nuts and bolts of farming, it is more of an eye opening look at the world we live in and the way God created it to be (even after the fall). Just be prepared in your heart and mind to be transformed as the Truth leads you to more freedom! 

It is important to note that Polyface wasn’t an instant success, Joel wasn’t a “celebrity farmer” and there are other farms doing what they are doing (though not nearly enough). His family moved to the farm when it was in shambles. They left all they knew. They didn’t know what was right as they figured out what was next, they just knew that the industrial ways were not right and that God’s ways are best. They took risks. They struggled. They questioned. They failed. They remained faithful. And God is always faithful. It wasn’t until Michael Pollen’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals” that the world really heard about Polyface Farm and Joel Salatin. They had been faithful with God’s leading, and God chose to raise them up as an example.

We don’t need to know how our faithfulness will turn out. We just need to seek God, know that he is good, know what is right and trust and obey, no matter the cost.
In addition to his book ““The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs”, some additional recommendations are the films “Fresh: Sustainable Food Production in America” and “Polyfaces: Food Without Chemicals: From Family Farm to Table”.

Polyface Farm (Part 2)

This is continued from “Polyface Farm (Part 1)

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

~ John 10:10 -11 ~

Our Personal Applications (not specifically mentioned at the farm, but from what we learned)

  • Apply everything we learned to our family and children – While they love children (which was obvious while we were there), they didn’t specifically give parenting advice. However, so much of what we learned about caring for the land and animals is true for children as well.
  • The world wants us to plug into the systems of the world.
    • It wants us to plug into the food systems of processed foods and industrial farming, producing sicker children (and adults) with higher costs.
    • It then wants us to plug into the medical systems, with all the costs that come with that!
    • It wants us to plug our children into the state-run education system, to be taught that the other systems are normal and good and the first place to turn for hope (while leaving God out of everything).
    • It wants us to plug into the financial systems of needing to buy everything, while forgetting the skills for how to survive without the (failing) systems. When we can grow our own food, and thus eat healthier and become healthier, we begin to break these systems and the financial binds they place on us. We can then barter for needs that we can’t provide ourselves and grow a healthy community!
  • By God’s mercy, we are slowly and progressively weaning out of these systems. Our family has been blessed to have no need for sick visits as we have focused on treating our bodies (the temple of the Holy Spirit) the way he created with God-made food. As we have seen his work and the growing need, we have grown more confident and passionate to share His work in us through His food as we understand more and hear others’ similar stories. We think of it as “becoming more human” as we grow our bodies the way God intended and was the way things were done until the recent development of modern medicine, modern agriculture and the industrial systems.
  • By being set free from the medical system we had very peaceful home births (our first birth was in a hospital, which was a very different experience, though still a drug free, natural birth).
  • By being set free from the education system we have been able to educate our children at home. This has allowed us all (not just the children) to have a better understanding of how God created all of his creation (and all we learn about it) to work together to point to Him! It has also allowed our children to discover and develop interests that they may not have otherwise discovered.
    • “Home-discipling” (as we prefer over “homeschooling”) has also allowed the blessing of real social interaction. Instead of just having a few hours in highly controlled situations with everyone the same age, or only being home for a short time in the evening, our family is learning  to work through difficulties and conflicts and to grow together. Home-discipling isn’t about our always being a perfect match and getting along… It’s about learning to honor God as we live, love, forgive and grow together (even when it hurts)! Not every family is called to homeschool, but all Christian parents are called to make disciples at home and carefully and prayerfully consider what God would have them include in their child’s education.

If this way of farming (discussed more in Polyface Farm Part 1) produces abundant, healthy food, with lower expenses, risks and dependence on outside systems why don’t all farms work this way? This will be discussed in “Polyface Farm Part 3”.

Polyface Farm (Part 1)

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

~ John 10:10 -11 ~

Polyface Farm, in Swoope, Virginia is probably the most famous farm for sustainable agriculture in America… and we had never heard of it until a few months ago… so it’s never too late to learn. If you haven’t either… It is worth your time getting acquainted if you are looking for ways for sustainable farming and living. :o)

Once Joel Salatin and Polyface farm showed up on our radar, they seemed to be everywhere. For us it started in 2021 with a trip to the “Homesteaders of America” conference where Joel Salatin was the featured speaker. Then, in 2022, some friends of ours (who homestead in Ohio), let us know that they were organizing for Joel Salatin to speak in the area. We couldn’t attend that event, but when we were talking with one of the youth at our church (who built his own goat barn at age 10, and now raises goats, cows and enough chickens to be selling broilers for profit), we asked him how he learned so much and he mentioned Joel Salatin’s books. We were excited to be able to let him know about the event, which allowed him to go and meet this man who has had such a great impact on his life. Then we watched ”Fresh”, and Joel was quite prominent in the video. 

Finally, in May of 2022, we took a trip to Virginia to go camping, and see Rob’s sister and scheduled a tour of Polyface Farm, led by… Joel Salatin. We put together a video of the farm tour, which is far from catching the breadth and depth of the tour, but gives a quick overview.

Our biggest take-away from the visit to PolyFace farm is that what God made works amazingly well if you treat it the way that God created it to be treated (and is amazingly resilient even if you don’t). Here are some examples, simply looking at the cows.

  • Their cows (and other animals) receive no shots and are much healthier (with much healthier and better tasting meat) since they are given the diet and life God created them for. 
    • Most industrially raised animals are given many shots and meds (which go into our food), while cows raised the way God made them don’t need any. (A quick digression: Are we humans required to have many shots these days as well? Could part of that be our weakened immune systems?… and a fair bit of financial incentive for “those in charge”?) 
  • In nature, the larger herbivores come through the fields and keep the grass at the best height for healthy growth while also depositing wonderful fertilizer (manure), which can be used around the farm. When they move on, the birds then follow and peck through the manure for bugs and break it down. This then results in healthier grass (and other plants) and the cycle continues, without the need for any industrial fertilizers.
  • If cows were simply raised the way God intended them (as grazing herbivores), the world would have plenty of food without the need for pharmaceuticals, fertilizer or pesticides (and the bills, health costs and dependence on outside supplies).
    • Think about the supply issues and food shortages that are constantly in the news this year due to fertilizer issues. This problem should never have existed if we had followed God’s natural ecosystems rather than man-made industrialized system.
    • People would then eat healthier foods and be healthier and reduce healthcare costs.

Our personal applications from the trip will be discussed in “Polyface Farm Part 2”.