Joel Salatin: Better Food = A Better Future

Since covid-19 first emerged, one of our continued recommendations has been to “start a garden”.

The pandemic has exposed the fragility of our food supply chains, as well as the shortcomings of our global and national health authorities. So having more self-sufficiency when it comes to calories, as well as better nutrition to boost your immune system, just make good sense. Hence: start a garden.

In this week’s podcast, we welcome back Joel Salatin. Labeled by The Washington Post as “the most famous farmer in America”, Joel has spent his career advocating for sustainable farming practices and pioneering models that show how food can be grown and raised in ways that are regenerative to our topsoils, more humane to livestock, produce much healthier & tastier food, and contribute profitably to the local economy.

Fresh off huge demand for his farm’s output during the covid lockdown and from releasing two new books, Beyond Labels and Polyface Designs, Joel gives yet another heaping dose of common sense ways we can improve our ecology, economy, food production and wellness – starting with a healthier approach to dealing with the coronavirus:

There’s nothing fresher, more nutrient dense than growing your food yourself. You know exactly where it came from and what went into it. That’s a real viable way to ensure your own health.

The problem with the current pandemic is that everybody’s sitting around waiting for a vaccine. I’m waiting for the day when somebody pushes Dr. Fauci aside on the microphone and says, “Okay, America, tell you what: we’re going to spend one week working on our immune system. Let’s build our immune systems for a week.

So here’s what we’re going to do. We’re not going to drink any sugary soft drinks. No Cokes this week. We’re not going to go to McDonald’s. We’re going to cook from scratch in our kitchens and go to the farmer’s market and supplement your own stuff. And we’re going to cook from scratch, not going to eat processed stuff. Everything we eat, we’re going to be able to read the label. And then we’re going to get eight and a half hours of sleep every night. And we’re going to drink three liters of water a day so you get hydrated. And we’re going to exercise into at least a light sweat 20 minutes a day. We’re going to spend an hour a day out in the sunshine. And to top it off, we’re going to forgive everybody we hate.”

That’s about six simple things that if we did it as a nation, just imagine where our immune system would be. It would go through the roof.

Note that I didn’t even mention things like stopping smoking or not taking drugs. I’m not even going to. I’m just saying for the average person, this is a recipe for real immunological enhancement. And to me, that’s far more important long-term whether or not we develop a vaccine.

But I haven’t heard anybody at the high level talk about building an immune system – ever. It’s like it’s not even in the discussion. It makes you feel like it’s a conspiracy; but it’s not. It’s just a fraternity of ideas that overlooks the most obvious thing – which is what you can do for yourself rather than what you have to be dependent on from somebody else.

A vaccine makes you dependent on somebody else. But if you can build your immune system, then you can fix it yourself. And we live in a time and a national narrative that’s all about how to create additional dependency, not how to create additional independency.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris’ interview with Joel Salatin (59m:47s).

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Thank you! This topic is exactly what the doctor ordered. Love that PP is addressing this key issue. Processed food addiction and the medical consequences are today’s bane, and the only way out for normal people is to grow, harvest, and hunt their own.
But in addition to gardening, folks should seriously consider hunting, foraging, and raising chickens. Many city dwellers can’t swing it but most can, and they should start yesterday. It takes years of planning and organization get to the 10% of calories stage. We started decades ago, and now get about 75% of our calories from hunting, fishing, harvesting, and gardening, and the latter is the lowest portion. This ride never ends; chickens are our latest addition and it’s a slow learning process.
A good discussion of all this:

Thank you. Haven’t finished listening to this yet, but I could listen to Joel Salatin all day long. He always has a mountain of fundamentally sound, wholesome, uncomplicated knowledge to share - the kind of basic stuff that our society forgot when it became seduced by the glossy marketing of an unhealthy lifestyle. He also did a podcast with Joe Rogan after the start of COVID, which is worth listening to.
[I also don’t mind betting that off-air Chris picked his brains to nothing, for some farming tips for his new place.]

But I haven’t heard anybody talk about building an immune system. It’s like it’s not even in the discussion.
Amen to this. I once read a book by a guy who casually mentioned he never got sick in the last decade. What was his secret? Limited to no processed foods/grains/sugar/fruit, but lots of protein/vegetables/weightlifting. Incredulous, I tried it, and have coincidentally never been sick since (even with lots of kids).


Coincidentally, I pulled a batch of kimchi from the crock today that I started late Sunday. 3 quarts worth. This batch is cabbage and beets, with green pepper, carrot, and (lots of) ginger. All organic ingredients, grown by me or very locally. Takes 3 days in the crock, then refrigerated it’ll last over a year. (It could be left on the shelf, too, but refrigeration retards fermentation, keeping it crispy longer. On the shelf it would become soft like sauerkraut much faster.) This is about 6 months’ worth, given how we eat it.
The 3-cup mason jar on the right is some whey I had left from making lebneh out of local milk a couple weeks ago. Lebneh is a form of cream cheese made from yogurt - or in my case, from home made kefir that I forgot I was culturing. I added the whey to the kimchi ingredients on Sunday - something I haven’t done before (although lacto-fermentation of sauerkraut is an old practice). Now I have some supercharged whey to either drink (yum!) or add to a slow-cooked soup or stew.


[embed][/embed]Along with gardening, one of the ways I love to get food is hunting. I went out with 4 guys to hunt caribou this past weekend, near Eagle Summit on the Steese Highway here in Alaska. We got skunked but will head out again this coming weekend. The thing that most surprised me about hunting is how it reconnects you to the story around your food. Was it hard or easy? Sunny or miserable weather out in the field. Most of my friends’ favorite stories revolve around hunting trips. Come to think of it, this past weekend 2 of us rolled our atvs going up too steep a hill (but we both jumped clear, no injuries. Good times!) Gardening is similar in that it connects you to your food. I really, really hope we won’t actually have food shortages, but it’s clear we have a ‘meaning shortage’ right now at the dinner table with no idea where our food has come from. Ethical food to me means we have some idea of the story of that food, where it came from. I have some acai juice in the fridge from Costco and it’s delicious but I don’t even know what acai is; some kind of tropical berry? Is rainforest being cut down to produce this? Who knows. I love Joel Salatin in this respect because he always brings forward the ethical quality to how your source your food. I’m trying to eat a little more paleo, but even more than that to have at least a couple of items each day that have some story attached to them.
ps Chris&Adam: I’ll recommend Curtis Stone again to you for an interview; he used to raise micro greens, but has recently changed to a ‘survival farm’ focusing on storage and calories crops. He’s a no-nonsense businessman, really down to earth, and sees things in a way that meshes well with the PP mindset.

I’ve watched his videos. He is very direct and looks very successful in his growing methods. Seems his latest venture is a partnership which helps defray costs/work. I too think he has a lot to offer the PP community.

One of the documentaries I recently watched said that we grow and feed enough grain to our farm animals in the US to feed 11 billion people. I didn’t try to confirm it, but I live in the Midwest, where the majority of our fields are planted with subsidized feed corn.
The largest agricultural demand for water in Southern California is dedicated to alfalfa, for export. Southern California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona share some of the same vastly overused water sources. Look into the Ogallala Aquifer, that supplies most of the ground water just East of the Rocky Mountains for another approaching train wreck.
On a planet with 7.5 billion people, maintaining an omnivore lifestyle is becoming an ecological nightmare.
People mentioned hunting as a solution. In Wisconsin, there is one deer for every four humans. Hunting won’t replace agriculture for any significant period of time.

One of the documentaries I recently watched said that we grow and feed enough grain to our farm animals in the US to feed 11 billion people.
Les - I totally agree that growing grain and then feeding it to livestock in concentrated agricultural feedlot operations (CAFO) is gross, disgusting and unsustainable. However, it's wrong to then conclude that by simply switching the grain conveyor belt over to humans living in concentrated living-lot operations (aka "cities") that this is somehow better or more sustainable. CAFO for cows and CAFO for humans = same problems over the long haul. Ag doesn't somehow become more sustainable because humans end up eating the grains. As with any grain operation, the main problem is one of nutrient flows/cycling. Every time grain leaves a field, it is taking nutrients away. Those have to be replaced. Right now we subsidize that arrangement with fossil fuels to either make or mine the NPK nutrients and then haul them to the fields. Without somehow closing the nutrient loops, none of it is sustainable. Obviously, the shorter those loops in terms of distance, the easier it is to solve (although still devilishly hard!). Shipping grains/veggies hundreds or thousands of miles to cities makes the task of recycling those nutrients nearly impossible, at least under conventional economics and certainly under prevailing fossil fuels availability (cue alien technology here or some such techno dreams). So the prediction is; people living close(r) to where their food is grown. Also, in closing, there's a lot of land that is not suitable for growing grains or veggies, that animals live on perfectly well. Hillsides, rocky soils, etc.

Another factoid, perhaps the same documentary, was based on simple math. There is, supposedly not enough arable land, in the US, to produce the amount of meat we currently consume.
The implications being, CAFOs are necessary to meet current consumption and that we will have to change something, if we want to go back to more traditional agricultural techniques. Perhaps eating less meat, or switching from cattle to poultry.
I certainly don’t have the answer. I went plant based over two years ago, after digging into the health implications of what we consider normal nutrition.
It’s all your fault, Chris. I was bored and picked a book (The China Study) off of Peak Prosperities recommended reading list. It’s not the first book I’ve read off that list, but certainly the one that’s had the biggest impact on my lifestyle.
if the need arises, I can sustain a plant based lifestyle on my two acres. I would need a bigger footprint for animal agriculture.
The point you made about land suitable to grazing but not growing is certainly valid as far as it goes. Arizona, for example, raises cattle on land tha fits the description. But that doesn’t address the extra water required for animal agriculture, vs growing plants. Arizona, again, can I’ll afford the water they are using raising cattle.

In Belgium, where I live, the portions of meat are smaller than in the US, so I’m told. I heard that a lion eats less meat per kilogram body, than humans do. Even though humans also eat vegetables and so on and lions don’t.
I told my girlfriend about this and we decided to take simple action. We can not go to a vegetarian lifestyle; we like to eat meat too much. So we did something very simple. Instead of eating one portion per person, we prepare only one portion and split it in two. We are now fully comfortable with that and don’t want more.

Come from on your sustainable two acres?

I don’t grow much corn because it takes too much in the way 0f water and fertilizer.
Lately I have come across the benefits of corn silk. I have been collecting it and drying it for use as a tea. It is loaded with antioxidants and other good stuff. I do not recommend anything other than organic corn for obvious reasons.

That is a great question. The answer is as Joel said lies in mimicking nature. It is not necessary to run cows or bison on land to increase fertility. Forests are incredibly fertile yet are not suitable for grazing animals.
There are animals that do provide lots of nutrients for the soil and they live right there. They are called worms. It does not take much to make a nice home for them and they provide a huge amount of benefits for the garden.
For years every fall I collect the leaves from my trees and put then on my garden. They rot and create a beautiful deep dark, rich humus. My worms love it. I live in an area where there is a lot of limestone so I add rock dust to help the little boogers out. I don’t have to but it is cheap and readily available. I compost everything I can. Grass clippings, food scraps, weeds all go in the compost pile. Literally tons of nutrients are right there. As Les said it all comes from plants. You really don’t need the “middleman” of herbivores.,phosphorus%2C%20potassium%2C%20and%20magnesium.
Notice that Joel moves his cows every day. When he started he moved them every 4 . It didn’t work as well as every day. Reason being those giant herbivores compact the soil. Aerated soil allows for much more bioactivity.
Bottom line is you can use everything available right there w/o animal husbandry, well except for the worms. Just build a nice home for them and they will come.

you import biomass from tree leaves, and live in an area where that can be done.

As I stated above I don’t grow much corn but that could change if this can be applied to corn we can grow here.
So the issue of fossil fuel needs for growing large amounts of corn may be a thing of the past. I probably won’t live long enough to see it but it just might happen one day. Cover cropping is another way of replenishing the soil

Yeah I import biomass 50’. You asked about 2 acres. I have 4. All the nutrients come from that particular piece of land.
Now if you wish to delve further into how to do it w/o animals you can read this.
You are clearly committed to animal husbandry. No problem. I had horses, cows, chickens and ducks at one time so I am not interested in the debate, My point is it is very possible to have soil fertility w/o animals , except for the worms of course. That is a data proven fact of permaculture.

if you feel this is a competition. It isn’t. I am happy for you and Les. I just have to feed alotta folk. “Sustainable” is widely used and sometimes true.

great link, thank you for that.