Joel Salatin: The Rise Of Rogue Food

This week, we welcome back Joel Salatin to the podcast. 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.

Who wouldn't want that?

Well, the government and Big Ag for starters. Joel refers to himself as a 'lunatic farmer' because so many of the changes he thinks our food system needs are either illegal under the current law or mightily resisted by the deep-pocketed corporations controlling production and distribution.

And this anti-competitive restriction and stifling of small sustainable food producers is only getting worse. While dismayed at this, Salatin finds hope in the burgeoning rebellion of the "rogue food" resistence breaking out:

I'm not optimistic at all about where the government and all its bureaucracy is headed. It is getting more and more stifling. The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) that Obama put through, it's absolutely stifling. It's size prejudicial. It's putting an inordinate price pressure on smaller producers. That's a fact all the way across the board. And the cost of compliance is escalating -- the amount of paperwork, the amount of licensing, the amount of testing and procedural stuff that's happening on farms -- is through the roof.

So on the federal level, I think it's getting worse. Now, I think what's happening on the local level, the other thing that's a pushback that's happened, is what's now known as the food sovereignty movement. And that started in 2015 maybe, two or three years ago in Sedgewick, Maine. And that was a township that passed a half page food sovereignty law that said, in our township if a neighbor wants to do food commerce with another neighbor it's none of the governments business and no bureaucrat has to be involved. So if you want to come to my house, look around, smell around, and operate as freedom of choice, as voluntary adults, as consenting adults – and I'm using very strong language here – to practice your freedom of choice, then two consenting adults should be able to engage in food commerce without a bureaucrat being involved. Well, very quickly six other townships in Maine took up the mantra and passed the regulation, the law, as well.

Then, of course, Maine pushed back and said, no, you can't do that. And it continued to build in Maine until finally the legislature and the governor passed it and said, okay, if a township wants to do that it's okay with us. Well, then, the USDA quickly responded and said we're going to pull all of your federally inspected slaughter houses and food processing plants. Maine, you won't be able to sell to anybody because the federal government is pulling out if you do this. Then the governor called an emergency session. They went back in, and it's still being negotiated. It's a big hoo-ha. Believe me, there are a lot of us around the country that are watching what's going on in Maine, and we're very interested in it.

And if that were duplicated around the country it would almost be like local food secession. There's a place to say, at some level, we should be able to engage in food commerce at our own risk and our own freewill. And that is definitely gaining momentum. We see it in the expansion of the Farm-to-consumer Legal Defense Fund, which is essentially a home-schooled legal defense association for food. In two years, they’ve grown from a network of collaborating attorney's in something like 5 states to collaborating attorneys in 40 states. That's phenomenal growth for a little non-profit organization.

And so as attorneys find out about how little farmers get treated by SWAT teams that come in and confiscate their food and different things like that, there's a backlash to it. And now the beauty of the internet is that these things can be documented on iPhones. People can see the bureaucrat, the SWAT teams coming in and throwing out the perfectly good food from a freezer. They can see the raid; they can see people's rights being violated. And so there is definitely a backlash. It's a food freedom backlash in the country, and I've been an advocate of this all my life. I've always said when Americans become as interested in defending their right to acquire the food of their choice as they are the gun of their choice, we're going to have a whole different food paradigm in this country.

Rogue food is on the rise. One of the most successful examples in the in country is in Louisville, Kentucky. It's a food club that operates essentially under the same kind of a charter as a golf country club. It's not public, it's completely private. If you're not a member you can't go play in that club or on that course. And so what this is is a dues paying, nonpublic, members-only food exchange model. And these guys in Louisville actually have a store front and everything in there is illegal. I mean, they got everything from raw milk to homemade pepperoni. I mean, it's all illegal. And nobody can touch them because it's a private club.

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Click the play button below to listen to my interview with Joel Salatin (52m:32s).

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Joel touches on only one aspect of our fear of elites: food safety. We haven’t even begun to explore the effects that medicine, schooling, media, etc., have on our autonomy to live within the parameters of our natural world. Are we like sheep; pickled in our own herd myopia?

Observations of the sickening effect of programmed environments show that people in them become indolent, impotent, narcissistic and apolitical. The political process breaks down, because people cease to be able to govern themselves; they demand to be managed.
Perhaps, we're starting to come to our senses.

Oh come on, Chris and Adam! This Salatin clown is a self-described “Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic” who quotes Jesus frequently, runs chickens (which evolved as forest dwellers) on the open range, but shoots eagles that naturally try to eat them. He is a climate denier who rejects science see
Please stop invirting this scum onto your show.

Great interview Adam. Although Joel only talks about food there’s a lot to chew on here. There’s a reason most humans knew how to produce (or forage) healthy food for all but the last 150 years of their existence. If you told me I had to give up control of everything to the big bad boys but could keep one skill, it would be food. “Making” food is not making money, talking politics, or driving to work. It’s the utter essence of what we are. It’s not only survival, it’s our most profound understanding and interaction with a real world we are slowly learning to forget

But we’ve all known that the US Government tells us only what they want us to hear for years.
The absurdly low bar set for organic food is no suprise. Heck Amazon and Walmart are selling organics now.
An even bigger issue, however, is the information we are getting about nutrition and sustainability as it relates to the food industry in general.
The meat, dairy and processed food lobbies are going to insure that you don’t get uncontested information about honest nutritional science any more than they are going to make it easy for you to find out how cruel and ecologically unsound the meat and dairy factory farms are.
Nutrition and pollution aside, knowledge of the cruelty involved in CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations), would cause many of us to avoid meat and dairy consumption almost entirely.
Pigs and poultry that never see the light of day, their entire short, miserable lives. Cows that are chained stationary in a stall, their entire adult life. It’s far worse than what you see driving by a feed lot, out West.

The, “I’m not a robot” feature attacks again.

Another organisation that dot gov. and dot corp. don’t like poking around in their beeswax.
mercyforanimals dot org

Love Joel Salatin. Someone who just calls it as he sees it no matter what. If the US gov’t would reverse course and promote small farming - give them subsidies and freedom - just think of the issues it could solve. 1 - climate change. Growing more trees and grasses and doing it right can remove carbon from the air and store it in the ground where it can be used productively by animals and more plants. 2 - employment. Using human labor again instead of fossil fueled machines and chemicals will also reduce CO2 emissions not to mention give people meaningful healthy employment. We could go back to half of all of us being involved in food production. Doing it right will reduce drug addiction and crime and promote community and health. 3 - better health for all. All the autoimmune disorders and obesity and all the other diseases caused by big chemical ag can go away. Small farms can get off the chemical train and raise food that will heal people instead of poison them. And there are many other benefits I can think of. But our gov’t is determined to promote maximum profits for the biggest chemical addicted players and regulate the small farmers out of business. It is so backwards. Where I live for example it is legal to sell raw milk but only for pet food. So a local pet food store here is doing a great business selling raw milk to people “for their pets” who are taking it home and drinking it themselves. Rogue food is the only way we have to go right now. How sad. But bring it on!

Regulators almost always end up co-operating with the well funded people being regulated, whether it’s the revolving door between the SEC and Wall Street or between the FDA and the pharma companies. Farming is no different.