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“FOLKS THIS AIN’T NORMAL” by Joel Salatin Book review by Chris Harris

in Issue 35 by

If you ride around on a huge combine harvester, keep thousands of chickens in a mass feeding coop or spray chemicals all over big fields, this book shows alternative methods of farming for you. After all it is written by a man who describes himself as a Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic.

Joel Salatin is one of the foremost advocates of ethical and responsible farming. He has traveled widely around the world, lecturing at universities and talking to farming groups. The book uses the American mass farming model to show the failings of corporate farming and food production. Salatin uses a lifetime of experience on his own farm in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia USA to point out and explain how a better way of raising food is possible without sacrificing ethical treatment of animals or food quality and using environmentally benign treatment of waste.

As he points out, his practices have brought him into conflict with the US Department of Agriculture, the three major food producers in the USA and, of course, the owners of the Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). He proposes that the conspiracy (for that is what it is) between elements of Big Ag in the USA to provide cheap food via monoculture and heavy use of pesticides is to the detriment of the consumer at large.

Throughout this thoughtful and sometimes confrontational book he analyses aspects of mass food production and shows how this affects what we eat and the nutrition we gain from so doing. He goes on to show the damage such farming practices have done to the landscape over several decades and the effect food processing has had on many aspects of human health.

Salatin goes a step further, however, in examining ethical aspects of this issue. “Because we can, we will” is the mantra he challenges. His conclusion, backed by his own experience and that of thousands of small independent farmers across the USA, is that alternatives do exist. Where cows can graze in fields on grass and are not fed a diet of corn just to boost protein, where chickens can free range producing higher quality meat and eggs, and where pigs can wallow in mud and be, well, pigs.

All of this is backed with strong argument, solid facts and examples of good and bad practice. Salatin talks of his triumphs and failures, in a humorous, honest and entertaining way.

So if you are a small farmer who thinks and cares about his animals as animals, and are not prepared to sacrifice principals of good husbandry for profit at all costs, this inspirational book is most definitely one to read.

“Folks This Ain’t Normal” by Joel Salatin, published by Center Street, is available at the book shop in Spanish Lookout.

Editor’s Note: A naturalized Belizean, originally from Norfolk, England, Chris now lives in Springfield just south of Belmopan. He holds a degree in chemistry from London University. A sport fisherman since childhood, his main interest now is self-sustaining farming and his passion is cheese making. Together with his wife, Sue, he built and runs White Rock Farm, which is a 15 acre low-input, mixed farm.


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