Say what you want about Joel Salatin, but the man makes a
lot of sense. He is the Virginia organic farmer who was featured in the
documentary, “Food, Inc.”
Since then, Salatin has become the darling of the so-called
“slow food” movement. He has authored several books and become a popular public
The New York Times honored Salatin with the moniker “High
Priest of the Pasture.” His latest book, Folks, This Ain’t Normal, explores
familiar themes about the hazards and overreach of a food system run by large
corporations and the government regulatory behemoth.
He hits the nail on the head when speaking of the
difficulties faced by small-scale farmers who simply want to ply their trade
while providing the public with fresh, wholesome food.
Salatin is a polarizing figure. Adored by the liberal Willie
Nelson and Farm Aid crowd and reviled by many large-scale farmers embracing
modern technology, he creates noise whenever he goes.
I have just begun reading Folks, This Ain’t Normal, so I’m
certainly not offering a book review. Instead, I would like to pass on some
things he touches on in the first few chapters.
And while not every farmer agrees with everything Salatin
has to say about modern agriculture, few would argue about the points he makes
about the spoiling of our youth, the benefits of hard work and the joy of
There is no question that modern conveniences such as cell
phones, fast food chains and the Internet have greatly impacted the population —
and not always in a positive manner.
That’s especially true of young people, who have never known
a world in which they cannot instantly communicate with their friends, grab a
sugary, fat-filled meal at McDonald’s and catch up on the latest gossip through
Facebook or Twitter.
Of course, technology cannot be blamed for the softening our
young people. They obviously have chosen to embrace modern conveniences that
have been shoved on them.
But in many cases there is no balance. The result is an
expanding youth populace that has had little experience of the economic benefits
of hard work, the satisfaction of doing a job correctly and the value of
accepting some responsibility for their own lives.
Salatin recalls that his children went to bed at 9 or 10
p.m. and “were grateful for the opportunity.” That’s because they spent the day
working on the farm — surprisingly for many of today’s youth, his children
actually had fun working!
He writes about how chores such as cutting firewood,
gathering eggs, shoveling manure and stacking hay infused in his children such
things as health, pride and a sense of fulfillment.
Unfortunately, that is not the case in many urban and
suburban homes and even in rural areas. The solution is not difficult, but it
does seem elusive.
And things won’t improve until young people are again given
responsibility and the room to succeed or fail on their own.