Polyface Farms - Sustainable Model

One of my favorite parts in Michael Pollan's book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, was the section on Polyface Farms located in Virginia.  What was so fascinating about Polyface is their focus on a sustainable system.  Their values really lay out what makes them so impressive.

polyface sustainable farm

polyface sustainable farm

They realize that their business is not just producing chickens, beef, pork, or rabbits the cheapest way possible (which is also the unhealthiest way).  Their business is producing a product that doesn't sacrifice food safety, their surrounding environment, or the animal's happiness. They are also able to increase their profits by being extremely efficient and charging a bit more for a much better product.

Polyface's proprieter, Joel Salatin, looked at all facets of farm life and rearranged them so they didnt operate as independent operations, but rather a system of intertwined cycles.  For example:

  • Cattle are able to forage for clean grass each day with a moveable fence (this is different than the cattle most of us eat living in muddy, dirty, cramped feedlots)

  • Chickens that follow the cattle around to the fresh grass sprouts and the bugs out of their poop
  • Pigs that come behind the cows and root around in the cow's bedding (wood chips/sawdust mixed with the cow manure) which helps aerate the bedding and aid in compost development
  • The blood from the slaughtered chickens is added to aforementioned compost to make it more nutritious for the garden and pastures

So the next time you're at the store and trying to decide on which cut of meet to get, think about how the meat was raised, and how it's former life is going to impact your health and the taste of the meat.  As Polyface farms proves, Sustainability is not just about helping the environment, it's about making a living by doing what's right, because doing what's right makes life much happier to live.

While you probably don't have a farm in your backyard, think about your home as a system, and how that system is part of a larger environment.  Think of ways you can eliminate waste (recycle, compost, rain water capture) and make smarter decisions (control your thermostat, turn off lights, insulate), that won't just save you money, but will also make your home and local environment a happier place to live.

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Well I hate to burst anyone's bubble her but this just is not logically sound. I have read the omnivores dilemma as well as done plenty of research. I want to also note that I have a had a lot of experience on farms growing up in the central valley of California, this may be anecdotal but Pollan has no trouble spamming anecdotal evidence so a little from me wont hurt. Anyway, as I was saying.... The problems is a systemic one that industrial farmers face. Nutrients get pulled from the ground, a lot of nutrients. In fact if you did not take a lot of nutrients from the ground then you are doing it wrong because those nutrients are whats going to make your food nutritious. Now Salitin add some back when he recycles his extra animal parts but still a ton of those nutrients are getting shipped off to customers. So how dose he do it you ask? Well it's complicated and a bit shady. Lets start with carbon. In the Omnivores Dilemma, Pollan observes Salitin reusing his burnt wood to add carbon back into the ground. This means he requires extra forest land beyond the farm land already needed. This starts to be a problem because now we are not as efficient as we claim and if more farms want to do it Salitins way they had better have a handy dandy forest near by. Another thing they might also need is a supplier of grain. That's right, Pollyface imports grain from one of those big bad industrial types. When questioned on the topic Salitin admits to using outside grain sources and "not a trivial amount." Is he really being eco-friendly or is he just exporting his carbon foot print to the grian farmer? There is no free lunch and beware the con-artists that try to convince you otherwise.
It is true that farming pulls nutrients from the soil -- and those nutrients must be returned for the food to remain healthy. When food is sold to persons living far away, those nutrients are also being exported and must be returned. One way to do this is with commercial fertiliser -- but this only replaces three of the main nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (fertilisers may be more complete, but these are the only nutrients actually advertised). Most people who have looked at growing plants know that certain plants are "nitrogen-fixers" and actually return usable nitrogen to the soil (actually symbiotic micro-organisms on their roots do this). This is one way to return some of nutrients. (BTW, there is really not much need to add carbon to soil as plants get almost all of the carbon they need from carbon dioxide in the air -- that's right, wood is made of air.) Other nutrients are more difficult -- the current approach is to essentially throw cheap oil at the problem in the form of industrial fertilisers. In the future we will have to do what most people find unthinkable -- use our own waste to fertilise our food, in the form of humanure.
Are Polyface farms planning an expansion towards <b>Costa Rica</b>. I am in the <a href="" rel="nofollow">Costa Rica farm realty</a> business and know places where this could work.

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