Michael Pollans helps and observes Polly face farms in Swooned Virginia while shadowing the main farmer, Joel Salatin who calls himself a grass farmer. Joel Salatin doesn’t identify with an organic label; it is insulting to his sustainable healthy farm. His animals graze on grass and go through the natural processes to grow and eat grass. There are no chemical pesticides on the farm or in the feed and the feed is not the corn mush that’s given, these animals are free range animals. Pollan explores the epitome of organic food, whole foods. He explores the various story packages of where the food comes from and how it is organic. Following up on these trails Pollan comes to find out the truth Salatin was trying to pursue. Organic labels were from farms that were being producers from big companies and their words would be twisted in a way that was still true but then not organic like many people think, they aren’t sustainable and sure aren’t healthy. Gene Kahn is a person to thank for the upheaval of the ‘organic’ label reaching the supermarket and becoming a company franchise. Kahn explains to Pollan the dream of a local organic farming system that became privatized and became a corporate industry. Making the farms more jam packed and mass producing relaying less quality food and production. After a while the shock left Kahn having him realize this is the business the consumerism, the money making arena. The organic industry was pushing for synthetics and additives in their organic food to produce processed foods and TV dinners that could be called organic, which is contradictory in itself. All small local organic farms that have become famous and needed have become industries and big corporate businesses, they had to be due to the boom of sales and consumer wishes. Earthbound farm started by the Goodman’s is an example. They started the spring mix extravaganza and made is a main stream salad food, Costco expanded their small farm and was the reason they up scaled.
Pollan visits an industrial chicken farm in California, Petaluma. It is true that they don’t feed their chickens antibiotics and the feed has no meet and is organic in a sense, corn and soybean. They are given a small space to walk outside but don’t due to the conditions they are given, cooped up for six weeks before they are allowed to venture outside. This gives the chickens a few more days to live and a little bit more freedom but that doesn’t necessarily scream organic but it might be as organic as an industrial farm can be.
Organic and naturally grown produce had polyphenols left in them after growth where the processed foods didn’t which makes locally grown food more nutritious even if the big industries are still pleading to organic ways. Organic does benefit the animal, the pollution in the water and soil, benefits for healthier food but in contrast burns more fossil fuel energy then they normal farm.
On Monday Pollans first day of his week spent on Salatin’s farm in Virginia he sees the benefits of grass fed cows. The ‘mob and move’ technique used and the cows eating he grass once and moving to a different part of the land until the next lot is fully grown and fertilized again. Having a sun to grass to cow to human system is sustainable and a less energy consuming process but takes lots of time.
The corn fed beef became popular when corn was easier and cheaper to buy then growing yourself and less time consuming then grass fed farming. The dominated breed of cow was not accustomed to not just eating grass but a fattier substance making corn feed more popular. Corn feed also helped jam more cows into one lot and have excess amount food and having the cows grow quicker and fatter for a more profitable business.
Salatins farm fed the family and had the family sustainable and only went to the grocery store for necessities like toilet paper. This house and farm reminded Pollan of the red barn pictures of the south many people have in their minds when they think of farms.
On Tuesday Pollan is shown the electric fence and the way the ground is fermented and the different cycles the animals take on renewing the grass and fertilizer. The word efficiency is usually linked with industrial farms growing a monoculture farm and putting less effort into making more. Salatins farm is efficient just in a different sense, it’s efficient because money isn’t sucked out for the natural process and leaves little room for antibiotics, contamination or ruining soil.
On Wednesday Pollan got to experience what Salatin does every 6 months, kill chickens – the only bird he can kill on his own farm. Pollan severed 12 chickens with Salatin’s son Daniel and then went to help Galen gut the chickens after they were plucked. Salatin believes in a transparent farm, one with clear walls that consumers can see where and what their food is up to. Salatin brings Pollan to one of his friends, Bev Egglesten who is crumbling under the government and pressure of being a small sustainable natural farmer.
Thursday morning Pollan took a trip with art to sell eggs to nearby chefs who wanted their eggs and were drawn in by poly farm. Local farms don’t always mean organic or sustainable but still brings down the cost and saves a monoculture industry from happening.
On Friday Pollan picked is various amounts of food he wanted to brig to Charlottesville to cook for friends. He realizes that Salatin didn’t want to get rid of all the industries of processed food but to sway groups little by little to why his farm and other farms like his are healthier and better. Salatins corn is of the heirloom variety. The eggs and corn while preparing them for Pollans meal were excellent and definitely more superb the super market kind. While making the meal Pollan pondered he knew the food, chicken especially was free ranged and raised differently but would it taste different? It definitely did he proclaimed. But he commiserated that the work behind this delicious food was more satisfactory then eating it which says something in itself.