Polyface Guiding Principles
TRANSPARENCY: Anyone is welcome to visit the farm anytime. No trade secrets, no locked doors, every corner is camera-accessible.
GRASS-BASED: Pastured livestock and poultry, moved frequently to new “salad bars,” offer landscape healing and nutritional superiority.
INDIVIDUALITY: Plants and animals should be provided a habitat that allows them to express their physiological distinctiveness. Respecting and honoring the pigness of the pig is a foundation for societal health.
COMMUNITY: We do not ship food. We should all seek food closer to home, in our foodshed, our own bioregion. This means enjoying seasonality and reacquainting ourselves with our home kitchens.
NATUREâ€™S TEMPLATE: Mimicking natural patterns on a commercial domestic scale insures moral and ethical boundaries to human cleverness. Cows are herbivores, not omnivores; that is why weâ€™ve never fed them dead cows like the United States Department of Agriculture encouraged (the alleged cause of mad cows).
EARTHWORMS: Weâ€™re really in the earthworm enhancement business. Stimulating soil biota is our first priority. Soil health creates healthy food.
Message from Joel and all of us here at Polyface:
Scaling up without Selling your Soul
Many successful entrepreneurial start-ups morph into Wall-Streetified empires that lose their distinctives. And in the process, the business chews up and spits out its workers and founders in a mad scramble to dominate something. Does middle ground exist between the calm talking-stick consensus circle of indigenous eastern tribal cultures and the mad scramble frenzy of western capitalism? Or perhaps more to the point in light of recent Wall Street and economic developments, what values are more important than growth? Especially since cancer is growth. At this juncture of our cultureâ€™s reality, I would like us to immerse ourselves for a few minutes in an alternative innovative business philosophy.
BACKGROUND OF OUR BUSINESS
I am first and foremost a farmer, but not a very ordinary farmer. In fact, Iâ€™m known as a Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic. Our family farm in Virginiaâ€™s Shenandoah Valley now has four generations living on it. Iâ€™m second generation, but the day-to-day operations are handled by my son. Polyface Farm is a diversified, grass-based, beyond organic, direct marketing farm.
We produce salad bar beef, pigaerator pork, pastured poultry and eggs, forage based rabbits, and forestry products. Purchased by my mom and dad in 1961, the farm has gone from a worn out, gullied weedpatch that couldnâ€™t even pay a salary to one that employs 10 people with more than a million dollars in sales. And itâ€™s still experiencing exponential growth. Lush pastures supported by ecstatic copulating earthworms testify to the healing.
While many business folks would consider this a tiny businessâ€”and it isâ€”it is considered quite a large farm by USDA sales criteria, which calls any farm with sales above $400,000 annually a large farm. Polyface direct markets everything it produces to a customer base that numbers 2,000 families, 25 restaurants, and 10 retail outlets.
For context, please understand that we donâ€™t do anything conventionally. We havenâ€™t bought a bag of chemical fertilizer in half a century, never planted a seed, own no plow or disk or siloâ€”we call those bankruptcy tubes. We practice mob stocking herbivorous solar conversion lignified carbon sequestration fertilization with the cattle. The Eggmobiles follow them, mimicking egrets on the rhinosâ€™ nose. The laying hens scratch through the dung, eat out the fly larvae, scatter the nutrients into the soil, and give thousands of dollars worth of eggs as a byproduct of pasture sanitation. Pastured broilers in floorless pasture schooners move every day to a fresh paddock salad bar. Pigs aerate compost and finish on acorns in forest glens. Itâ€™s all a symbiotic, multi-speciated synergistic relationship-dense production model that yields far more per acre than industrial models. And itâ€™s all aromatically and aesthetically romantic.
As weâ€™ve gone from a single-salary, cute artisanal operation to a multi-family, beyond family, multi-farm business, weâ€™ve struggled to maintain our quality of life and the distinctives that drive sales. And we havenâ€™t always done it well. Iâ€™ve seen way too many successful small businesses gobbled up by deep pockets with shallow values. As a result of wanting to stay with the soul of our business story, weâ€™ve developed a list of directives. These would be different for every business, but letâ€™s look at them and at least appreciate that they represent innovative thinking in a western capitalistic business climate. I call these ethics-based contrarian business ideas.
Read more by clicking on these links:
- No Sales Targets
- No Trademarks or Patents
- Clearly Defined Market Boundary
- Incentivised Work Force
- No Initial Public Offerings
- No Advertising
- Stay Within the Ecological Carrying Capacity
- People Answer the Phone
- Stay Seasonal
- Quality Must Always Go Up