Joel Salatin, 59, calls himself a Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer. Others who like him call him the most famous farmer in the world, the high priest of the pasture, and the most eclectic thinker from Virginia since Thomas Jefferson. Those who don’t like him call him a bio-terrorist, Typhoid Mary, charlatan, and starvation advocate.
With a room full of debate trophies from high school and college days, ten published books, and a thriving multi-generational family farm, he draws on a lifetime of food, farming and fantasy to entertain and inspire audiences around the world. He’s as comfortable moving cows in a pasture as addressing CEOs in a Wall Street business conference.
His wide-ranging topics include nitty-gritty how-to for profitable regenerative farming as well as cultural philosophy like orthodoxy vs. heresy. A wordsmith and master communicator, he moves audiences from laughs one minute to tears the next, from frustration to hopefulness. Often receiving standing ovations, he prefers the word performance rather than presentation to describe his lectures. His favorite activity?-Q&A. “I love the interaction,” he says.
He co-owns, with his family, Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia. Featured in the New York Times bestseller Omnivore’s Dilemma and award-winning documentary Food Inc., the farm services more than 5,000 families, 50 restaurants, 10 retail outlets, and a farmers’ market with salad bar beef, pigaerator pork, pastured poultry, and forestry products. When he’s not on the road speaking, he’s at home on the farm, keeping the callouses on his hands and dirt under his fingernails, mentoring young people, inspiring visitors, and promoting local, regenerative food and farming systems.
Salatin writes The Pastoralist column for Stockman Grass Farmer, granddaddy catalyst for the grass farming movement, and the Pitchfork Pulpit column for Mother Earth News, as well as numerous guest articles for ACRES USA and other publications. A frequent guest on radio programs and podcasts targeting preppers, homesteaders, and foodies, Salatin’s practical, can-do solutions tied to passionate soliloquies for sustainability offer everyone food for thought and plans for action.
Mixing mischievous humor with hard-hitting information, Salatin both entertains and moves people. Seldom using a power-point and often speaking from an outline scribbled in a yellow legal pad, he depends on theatrics, style, and compelling content to hold attention and defend innovative positions. The rare combination of prophet and practitioner makes him both a must-read and must-hear in a time desperate for integrity leadership and example.
He has authored nine books, five of them how-to types:
- PASTURED POULTRY PROFITS: Net $25,000 in 6 months on 20 Acres
- SALAD BAR BEEF
- YOU CAN FARM: The Entrepreneur’s Guide to Start and Succeed in a Farming Enterprise
- FAMILY FRIENDLY FARMING: A Multi-Generational Home-Based Business Testament
- HOLY COWS AND HOG HEAVEN: The Food Buyer’s Guide to Farm Friendly Food, is an attempt to bring producers and patrons together in mutual understanding and appreciation
- EVERYTHING I WANT TO DO IS ILLEGAL: War stories from the local food front.
- THE SHEER ECSTASY OF BEING A LUNATIC FARMER
- FOLKS, THIS AIN’T NORMAL: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World
- FIELDS OF FARMERS: Interning, Mentoring, Starting, Continuing
- THE MARVELOUS PIGNESS OF PIGS: Nurturing and caring for all God’s Creation
His speaking and writing reflect dirt-under-the-fingernails experience punctuated with mischievous humor. He passionately defends small farms, local food systems, and the right to opt out of the conventional food paradigm. Four generations of his family currently live and work on the farm.
Joel Salatin was a great addition to our series, “The Ethics of Food and the Environment.” This series brings scholars, policy makers and practitioners to campus to reflect on the ways that what we eat and consume can raise moral questions. After hearing these presentations — from some of the world’s leading climate scientists — members of the audience often wonder what they can do. That’s where Joel’s talk really resonated. With great humor and passion, Joel presented an intriguing alternative to conventional food production, and inspired the audience to connect to local food systems.
Marta Sutton Weeks Professor of Ethics in Society
Director, Bowen H. McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society
Professor of Philosophy and, by courtesy, Political Science