Farm mimics nature
By STEVE BROWN
PUYALLUP, Wash. -- Animals are always moving at Joel Salatin's Polyface Farms, and he does his best to mimic natural patterns.
Small, portable equipment turns the trees into lumber, and the wood chips and sawdust are used to absorb manure from animals in the barn during the winter. Corn is thrown into the bedding, and the cows trample that into the wood waste.
Come spring, pigs are turned into the barn, where they root out the fermented corn "like candy." Salatin called this "just taking advantage of the pigness of the pig" to turn the anaerobic bedding pack into aerobic compost.
Instead of using human labor and equipment to do the job, he said, pigs are like "appreciating machinery," adding value to themselves while they do farm work.
Cattle graze the pastures, fertilizing as they go. The herbivores follow their innate tendencies of "moving, mobbing and mowing," just like they do on the African plain.
"Electric fencing is the steering wheel, the accelerator and the brake," he said.
Birds follow the herbivores in nature, so chickens move into the grazed pasture at Polyface. As they eat the insect larvae in the manure, they're like a "pasture sanitation program." Again, electric netting keeps them moving.
Like bison in prairies past, pigs and cattle disturb the landscape to move succession and vegetation forward.
Polyface Farms feeds about 4,000 families and supplies many restaurants, all within a four-hour
drive of the farm.
The operation feeds on what Salatin called "a local food tsunami" that has driven recent changes in agriculture.
Books by Salatin
"The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer"
"Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal"
"You Can Farm"
"Salad Bar Beef"
"Pasture Poultry Profits"
"Holy Cows and Hog Heaven"
"Family Friendly Farming"