Nanci and Terri Taylor with farmer Joel Salatin
With the zeal of a circuit revival preacher, Virginia farmer Joel Salatin stirred souls this spring at the 1st Annual sOl Conference, an environmental symposium sponsored by Urban Acres and CES (Carbon Economy Series).
“What orthodoxies do we cling to?” he asked. “What culturally accepted beliefs will our children’s grandchildren reflect upon and say, ‘ at wasn’t very smart.’”
Sure, we no longer believe that the world is « at. We know that bloodletting and leeches aren’t great cures, and that slavery is despicable. But it wasn’t so long ago, Salatin reminds us, that no one questioned these absurdities. No one—except heretics.
From the green pastures of his Polyface Farms, Salatin stepped onto the national stage after being featured in Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma and in the Academy Award-nominated ° lm Food, Inc. His folksy delivery and words of wisdom struck a chord. And not just in sustainable farming circles. Broader audiences, concerned with their family’s health and that of the planet, began listening, too.
It’s not easy going against the grain. He applauds the new breed of growers who are diversifying their fields, knowing that efficiency and productivity can be achieved outside of an industrialized monoculture. His own pastured animals are not plied with antibiotics, and he applauds those ranchers and farmers who have improved the health of their animals by changing their living conditions, diet and stress levels. “When an animal is sick,” he says, “I ask myself—what did I do to mess with nature?”
He believes a society evolves for the better when its citizens are permitted to question established practices. He sings the praises of the “lunatic fringe,” a group he happily identifies with. “Over time,” he says. “They’re usually right.”
This summer issue turns the spotlight on some of our community’s most progressive thinkers.
These are the individuals (and businesses) who champion ecology, sustainable farming and our local economy.
The North Texas food community lost one of its most lovable outliers this spring with the death of urban grower, food broker, musician and general rascal Tom Spicer. For over three decades, he was the go-to guy for chefs, food writers and food enthusiasts.
My last chat with him was about artichokes and rutabagas. Could you grow them here, I wondered, and if so, why weren’t more farmers doing it? I don’t remember his exact answer. That’s how it was with Tom. The conversation usually led to impromptu poetry, a tale about his Louisiana roots or something else in left field. Regardless, you were swept away by the depth of his knowledge. The garden lost a swath of color the day he died. In the words of Joe Salatin, blessed be those who challenge us to think.