51 Responses to “Five Important Things I Learned About Food from Joel Salatin”


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  1. Adrienne

    Thank you for putting my main arsenal of arguments into witty and well-spoken list form. I will now share and post appropriately. This will be much more effective than growling at people when they argue with me. Thanks, Leslie!

  2. Mrs. Z

    I heart Joel Salatin! Just needed to say that!

  3. Amazing and wonderful, as always. These are such powerful messages. I could not believe that worm experiment! (Except of course, that I could…)

    I found “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing wrong” most moving though. I often think about the changes I’d like to make…the things I want to do when I have more time, more money… And this inspires me to start doing those things now.

  4. Wow – wish I knew if he was speaking in Denver soon. Thanks for including the list of additional reading resources; very helpful!

  5. Tara

    I often get asked how we can afford to eat the way we do. I always respond with the answer “priorities”. We don’t have cable, cell phones, expensive habits, the internet bill is our only extra outside from our utilities etc. We are quite “boring” by some peoples standards, but we love our lives, are present in our lives, and EAT WELL! so we are happy happy happy. It’s all about choices. 

    • Phec4

      I don’t think your boring.  I think all the extras we have are spoiling the next generation. How many youngsters do you see with cell phones.  They are learning how not to talk to people face to face.  Our expensive habit is eating out once a week at a diner.  And we are perfectly happy with that.  That’s our only entertainment.  We play Scrabble, Monoply etc on Saturday nite, I make a large pizza and friends bring over the extras.  This is what kids remember when they get older.  They might complain now but later on they will see memories.  You are right its all about choices and priorities.

    • I have a cell, no land line not home enough for anyone to be able to reach me. i do not have cable, internet or any other extras. I still cannot afford to eat organically so it is not all where priorties are sometimes its that we just do not make enough money to eat the way we want to.

  6. I love this! Especially the worms and twinkies. Jeeze!

    I saw Joel a year or so ago, also in a church, introduced by Michael Pollan. Speaking of whom, I’d add one more book: “Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Pollan, to your reading list.
    Love and light!

  7. Hi Leslie. I, too, have a big crush on Joel Salatin. (I also have a crush on Sting, which shows that in my mind the hottest attributes are simple: smarts and the guts to try to do good in the world!) I can’t recommend his latest book, Folks, This Ain’t Normal, enough. It tells you everything you should know about our food system and it’s a very entertaining read. It’s my favorite book of 2012–as I know no others will even be in the ballpark. Salatin’s a great guy, too, he’s letting me excerpt an entire chapter of Folks in my next issue of Greenwoman. The chapter’s titled “No Compost, No Digestion” and it explains, in detail, why the worms won’t touch Twinkies.

  8. Mel

    Its not just in the USA! here in the UK, we have the EU government body (unelected by the way) in Brussels who pass laws that require producers of food to label them with LESS information about where they are from, how they are processed etc etc. All without public debate, all without public knowledge (unless you dig) all from unelected officials. cheers, mateys.

  9. I only recently found your site and I’ve been loving it. But THIS clinched it. I’m a true fan.

  10. Stacy @ Stacy Makes Cents

    Wow, what a great post! From now on, I am totally going to use the cell phone analogy! Thank you for sharing your points with us! :-)

  11. Oracle

    Love every bit!!  I posted #1 as my facebook status for the day.  :)

  12. Tonia Townsend

    I got to go see Joel Salatin a few years ago! He is very inspiring and Very down to earth!! Watched him in both Fresh and Food Inc. He is very encouraging too!! What he repeated over and over that day was it doesn’t matter how much land you have at the moment be it 1 acre or 1000 start TODAY!….

  13. Djranch2011

    Lucky you!!!  I want to see him too!!!  I love his no nonesense approach to life!!!  He is a great example of simple, good living!

  14. Phec4

    I am trying to increase my families use of organic food. Yes, it is more expensive, but if you buy only the amount you are going to use, then I see no change in increase of food budget.  There are seven days in a week so I only buy 14 fruits, apples, bananas, pears, watermelon etc.  Some stores have these fruits that are about ripe enough to eat that nite.  I only buy vegetables that are on sale.  If its broccoli then that what we eat that nite and so on.  If chicken is on sale that week then its chicken we eat and so on.  Somethimes we eat chicken more then once a week, but cooking from scratch has let me run wild with new recipes. We eat out once a week at a local greek restaurant and for the three of use its around $30.00 a week.  In the summer, although we live in the city we have built a garden behind the garage.  Tomatoes, beans, squash, cucumber and lettuce. My favorite planting is potatoes.  I usually get around 10 pds of red potatoes and share then with my mother.  If I only knew how to plant rice.  We eat alot of rice.  All I can say it takes practice, patience and a little more time to prepare meals, but you will find that you will be using less time the more you practice and the food tastes great.

  15. Love the worm story.  How much simpler can it get?  Joel’s on a mission, and I hope he lives a long, long life and gets to keep sharing his passion.

  16. Excellent info and stuff to think about here. Looking forward to reading more via your links too. Hubby was floored by the worm experiment when I read it to him.

    We don’t have a lot to spend on food, but I refuse to buy into convenience and junk just because it’s cheap.

  17. Tara

    I love Joel Salatin, too, he’s so inspiring and smart and actually gives me hope for the future.  That is something I don’t often have, haha.  I never knew he had written his own books, I first found out about him through Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma.  Looks like I’ve got some reading to do!

  18. mimi

    I LOVE Joel Salatin! He’s so passionate about real farming and real food. He’s also in the documentary “Fresh” –a really inspiring documentary!!!! And it’s so true–If you can afford a cell phone, you can afford healthier food! Food is one of the greatest joys of life–More so than television and other manmade time wasters. 

  19. Wow this was a most apropos post. We are trying to become more self-sufficient, just recently acquired some little chicks, have a garden started and today I made my own ricotta for the first time. I love the idea of getting back to basics and not using so many chemicals in our lives.


  20. What a wealth of information ~ thank you so much!

  21. Diana Ford

    We had planned on going to see him ourselves but the animals are taking over! All of his books are excellent reads and packed with info for farmers and lay-folks alike. And it’s so true what you/he were saying about the big companies putting up a fight against the little guys. Vermont is just the latest state trying to have GMO foods labeled and striving for accuracy in food labels. Monsanto is threatening to sue them if they do it. Don’t even get me started on how very wrong this is! Additionally, as we try to think of new value-added products to add to our farm store, almost the first thing that comes out of our mouths is “Is it legal?” Just like Joel says in his book title, “Everything I Want to Do is Illegal”!

  22. Eating well really is not that expensive, especially when you consider you will save money on healthcare by BEING healthy.  My first recommendation is always to stop buying anything that comes in a box.  Even if it is labelled organic.  It is still processed if it is in a box.  The easiest way to do this is not going down the aisles in the grocery store.  Stick to the perimeter.
    Joel is so right about the conspiracy issues.  They may not be organized conspiracies, but when big ag and the chemical companies have infiltrated the regulatory agencies to the degree they have, they are regulating themselves, making policies that favor them over any competition, and deciding what the official recommendations are for how people “should” eat.  Waaaay too much conflict of interest there to trust the “powers that be”.
    ~Ramy Jisha
    Texas Daily Harvest
    Organic Dairy and Farm
    Northeast Texas

  23. I am SOOO jealous of you right now!! The first book I ever read about local food, farming, governmental control and the whole process was ‘Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal’ and it changed my life! Its what started me on my own REAL food journey. He is my rockstar hero! Well, him and Michael Pollan. I’m in LUV with both of them! :)

  24. SparklingSweeties

    I’ve been reading your posts for some time now. Today’s was by far my favorite!!! Thank you for reminding me about Joel. I saw him in Food Inc and didn’t realize that he is an author and such an advocate for local and healthful food!  I’m travelling in the US (we’re Canadian) with my hubby right now and hope to catch Joel at a speaking engagement!  Wish me luck and thanks again!

  25. Tara

    Things worms don’t/can’t eat that I do: meats including seafood, citrus fruits, mayonnaise, alliums, many more. Seems a rather flawed test…

    • I think its more about processed vs whole foods that’s the issue with the worm test. Obviously shrimp and oranges are whole, real foods…but shrimp flavored ramen noodles and orange flavored soda aren’t. The point is to eat REAL things…not packaged, processed garbage. 

  26. Heather :) :) :)

    OH, I LOVE that first one about if you can afford a cellphone, you can afford to eat good food. That is so true…and it really is about priorities.  We don’t have a lot of money in our family…but we do hold the very strong conviction that it’s important to eat good, healthy food!!!  You can’t put a price tag on health…and we definitely can’t afford hospital bills…so we do what we can on our end. we’ve cut out some unnecessary expensives to make that happen…and it’s been so worth it :) Love and hugs from the ocean shores of California, Heather :)

  27. Aleisha Utterback

    I love that man!  In my few moments with him last spring, I BEGGED him to run for president.  He’s not interested:/

  28. Susancnw

    I’m jealous. I live up in FC and I so wanted to go see Joel…first book I read was “Everything I want to do is illegal” and then read the others as soon as I could get them from the library. I’ll be adding them to our personal library this year. We’re getting chicks within the next week, hubby is looking into Boer goats over the next few years…and we’ll be getting a garden going this next month (although with this weird spring, I’m thinking we should already have started, but we just moved 4 weeks ago (with only 3 weeks notice) and didn’t have a house until literally the day before we were to be out.

  29. Kaila Aurora

    I’ve always figured if you can afford junk food and fast food you can afford to eat healthy. Healthy food tends to be cheeper than prepackaged foods and trips through the drive through. It is often just a matter of taking time to cook.

    Following the will a worm eat it rule it a good thing to follow for most foods. I also like to consider things like how much time was spent manufacturing it? If it was manufactured/man made how long before it goes bad? In that case the longer it stays ‘good’ the worse it is. I’ll eat yogurt, I’ll eat cheese but I won’t eat Kraft singles or pudding cups.

  30. kylieonwheels

    You’re right, it’s fear.  Fear of failure – that’s why I haven’t planted the peas yet.  Because I’m scared it won’t work.  What the hell?  How ridiculous.  That’s it, I’m planting them this week.  And I’ll even plant them in the gorgeous glazed ceramic pot that I was saving for an ornamental tree – because f*ck it – it’s a seed looking for somewhere to grow – as if it matters where!!

    Thanks lovely! :-D

  31. Eve

    Loved this post!  Since I started eliminating buying new plastic from my life (nod to Beth Terry here!) I noticed that the first things to go, i.e. food packaged in plastic, turned out to be the most $$ in the budget! Convenience foods, single servings, microwaveable dinners, pre-packaged meats & veggies all added cost. Now that I buy in bulk, buy only what I need at the meat counter, shop the veggie aisle carefully or go to the farmer’s market, my food budget is about half of what it was. 

    And how excited was I to discover that, just a few days ago, the most delicious pork chop I ever ate at a local restaurant came from, yes you guessed it, Polyface Farms!  Talk about synchronicity!  And there are about a dozen restaurants in my town which use meats & eggs from Polyface.  Better still, the farm is just an hour down the road from me.  A trip to the farm is definitely in my future.

  32. Blaqheartmoon

    I don’t say much, but I’m here, I support and share everything crunchy with everyone I know and I’m a Crunchy. Today I have something earth – shatteringly important to say. I received an extremely important email yesterday. It came after I had logged off for the day. It’s so important this is probably the most important bit of news you’ll hear this year. We have our chance to finally stand up and CLOSE MONSANTO’S DOORS FOREVER! We’d be foolishly stupid not to move on this. I beg, plead, implore, no COMPEL you join us and make this happen.

    Donate and share this with everyone. Plaster your local hang outs with it, paper your neighborhood, email everyone in your address book, get it into the media – FaceBook, Twitter, Linkedin, actual local news channels whatever doesn’t matter just get this OUT!

     You say your “crunchy” well PROVE IT! Yes prove it to them to everyone put your money where your mouth is, walk the walk talk the talk.  I donated a dollar for every family member I have. I’m doing what I can where I am with what I have. Stand up and FIGHT! I DID so can you.

     This is a call to arms into the biggest battle we will ever face. If we lose here we lose ALL! Who will care if we use coconut oil for deodorant, baking soda for toothpaste, and vinegar for cleaning? It WON’T matter one bit if all of our food is dangerously infected with gmos and there will be no sense in being crunchy anymore. EVER. PERIOD! That’s right it will be futile to be crunchy. it is that serious!

    If we force them in Calif to print 2 labels for all products they will do one or two things; 1. The manufactors will STOP using all gmo ingredients in their products to avoid the expense of printing 2 ingredients labels – the special gmo alert for Calif and the regular one for the rest of country. 2. They will go ahead and spend their profits to print the two labels. Anyone with a head for business knows they will simply REMOVE all gmo ingredients from their products. Once this happens this means LESS business for monsanto. Less business means less profits for monsanto. Less profits means they CLOSE DOORS FOREVER. If they can’t sell it they WON’t make it! Now you see the big picture!

     DO NOT stand on the sidelines leaving us brave few to fight this battle alone. It’s our battle YOUR battle we fight. 8 out of 10 legal voting residents of Calif have said NO to monsanto. Once ballot is approved they will vote to label everything that contains gmo so they know. 80% of our country said if the labels were there they too wouldn’t buy ANYTHING gmo. We’re into the tipping point now lets’ flip this thing over! The old paradigms are finally being questioned so lets’ close monsanto! Pass this in calif and it’s better than any law we could hope to get on state by state basis. Calif is the 8th largest economy. What happens there happens EVERYWHERE! WE WIN!!!!

     “I can’t afford it”. Do you have a cel phone/extra car/extra home/video games/expensive habit/ect… You CAN afford it – you must! Even if you donate just ONE DOLLAR it will be a dollar going to fight against the beast known as monsanto!
    Join us we are Legion and we are here to finally slay the beast named monsanto. Our lives and childrens’ lives depend on it. We are ALL in this together. We can win but we have to fight together. Lets’ be the ones that tell our childrens’ children the fairy tale how a group of brave souls stood up and slayed a mighty beast named monsanto. Make this our future reality by standing up and fighting with us today.

    If not us WHO??? If not now WHEN???

    You say you want change, you say you wish you could do something – NOW is your chance stand up and be the hero just say no to monsanto!
    This is the link where you will find your battle plans. Arm yourself and CHHHAAARRRGGGEEEE!


  33. Rachael

    I haven’t read through the comments but these were my thoughts:
    Point 1-I have a cheap cell phone with a cheap plan out of necessity (DH, kids, no home phone), I cannot afford cable and I cannot afford alcohol. So its not just priorities. I buy the food I can. I can’t afford to buy lovely organics. I just cannot do it. I buy the best that I can, though, and make as much as I can from scratch. So I guess that rubbed me the wrong way. What about us poor folk?
    Point 5-Seriously saddened me, though I have to say I’m not surprised. Reminds me of the fight on midwives and homebirth.
    Despite being turned off by his view on being able to afford good food, I’m going to request his book from the library. It sounds like a seriously good read, esp if his book carries the same kind of energy you describe him having in person.

  34. I love love love love LOVE Joel Salatin! Reading Folks, This Ain’t Normal was a life changing event. 

  35. vs2139

    Polyface is near me. I have visited the farm just to see the baby chicks. :-) I am so very happy for the Salatins and their success. One thing Joel says over and over … and I will repeat … is we all have choices. There is likely a farm near you that farms the same way. You have to go find it. Start with a place like localharvest.org and find a few places you can patronize. Ask questions, get to know who raises your food. If it isn’t raised, it isn’t food. 

    But I’m still holding out for an oreo farm and a tequila tree.  I’ll find one.

  36. Bonnerinnz

    Just loved your article on Joe and his way of life. Can’t help but get inspired when I read articles like this. Love my organic garden and all of those worms too. Keep telling people Crunchy!

  37. I have been unemployed for a year and a half.  It hasn’t been easy.  We’ve cut our costs down to the bare bones.  No cable, no cell phones, no new/used clothes, no health insurance, etc.  We finally applied for food stamps and got them.  It was the happiest day of my life, because I could finally buy good food.  We don’t buy a lot of meat, but when we do it is organic.  We can’t buy a lot of organic, but I do where it counts and read the labels.  I also shop at Farmer’s Markets.  I may not have much money, but I do have a voice when I purchase my food.

  38. Thank you for this summary. Loved the bit about the worms. We have chickens who are extremely omnivorous, but who won’t, apparently, eat marshmallows. 

  39. Ashley

    I <3 this post! I always wondered about the people that say they can't afford organic, sustainable or even real food. I don't think that income doesn't contribute as a factor to that, but I really wonder. 

    I would ask: Did you try everything? Did they really give farmer's markets a try and fully research the options they have there? Do they grow their own produce (which is really easy to grow organic)? Did they go to supermarkets, co-ops, local stores and check out the sales, bulk offers, even stuff that you can get for free? Even some food banks have organic and whole food occasional, did they try looking there for options? Did you try a bartering system, where you can trade time, volunteering etc. to people, farms and non-profits in exchange for sustainable food? Do they know someone that can fish (this can be a good option for fresh, sustainable and even affordable seafood depending on where you are)? Do they know people that have gardens? Do you have friends/neighbors/anyone that has fruit trees? Do you know that you don't have to have everything organic all the time?

    I think there are several factors that go into why someone thinks they can't afford real wholesome food. There are things like income, location (food deserts can be really harsh), priorities and even just ignorance (considering how we've grown up in a fast food, convenience and quantity-over-quality food culture, that's understandable). There are other things to consider because at the supermarket, you may think you are getting a good deal on packaged food and even produce, but to me, it's been a popular myth; I have been to farmers markets around me and from I can see, taste and bought with my minimum wage income that I  practically got jipped in quality and quantity at the supermarket, especially when it came to produce.

  40. Sandra W

    Just came across this and I wanted to comment…although I realize I’m behind. I totally believe in this. I saw Food, Inc. and I have to say – I’ve been saying we need to eat our food the way God made it for a long long time. I believe that 100%. I’ve never been one to buy pre-packaged foods in any form so that’s a non-issue for us. I’ve always stayed to the outside edges of the grocery stores. (Veggies, fruits, meats, dairy) But I also believe that our meats (and our gmo veggies, fruits, and grains also) are killing us as they are now in the commercial food industry. We have been working towards eating non-gmo for a while in our home. For us it is a slow process but I really want to be rid of all the hormone injected meats.

    Problem is, right now, we can’t afford that. And no, we don’t have cell phones, we don’t have cable, and we don’t drink beer (or liquor or wine for that matter). In fact, the only bills we have are the mortgage (for our small 1000 sq ft house), electric, water, and car insurance for our 1 car and that’s only in the form of the minimum as required by the state we live in. I also have the bare minimum amount of clothing I can survive with. I do spend money on educating my children – I’m a homeschooling mom – but not so much that it would feed us non-gmo or non-hormone injected meat if we saved that money.

    This year I planted my first garden (all heirloom) and I’m absurdly excited about it! I have no idea what I’m doing but I’m reading everything I can find and I’m learning as I go.

    So, anyways, I love this post and intend to continue checking out your blog. I’m totally with you. But I had to comment because although I know without a doubt we are the exception, not everyone can truly afford to eat like this. In my area, for example, a free range chicken, after having researched everything around me and comparing prices, goes for a minimum of $20. For one chicken. Right now, there is no way I can pay $20 for one chicken. But, I do try to minimize the amount of meat we eat by cooking non-meat meals 4 to 5 times a week. (I don’t call them vegetarian meals because although they are, we’re not vegetarians and don’t intend to become vegetarian. Note: We have no issues with vegetarians.)  

  41. Karsten

    I had to throw my 2 cents in.  We are a very low income family of 7.  We still eat healthy foods even though we can’t afford health insurance right now.  We saw Joel in Fresh and Food Inc too and knew that raising chix his way was the only way we could afford clean meat.  It is SOOO easy, y’all!  We have 2 pens, meat birds and layers, that we move twice every day. Hubby built them out of scrap pallets and some hardware cloth he bought. We live on 1 acre, but have had 25 meat birds on a 1/4 acre lot before.  I understand there are codes and not everyone can do this, but thankfully, even though we lived in the city we could.  I shop the famers market every week to get the best deals on fresh local veggies and fruits and I buy in bulk the grains (I grind myself) and other staples we eat to save as much money as I can.  For our family we pay around $450 a month for groceries.  BTW, chix don’t have to eat expensive feed…we found out that fresh grass and leftovers/scraps get eaten quickly by our ladies :)

  42. Jen Lancaster

    G’day Leslie, I’m a new ‘Crunchy’ and am loving your site. You have got me enthused to get back into making my own cosmetics and who knows what else. The more I read the more I love it.
    Quite a few years ago my sisters did an experiment with a hamburger from a very well known Mc-burger chain (not mentioning any names of course). They put it in a jar and kept it for 2 years…yes, 2 years and it didn’t change apart from the lettuce, no mould, no nothing. Even sweating in the jar didn’t change it. What on earth was in it?? It made me reassess my eating habits and I have NEVER eaten anything like that since. I cook from scratch and we eat very well. It can be a bit of a chore sometimes but when that happens I defrost a ‘freezer-surprise’ meal which is something I’ve prepared and frozen. I support our local farmers when possible but that gets difficult when the big supermarket chains are gobbling up our local butchers, greengrocers and bakeries. And I get SOOO cross when I want to buy a favourite brand and find it has been removed and replaced with a ‘home brand’ ARGH! If I had the space I’d grow my own meat but am lucky to have a few friends who have lambs and beef cattle. I’m trying to keept the possums (Australia) off my vegie garden so I can be a little more self-sufficient (someone told me to errect an electric fence, husband is an electrician and he’s working on it!). I don’t mind sharing my vegies but they eat more than their share!
    I read somewhere that if our grandmothers were alive and went to our supermarkets they wouldn’t recognise most of the food. We eat so much crap nowdays. Like some readers comments here I avoid the middle aisles as much as possible and always keep in mind ‘would Nan recognise this food?’ Asking myself that question always turns me back to my cookbooks.
    Just as an aside, most of us who use cotton buds (I think you call then Q-tips in the USA) would remember not so long ago the cardboard stick was replaced with a bendy plastic one. I was annoyed but hey, such a trivial thing right? Well, a few months ago Swisspers brought out a cotton bud labelled as ‘organic’ with a carboard stick. Yay! A robust cardboard stick again! Well, my euphoria was short-lived because when I went back to buy another pack a few months later they weren’t available despite me looking in several large supermarkets and small chemists (drug stores?). So I emailed the company asking if this was a supermarket plot to take over the world etc by removing well-known brands and replacing them with home brands and they replied “yes”. OMG!
    I’m going to buy Joe Salatin’s book.

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  1. […] friend of mine passed around a blog entry listing five lessons learned from an evening with farmer, Joel Salatin. In one of those lessons, he […]

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