If you’ve been to the Farmstead lately, you’ve likely met our friendly Retail Manager, Jackie Parr. Jackie and her husband, Will, are passionate about local, organic farming and are on the path to having their own farm in the very near future. Here’s a memorable experience Jackie had recently that she wanted to share with you…
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Basketball has Michael Jordan. Golf has Tiger Woods. Filmmakers have Steven Spielberg. Every profession has icons, a person that you look up to and associate with being the absolute best in their field. Even physicians and holistic care practitioners have people like Dr. Oz and Andrew Weil. For those who have chosen to take the path to become sustainable farmers, Joel Salatin is that name.
Joel Salatin is truly an icon for sustainable farming and one of our Urban Acres heroes. His 550-acre family farm in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, Polyface, is featured prominently in Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and the documentary films, Food, Inc. and Fresh. In the last few years through our Steward’s Dinners, we’ve been able to build a wonderful relationship with Joel. He was even present at our Farmstead ribbon cutting ceremony in January. Sought-after author, public speaker, locavore, and full time farmer, Joel has been an inspiration to many, from the beginning farmer to the everyday American wanting to become more intimate with their food sources.
So, you can imagine how excited we were when my husband, Will, was selected to spend the summer at Polyface for their summer internship program. Earlier this month, I got the opportunity to visit Will and see the farm. What an incredible experience! Aside from the tranquility that’s found outside the hustle and bustle of the city, there was a certain positive energy I felt there. Things just felt right at Polyface. Everything appeared balanced and synergized.
We parked by the farm store on the property and started our personalized tour of the farm. We started near the greenhouse, at the rabbits. Hannah, a Polyface apprentice, is currently managing the rabbits. Just like the meat and laying chickens, the rabbits had a portable pin that gets moved every so often to keep them with fresh pasture to graze and a new area to fertilize. Daniel Salatin, Joel’s son, has been breeding their rabbits to meet their needs for about 25 years.
We also saw the chicken and turkey processing area. The meat chickens are processed at 9 weeks. They are caught by hand, cut, defeathered, and processed right there on the farm. They are then bagged and iced. Will told me sometimes they don’t even make it to the ice because the customer is standing right there to take their chicken home. Talk about farm to table!
Then, down to the barn where the smaller pigs are kept before they’re old enough to be on pasture. Since this is the only animal Will and I have ever raised, this was probably my favorite area. The pigs in this picture are only a couple weeks away from being on the pasture.
As we were approaching the fencing around their pasture area, we noticed that one of those ladies had gotten onto the outside of the fence. Will and I worked together to corner her and Will effortlessly snatched her leg and got her back in the fence. As she squawked with displeasure, the guarding goose came running over to see what we had done to his hen! The Salatins use a single goose with each group of hens to protect the hens and alert the Salatins, and their dog Michael, if there is trouble amongst their ladies.
The laying hens are in what is called a “featherpin.” A special netting goes around the coop to keep the chickens in their designated area. Much like the rabbits, the featherpins are moved every other day to allow the ladies to get fresh bugs to eat and a new area to fertilize. Inside of the coop, the laying hens sleep and, of course, lay their eggs in the nesting boxes on the inside.
Overall, the day was great! Seeing the Salatins’ property and all of their livestock made me so excited for our future. What they’ve built together as a family fills me with hope…hope that we can feed the world locally, hope that we can change the way people view food production, and hope that the small family farmer is making its comeback. The peaceful feeling on the property, the beauty of each of the animals, and the breathtaking scenery have left me with something to meditate on while I wait for our dream farm to come.
With the help of people like you – our Urban Acres members and friends – the future of these farms is brighter every day.