The ugly side of Polyface Farm and the myth of individualism

The ugly side of polyface farms and the myth of individualism

Joel Salatin / Wikimedia

Joel Salatin and his Polyface farm have long been held in high regard as a visionary and leader in sustainable agriculture, if unorthodox and imperfect.

But after years of downplaying or ignoring the problematic subtext of much of Salatin’s individualistic ideology, the sustainable food community is finally reckoning with the man’s increasingly obvious racism, Tom Philpott wrote yesterday in Mother Jones. Salatin preaches a “lone-wolf agrarian myth” that, having inherited his farm from his father, many find difficult to replicate- particularly Black and Indigenous Americans who have been forcibly evicted from lands they might have otherwise inherited.

So when Chris Newman attempted to farm by Salatin’s teachings, he found that there was a missing piece to Salatin’s success - the ability to burn through money and other resources. Newman penned a Medium post focusing on the importance of community to create sustainable agriculture, and the failures of the individualistic, small-family-farm model, and in response Salatin, Philpott writes, “chose to focus his repost on Newman’s race…” and  “deployed a bluntly settler-colonial metaphor, complete with a reference to Native Americans as persecutors of the entitled white pioneer at the vanguard of Westward Expansion.”

After this triggered a predictable blowback with Mother Earth News, which frequently published Salatin, he lashed out at others, suggesting that “BIPOC folks who feel America offers them no opportunity should give up all modern conveniences and return to their tribal locations and domicile.”

Instead, Newman, “is part of a rising generation of farmers of color rejecting old myths and creating new economic models,” Philpott writes, and is crowdfunding to create a new sort of community-driven agriculture.

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