Book of the Week: How normal is Joel Salatin?

Today, I'm beginning a new feature of the GreenSpace blog -- the Book of the Week, on Wednesdays. It won't be a review, as such. (I wish I had time to read an enviro book a week, but I don't.) It will simply be a brief look at something I think is interesting. So on to it:

If there's such a thing as a celebrity farmer, Joel Salatin is surely that.


Living on the Virginia farm that four generations of his family have tilled, he's in tune with the dirt and the rain and the seasons and the glorious funk of animals. He loves it all, and he sees this "simpler" -- as in nonindustrial -- way of farming as our way out of a food mess that depends on monocultures and chemicals.

Less than 100 pages into Joel Salatin's new book, "Folks, This Ain't Normal," I'm already in love with him.

He's already blown my mind by suggesting that we are compromising our children's immune systems by not activating and strengthening them -- as they would be with an active outdoor life. "Splinters, blisters and real dirt under the fingernails are all part of a normal childhood that builds immune systems," he writes.

And I laughed out loud at his defense of cows, which some environmentalists view as eco-culprits because of the methane they produce.

Overall, we're doing ourselves a disservice by distancing ourselves from our food and its production, Salatin says. "In previous eras, people who lived in an area, whether they were newcomers or old-timers, had to be intimately aware of their surroundings and viscerally involved in rearing and preparing food for the table. But in recent decades, in our culture, putting food on the table does not require any knowledge or involvement except how to scan a credit card, open a plastic bag and nuke it in the microwave."

Okay, so that's a little curmudgeonly.  I like him better when he's not dissing folks, but instead being enthusiastic about his own back-to-the-earth path.

But did you realize: As recently as 1946, nearly 50 percent of all produce grown in America came out of backyard gardens.

Salatin doesn't want to go back to living in caves or anything. He simply wants to restore our lost relationship with our food. I and my garden and my chickens would agree with him that this is totally satisfying.

So is Joel Salatin normal? Probably not, many would think. And doesn't that just prove his point?

So I think I'll read on.

You can learn more about his book here and here, at