Joel F. Salatin (born February 24, 1957) is an American farmer, lecturer, and author whose books include Folks, This Ain't Normal; You Can Farm; and Salad Bar Beef.
In high school, Salatin began his own business selling rabbits, eggs, butter and chicken from his family farm at the Staunton Curb Market. He then attended Bob Jones University where he majored in English and was a student leader. He graduated in 1979. Salatin married his childhood sweetheart in 1980 and became a feature writer at the Staunton, Virginia newspaper, The News Leader, where he had worked earlier typing obituaries and police reports. He has been editor of the monthly agriculture magazine Stockman Grass Farmer promoting pasture-grazed lifestock, and teaches a two day course on agribusiness marketing in conjunction with this magazine.
Tired of "having his stories spiked," he decided to try farming full-time after first getting involved in a walnut-buying station run by two high school boys. Salatin's grandfather had been an avid gardener and beekeeper and a follower of J. I. Rodale. Salatin's father worked as an accountant and his mother taught high school physical education. Salatin's parents had bought the land that became Polyface in 1961 after losing a farm in Venezuela to political turmoil. They had raised cattle using organic methods, but could not make a living at farming alone.
Salatin condemns the negative impact of the United States government on his livelihood because of what he considers an increasingly regulatory approach taken toward farming. He is a self-described "Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer" produces meat he describes as "beyond organic", which are raised using what the farm describes as environmentally responsible, ecologically beneficial, sustainable agriculture. Jo Robinson, an author, said of Salatin, "He's not going back to the old model. There's nothing in county extension or old-fashioned ag science that really informs him. He is just looking totally afresh at how to maximize production in an integrated system on a holistic farm. He's just totally innovative."
Commenting on a New York Times op-ed contribution about sustainable farming and bovine methane production, Salatin wrote "wetlands emit some 95 percent of all methane in the world; herbivores are insignificant enough to not even merit consideration. Anyone who really wants to stop methane needs to start draining wetlands."Wetland methane emissions make up 20 to 39% of global methane emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He also said that most livestock producers use "Neanderthal management" that exaggerates the amount of land required, and that modern technology allows for far more sustainable land usage.
Salatin's 550-acre (220-hectare) farm is featured prominently in Michael Pollan's book The Omnivore's Dilemma (2006) and the documentary films, Food, Inc. and Fresh. Pollan became interested in Salatin because of his refusal to send food to locations not within a four-hour drive of his farm, i.e. outside his local "foodshed." "We want [prospective customers] to find farms in their areas and keep the money in their own community," said Salatin. "We think there is strength in decentralization and spreading out rather than in being concentrated and centralized."
Salatin's philosophy of farming emphasizes healthy grass on which animals can thrive in a symbiotic cycle of feeding. Cows are moved from one pasture to another rather than being centrally corn fed. Then chickens in portable coops are moved in behind them, where they dig through the cow dung to eat protein-rich fly larvae while further fertilizing the field with their droppings.