So here we have it. Folks, this ain’t normal: A Farmer’s Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World. At last, after 7 self-published books on everything from ground-breaking poultry systems to inter-generational farming strategies, Joel Salatin has finally written a book aimed fair and square at the mainstream.
A self-professed Christian Libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer, Joel Salatin is one of a kind. His family enterprise, PolyFace Farms in the Shenandoah Valley of Virgina, USA, is a unique example of profitable family ‘beyond organic’ farming. But that’s not what this book is about.
Folks, this ain’t normal seems to me to be Joel Salatin’s big chance to finally be able to articulate his extensive and passionate view on what has gone wrong with America today, and how it can be fixed.
This book has nuances of Joel’s previous self-published book The sheer ecstasy of being a lunatic farmer, crossed with the talk he gave at ANU in Canberra in 2010, crossed with a very lively fire-side conversation about how to raise children, followed by a big chat in the paddock the next day on how to farm properly, and what that means for our world.
If you’re at all familiar with Joel Salatin and what he does, you could be forgiven for thinking you have some idea of what this book involves.
Having read all his books, I thought I was in for a collated version with a couple of new experiences and metaphors. I was wrong. This book is a whole new level of Salatin-ness.
I really admire and whole-heartedly like this book for several reasons.
The first and biggest reason is that this is Joel Salatin being himself, in all his un-ashamed glory. The feminist in me jolts at the traditional gender values, so flagrantly and enthusiastically described. The heathen in me jolts at the unashamed godliness. But you know what? I’m with him, one hundred percent.
The reason for this is that I appreciate that it’s these particular values and perspectives that has made Joel such a uniquely valuable regenerative agriculture advocate, practitioner and writer. He’s real. He’s honest. He’s not like anyone I know. And that’s just fine.
This book is information dense. Denser than dense. It’s like your grandma’s chocolate mud cake, but made on kamut and quinoa with organic, fair-trade cacao. Completely unusual and nutritionally superior. Kinda super-cool and hair-raisingly traditional, all at once.
Reading this book was an experience of having my buttons constantly pushed. Both kinds of buttons – both the ‘i can’t believe he said that out loud’ and ‘i completely agree and I can’t believe no-one’s articulated that adequately before’.
Another reason I really like this book is because, while it’s Joel at his most open, it’s also Joel at his most accessible (stay with me here). This book is a conscious and, I think, successful attempt to draw in ‘folks that ain’t (yet) like us’ in their thinking, their eating and their outlook, and explain a completely different value system as a convincing alternative.
In this way, I’d liken this book to some of Michael Pollan’s work in that it makes the complicated and ethically dense aspects of our food system simple through stories and tales.
Thanks to Joel’s time in Australia in the last two years as part of his RegenAG workshops, there’s even some mention of some home-grown regenerative farming legends.
And Permaculture practitioners get a nod as being true deep ecologists. Not bad for a self-professed christian libertarian capitalist lunatic…
This book is grounded in the perspective of a small-time farmer who has seen a lot, and who is ready and able to explain what he has seen to the rest of us.
The Salatins have had decades of struggle with the USDA and food police trying to supply their community with clean, ethical meat and eggs. Amongst many other farming and clean food supply challenges.
The Salatin’s have been around the block, they’ve weathered many storms and they’ve emerged as a successful, happy, loving, inter-generational, regenerative farming enterprise. Their setup, while perhaps not normal at this point in history, is clearly a sustainable, workable model of regenerative agriculture based in tradition, compassion, biomimicry and good sense.
But the point of the book is not at all Joel calling on America to head back to the farm. Folks, this ain’t normal does ask us to consider, however, how we connect with our food, our children and our parents.
It asks us how we spend our time. And it asks us what we eat. And why.
This book is a farmer, a husband and a father explaining a unique and heart felt point of view on farming, food and family, and asking us to consider his case.
And it’s a rare and valuable voice to have in the mix.
A truly useful resource for those trying to find path towards a future for our families and communities that involves clean, affordable food, right livelihoods and regenerated landscapes. Bring it on.