On this Veterans Day, I honor those who have served, who have laid down their lives or been willing to, that I may enjoy freedoms unparalleled in human history.  Must of us Baby Boomers had parents, uncles and aunts who served in that great WWII conflict.  I was just a couple of years too young for Vietnam.  And let's not forget Korea.  I mean this sincerely, thank you veterans for your heart and service--including all the brave men and women serving in our armed forces today.

             With that said, I must confess that on this day, while honoring our Veterans, I can't help but think of the battles I fight every day.  They are cultural battles and often they are as profound and serious as real bullets because they deal with the heart and soul of what a nation is willing to defend.  If you're going to defend something, you'd better be pretty sure about what you're defending.

             Defending an embarrassment or a tyranny turns military honor into sacrilege. I'm deeply concerned about what our young people in harm's way are now defending and so I find myself as respectful of their commitment as I am dubious about what we as a nation are committed to.

            How does a nation that sees pollution and the cost of environmental disrespect as an asset to GDP pay for a military, long term?  Bereft of social and resource capital, eventually our national of wealth will move to penury and be unable to field a defense.  How can that be?

             1.  We pour herbicides on the land and call it production.

            2.  We prohibit mega-fauna from the landscape and create fire fuel.

            3.  We feed our children vegan diets that deprive brains of development.

            4.  We eat junk and drop sperm counts 50 percent.

            5.  We blame the government for our health care problems while drinking soda and eating nutrient deficient industrial fare.

            6.  We complain about flooding and drought while criminalizing surface run-off hydration through farm ponds.

            7.  We prohibit neighbor-to-neighbor food commerce and cry about food deserts and the price of authentic food.

            8.  We invest in fake meat instead of community-scaled abattoirs.

            9.  We buy chemical fertilizers instead of developing on-farm composting.

            10.  We go to the theater instead of vetting our food provenance by visiting farms and being active in the local authentic food movement.

            11.  We take the kiddos to soccer games but won't pack leftovers to eat.

            12.  We visit the doctor instead of the farmer.

            13.  We expect wellness to come out of the end of a needle or from a tablet rather than from nutrient-dense food.

            `14.  We tolerate erosion but don't tolerate raw milk.

            15.  We spend far more on high quality dog food than we do on people food.

             This list could be extremely long, but you get the picture.  When you're defending something, you'd better know what you're defending and it had better be worth your life. 

             What's your battle?


            Whenever you receive your copy or purchase the December issue of Mother Earth News magazine, you'll see my smiling John Henry on the front cover.  Some of you may not know that I do a column in each issue titled "The Pitchfork Pulpit."

             This year marks the 50 anniversary of the magazine, launched in 1969.  I was 12 years old, but I can assure you the magazine was iconic around our house.  In this issue I write about my memories and perceptions regarding MEN over these 50 years.  You'll enjoy reading it, I hope.

             In today's post, though, I want to share the deep satisfaction and honor that such prominence plays.  As a teenager I literally devoured MEN; its content fired my imagination as I met, through its pages, the leaders and idea-fountains of the early back-to-the-land movement.  I realize today what a privilege I had growing up in a household that valued practical information about self reliance, homesteading, garden season extension, alternative everything.

             MEN was ahead of its time.  The "O" word had been invented by J.I. Rodale, yes, but it certainly was not in common usage.  If you said the word compost, people would crinkle up their noses and wonder what you were talking about.  John Shuttleworth and his cohorts nestled in Black Mountain, North Carolina cranked out information that dared to question every orthodoxy of the day. 

             As a teenager, growing up on this verbal diet gave me a foundation of alternative thinking and the courage to question every orthodoxy.  The formative stuff our young people see and read, the material we expose them to, the conversations we launch in those early years truly do set them up for lifetime direction.  I don't think, at that time, I ever imagined that one day I would be on the cover of the magazine.  That's pretty heady stuff.  But if your child, today, said "some day I want to be on the cover of Mother Earth News," would you be proud?

             The fact that our family had no TV so I spent entertainment time pouring over plans for hoop houses, cheap structures, gardening techniques and landscape stewardship fed my information tank and imagination capacity.  Parents routinely ask me what they can do to get their children to accept the kinds of beliefs people like me espouse.  Beliefs that what we eat really matters. That every solution doesn't have to come from the government.  That our activity should create more natural resource commons in our landscape and community.  That veganism destroys the brain and Walt Disney plagued us with Bambi that morphed into my cat is your cow is my uncle is a chicken.

             How do we inculcate true personal responsibility, can-do-ism and thoughtfulness in the next generation?  Not from playing Angry Birds and Candy Crush all day, I can tell you that.  Or watching sit-coms and feasting on People magazine and celebrity culture.  Not by being outrageous in dress or actions.

             I think our children take seriously what we take seriously.  If what we take most seriously is making sure they get to play on the soccer team or get invited to birthday parties, then probably our kids will take that most seriously too.  If we obsess over them never being laughed at or jeered or emotionally pushed, they'll obsess over it.  But if we devote ourselves to connecting the dots between our food provenance and our landscape health and that you need to do things that are noble, sacred and healing first and foremost and that questioning orthodoxy is one of the best activities in which we can engage, then we'll have some different-minded kids.

             Young people grow up thinking what their minds feed on during the formative years.  I'm grateful beyond words that I grew up in a household that created a habitat to feed my mind earth-changing and earth-challenging ideas.  I don't suck this stuff today out of my thumb; it comes from immersion in a cause for a long, long time.  And growing up in an authentic home with personal responsibility

paramount.  No victims.  No "if those people would just."  No, it's me, what am I doing, how am I living, how am I influencing others. 

             So what are you kids into?


            Our summer intern program has been renamed the Polyface Farm Boot Camp.  The last two weeks we had nearly 40 candidates in, for 2 days apiece, for the check-out part of the process.  No longer called interns, these folks will be called Stewards.

             I'm always amazed at the folks who come and the different journeys that make them end up here.  One has been working as a Hotshot firefighter in California for two years.  Another is at a major land grant university overseeing research projects where they purposely play around with genetics and he said the weird calves being born are like something out of science fiction.  All sorts of deformities and crazy immune deficiencies.

             Another is a catastrophic insurance adjuster living in her van.  She works on commission and gets dispatched to where a tornado, flood or something creates a regional problem.  Another is managing 1,200 head of cattle in a feedlot.  He told stories about pulling cattle stuck in manure out of the slime with front end loaders.

             We had stone counter top builders, elder care givers and culinary students. The winding path to Polyface often involves either a personal or acquaintance health crisis.  Everyone needs an epiphany.  For others, it's a dawning awareness that we need to take care of soil and do something practical with our lives.

             Overall it was a wonderful group.  When our Polyface team gets together to do our picks, we each must bring 10 names to the pot.  Normally only 20 names get at least one mention, out of 40 who come for checkouts.  This year we had an unprecedented 29 names, which speaks to the overall quality of this group.

             Not everything is finalized yet, but it's close and we look forward with great anticipation to next year.  Yesterday I met with two veterinarians from the University of Pennsylvania who are spearheading two demonstration farm opportunities and wanting to showcase systems that stimulate health without pharmaceuticals.  Kudos to them.

             They asked what our biggest challenges were with the Stewardship program.  Since these two professors deal with college age young people all the time, they understood my response:  managing expectations.  Everyone comes to a situation with perceptions and expectations, most of which are not voiced..  Therein lies the conundrum.

             Anyone who thinks this program simply provides free labor has not done a formal mentoring program.  It was gratifying to hear numerous of these candidates, as they left, express surprise about our professionalism.  Each one received a packet containing a written vision statement, mission statement, and clear expression of what we expected of our stewards. 

             Planning and being formal pay big dividends in managing expectations.  Our leadership team often can't know all the nuanced expectations of these varied Stewards coming to us, but we sure can be ultra clear in our expectations for them.  At least one side of the equation can be clear.

             The bottom line for me is this:  I only have so much bandwidth in emotional equity.  I can either spend it on handling whining and relational snits, or I can invest it in education and information.  I can't do both.  So it is up to the Steward team to figure out which one they're going to have.  

             By the way, we also calculated the actual dollar value of this 5 month Stewardship boot camp:  $30,000.  You can pay us or work for it.  That's what you call a clear expectation.

             Have you ever had an expectation snafu?


            Cows. As we head into winter, what about the cows?  One of the biggest components of the summer grazing plan is to enter winter with as much stockpiled forage as possible. 

             As you travel around the countryside, you'll see pastures get short and then shorter and by fall you wonder what the cows are eating.  This is typical.  Here at Polyface, however, we manage the grazing carefully in late summer to create a bank of forage going into fall.  Moving the cows every day we develop highly skilled measurements regarding how many animals a given volume of standing forage will feed.  We call it cow-days (what one cow will eat in a day).  That's a standard measure just like inches to a carpenter or gallons to a painter.

             Most forage holds its nutritional value fairly well going into cold weather, just like vegetables hold up longest in the refrigerator.  We make hay, of course, during the hot summer, but that's the final choice after we've grazed off all the available standing forage.  Every time that 4-legged mower harvests it and fertilizes on site versus mechanical harvest, storage, and redistribution in feeding, the better.

             Frosts do two things:  sweeten the forage and kill flies.  Once we've had a couple of good hard frosts, which we've now had, we look at the calendar and pick a day to castrate the bull calves.  We like to do that at least one month before weaning.  The goal is to meter out stress.  Depending on fall rains and the forage stockpile, we either castrate and wean before Christmas or after Christmas. 

             If we have lots of forage, we like to leave the calves on their mamas up into January.  That's our preference.  But if it's a dry fall and we're short of stockpile, we wean before Christmas so we can shepherd the available high quality forage for the calves.  Then we can put the dry cows on a maintenance diet, even low quality hay.  As long as the cows are nursing calves, we need to keep the nutrition levels higher.  Separating the high nutrition calves from the low nutrition cows is all part of how we meter out the available winter stockpile and hay inventory.

             Because cows don't dig like pigs, they can stay out on pastures without hurting them.  If things turn crazy wet, the cows can certainly do some pugging damage, but it's short term.  Sometimes we put them on hay during these periods and then put them back out on the pasture stockpile after things either dry up a bit or things freeze hard.  Few things are as enjoyable as moving a herd of cows across a stockpiled pasture when the ground is frozen.

             Preparing for hay feeding requires putting the first layer of wood chips in the loafing area, to start the carbonaceous diaper.  Then we lower the feed boxes, which hang on a cable that goes into a hand winch.  We have several of these mounted in the awnings where we feed.  Since the bedding can build up to 4 feet deep, the hanging boxes enable us to raise the feeders as the bedding deepens.  Otherwise, the cows would be standing on their heads come spring.

             Repairing the feeding boxes, oiling the winches, and installing pipe gates to section off the awnings are all part of preparing for winter.  We segregate the different kinds of stock so we don't have calves trying to get hay alongside bully cows.  Grouping homogeneity insures everyone gets their time at the hay feeder.  We feed under awnings to protect the manure and urine from winter leaching and vaporizing.

             The final thing that happens with the cows is buying new calves.  We collaborate with several other operations that sell their calves at weaning.  We need to find out how many calves they have this year, price, and arrange a rendezvous.  Some bring their calves to us and some we have to go get.  Coordinating this acquisition enables us to get them all in hopefully within a 2 weeks span of time.  We always put an old cow or two with the group to provide leadership and settle them down.  Again, it's all about minimizing stress.

             We don't birth every calf we sell.  Keeping both a brood cow herd and buying in some calves offers greater flexibility for inventory adjustment.  We can raise a calf cheaper than we can buy it, but cows depreciate and calves don't.  It's a bit of a tightrope between margin and turnover; the purchased calves have a narrower margin but higher turnover. 

             This time of year, our whole emphasis is shepherding the stockpile, which ceases to grow, and metering it out as carefully as possible.  Normally we can get up into mid-January or even February before feeding hay.  In North America, average hay feeding is 120 days a year; at Polyface, our average is 40 days a year.  That lops of 2/3 off the cost of wintering an animal, which is the single biggest cost.

             Do you know the difference between hay and straw?


            I've spent the last two days talking about moving laying hens and pigs from outside quarters to comfortable inside quarters for winter.  When we talk about pastured livestock, this is absolutely part of the pasturing part, even though technically during the winter these animals are not on pasture.  How so?  Because having these animals on pasture in the winter dormant season destroys the pasture.

             Compaction, manure toxicity (because the soil life is not functioning to metabolize it) and pugging (stomping around on damp soil, destroying the vegetation) all take a heavy toll on pastures.  Removing the animals during this vulnerable period is as important as putting them on during the virulent period.

             The single biggest element that makes this indoor pasture protective procedure sanitary and hygienic is the carbonaceous diaper.  Deep bedding.  I mean 12-48 inches thick.  This carbon bedding soaks in the manure and urine and approximates what the soil does when it's fully functional during the growing season.  After the winter period, all of this bedding composts and we spread it on the fields to feed the soil.  This whole bedding protocol, then, is part and parcel of our fertility program.  We don't buy fertilizer, but we do invest heavily in fertility.

             Of course, any carbon will work.  If it's brown, it's fine.  But the lion's share of our carbon is wood chips.  Not sawdust, not bark mulch, but wood chips.  The beauty of wood chips is that they concentrate from the tips of the plants (the branches and growth buds and leaves during the green season).  The tips are where most of the biological activity is; where the growth occurs.

             I adhere to the permaculture and silviculture concept that our forests are far too crowded, or weedy.  Fewer trees in our forests would promote health and vigor, grow more timber, increase genetic superiority, reduce fire risk and drop more mast (nuts and fruit) for wildlife.  In fact, weeding the woods would return them to the vigor of pre-European centuries when carefully planned and routine fires took out the weak, crooked, junky material leaving the most vigorous and often the largest trees to continue taking in sunlight and converting it to biomass.

             Of course, people who use wood stoves for heat begin thinking about their winter stockpile this time of year as well.  We have an outdoor water stove to heat our house and Mom's house and all our hot water.  At 96, she keeps her thermostat at 78, so it takes some wood to keep her comfortable.  This is a central system just like any other, except the furnace is outside the house and not inside.  We also sell firewood.  On a Saturday in November it's not uncommon to see half a dozen pickup trucks backed up to our for-sale pile.

             We also have a sawmill here at Polyface so we mill our own lumber for all sorts of projects.   As things begin to cool off and the snakes find winter quarters, we devote increasing amounts of time to working in the woods.  It might be thinning for pig acorn glens, opening up an acre for pasture, opening up an acre to restart a new forest succession, cleaning out an overgrown fenceline, or whatever.  Lots to do in the woods.  That work yields firewood, saw timber for milling boards, and chips.

             We purchased our first wood chipper more than 40 years ago--once Dad and I observed that we didn't get any fertility boost from manure spread during December and January.  That's when we developed the carbonaceous diaper concept.  We've had a couple of different chipper models over the years, but we've finally upgraded to a serious commercial Vermeer that can handle 19 inch diameter material.  We got an excellent price on a used one a couple of years ago--remember, this is our investment in fertility (compost and winter nutrient leverage), pasture protection, winter animal comfort, and woodlot upgrading.

             In all, we use about 20 tractor trailer loads of wood chips a winter.  But with this machine, we can chip more than a tractor trailer load a day.  You should see it eat up a 40 ft. pine tree.  It's the ultimate man toy--noisy and powerful.  In our big scheme, however, it's the ultimate machine to create a viable carbon economy.

               If all the money spent on chemical fertilizer were diverted to forestry management integrated with livestock to generate mountains of compost, we would have far healthier forests (and yes, I'm especially including wilderness areas, national forest, and state forests in this because they are the most unhealthy forests in the country), healthier soils, more nutritional food, and a brand new vocation to employ thousands of skilled landscape masseuses.  This sacred and noble work would affirm people who like to work with their hands, who enjoy calluses and splinters, and who have been recently marginalized by society.

             So the food you're eating, does it support a carbon economy?            


            Pastured pigs are wonderful in the summer, but many years ago we tried numerous ways to leave them exposed to outside in the winter and finally abandoned that idea.

             The pigs enjoy being outside on most winter days, but the soil sure doesn't.  During the growing season, which here is about 9 months, the soil bacteria, fungi, nematodes, and protozoa actively decompose things and keep the soil working.  Pore spaces in the soil enjoy continuous root penetration, keeping them open and aerated. 

             But in the winter, everything hibernates.  Light pig tillage that stimulates aeration, germination, and hydration in the summer destroys soil structure in the winter.  What's great in the summer is devastating in the winter.  A time for everything, as Ecclesiastes suggests.

             Over years of experimentation, we found that any soil exposed to the pigs during the winter turned into brick.  The fluffing and aerating enjoyed in the summer turned to compaction and tilth destruction in the winter.  To eliminate soil damage, therefore, the pigs come inside during the 3 winter months:  December, January, and February.

             Furthermore, during this dormant period, the manure and urine runs through the soil and leaches into the groundwater because the microbes that would normally intercept and metabolize it in the growing season are sleeping.  Because the soil is not actively doing its growth and decomposition cycle, it can't convert these nutrients into biomass in the winter.

             Like all things weather related, this is not a hard and fast calendar protocol.  We moved some of the smallest pigs into hoop houses this week.  We have several hoop houses for the pigs and, like the laying hens I discussed yesterday, they live on a carbonaceous diaper primarily made of wood chips.  Deep bedding, or deep litter, up to 24 inches deep.

             Because they are extremely social and group oriented, we do not mix and match groups when we bring them in.  One of the big preparation chores, then, is to create the correct-sized areas for each group.  Some are bigger than others.  Using T-posts and hog panel, we create customized playpens sized to match the pig grouping.

             Of course, laying 18-24 inches of wood chips on 12,000 square feet of area takes a lot of chips.  Let's see, that would be at least 20,000 cubic feet, or roughly 750 cubic yards.  That's about 7 tractor trailer loads of chips.  The reason for the chips is to absorb urine and manure and give the pigs something to turn over and play in during the winter.  Pigs can be notoriously stinky, whether indoors or outdoors.  The key to outdoors is to keep them moving and give them paddocks big enough to handle their manure load.

             Inside, the key is enough carbon to absorb all of these nutrients.  The biggest preparation component, then, of winterizing the pigs is acquiring all those chips.  I'll talk about that in tomorrow's post.  We dump them on the floor and push them around a bit with the front end loader.  Then we put in the T-posts and hog panels.  Then the waterer and self-feeder go in.  Then we're ready to bring in pigs.

             Pigs located away from what we call Polyface Central (rental properties) ride home in a trailer.  The ones in pig pastures here at Polyface Central usually just walk to the hoop houses from whatever pasture they may be in at the time--sometimes nearly a mile away.  But pigs have a rapid gait--much faster than cows--enabling them to cover a lot of ground in a hurry.

             Words can hardly do justice to the dancing and snorting the pigs enjoy when they first enter these winter quarters.  The fresh deep chips give them stuff to gnaw on, lots of soft material to root in, and what is especially enjoyable for them, plenty of fluffy carbon to build a nest.  Yes, a nest.  Pigs build massive nests and sleep in a big jumble in the saucered-out nest.  It's one of the most endearing parts of pigs in the winter.  We also feed them junky hay.  They eat half and poop on the other half.  The hay keeps their manure a much better consistency, gives them something to rip into and tear apart, often working in pairs, and adds to their carbonaceous diaper.

             Welcome to winter, pigs.

             Did you know pigs built nests?


            Last week we put up a picture of our laying hens moving into the hoop houses for the winter and someone asked why we did that; why not let them run outside all winter.

             During this two week period, which is also when we're hosting our two-day checkouts for our next year's stewards (formerly interns), we're transitioning the farm to winter.  My next couple of posts will be about this winter transition.

             So today, the laying hens.  They move from the pasture into the spacious hoop houses.  The reason is comfort and health.  Yes, when days are warm in the winter, they do enjoy being outside, but most days are not warm.  Chickens developed in the tropics and love light and warmth.

             We could give them a yard to run in, but in the winter grass isn't growing and nothing is decomposing in the soil so it can't handle manure and pathogen loads.  It's one thing to have a little coop with half a dozen chickens in it and let them run out in a yard.  It's quite another to have 4,000 and give them enough yard space to be meaningful.

             I've seen many, many filthy dirt pathogen-laden yard runs in the winter.  In the summer too, but winter is less forgiving.  It would be wonderful to have portable hoop house accommodations in the winter, but that would require keeping feed lines of water thawed and driving around on soft, moist soil that would put ruts everywhere in the fields.  No, not doing that.

             Here is our protocol for winter:

 1.  Deep bedding.  We start with 12-18 inches of wood chips.  Of course, since we've grown vegetables in these hoop houses during the summer, they have all sorts of plants and vines and vegetative leftovers to eat and scratch into the bedding as well.  Known as a carbonaceous diaper, this deep bedding composts slowly as the chickens scratch it around, injecting oxygen.

 2.  Composting deep bedding grows bugs throughout the winter.  The hoop house also helps keeps the bedding warm.

 3.  We add whole small grains like wheat or barley on top of the bedding each day; the birds eat about 75 percent of it outright but the rest filters down into the deep bedding and sprouts in that warmth, offering fresh sprouts throughout the winter and incentivizing the chickens to scratch deeply into the bedding, which incorporates their manure better and stimulates oxygenation for good composting.

 4.  Hay racks filled with our highest quality second cutting hay (dehydrated grass) keeps the chickens eating green forage and gives them something enjoyable to do to keep them occupied.  One of our apprentices last year, Ashleigh Nuce, ran extremely detailed experiments with controls on this idea and the results were so dramatic in egg production and yolk quality that hay feeding throughout the winter is our new protocol.

 5.  Even on the coldest day of the year, when the temperature is well below 0 F, these hoop houses are a comfortable 50-70 degrees.  This keeps the birds warm and happy.  At night they simply huddle together to stay warm but when they're awake during the day they're comfortable.  That's a big deal.

 6.  Fresh meat.  Old timers in our area  always said that one of the first chores for farm boys years ago was to trap or shoot a possum, raccoon, squirrel or something, cut it open, and toss it into the chickens in the winter when the birds didn't have grasshoppers and crickets to eat.  Chickens are omnivores and thrive on fresh animal protein of some sort--worms, bugs, insects.  So a carcass once a week helps satisfy this dietary need.  We adhere to this historic activity by tossing in deer carcasses and rodents throughout the winter.  This keeps the birds healthy; they pick off every morsel.  They don't need a lot, but they certainly thrive with some.

 7.  We catch the chickens, put them in crates, and either bring them in or out.  Doing this after dark, when the chickens are sleeping, is easier on us and the birds.

             We're as happy bringing the birds into the hoop houses for winter as we are taking them out in the spring.  Both transitions are exciting, expectant, and expedient for the birds' health and performance.  We do not put lights on them like many do, preferring to let them go through their natural rest cycle and molt through declining day length.  But once Dec. 21 happens, everything changes as they respond to increasing day length.  Around Polyface, we live for Dec. 21, the shortest day.  And so do the laying hens.

             Would you like to be a hen at Polyface?


            By now we're all familiar with the video showing Kurds hurling potatoes at departing U.S. troops in northern Syria.  That plastic bin of potatoes next to them struck me as surreal when the next news clip shows depressed refugees huddling in refugee camps.

             It struck me as completely incongruous that these folks who were supposedly getting ready to be overrun by Turkish military forces and facing dislocation by up to 1 million souls would be taking food and throwing it away.

             In trying to make sense of it, here are the options as far as I can tell:

 1.  They aren't thinking about tomorrow.  If I were getting read to be forcefully removed from my home, I'd be hoarding stuff and prepping.  I sure wouldn't be throwing food at armored personnel carriers.

 2.  They have plenty of food.  So much of what you see and read is agenda-driven that I don't trust much of anything anymore.  Last week I taught a day of a permaculture course and one of the attendees had spent years working for PG&E, the California utility now blacking out places to keep from starting fires.  She said the utility had tried desperately for years to maintain their lines (100,000 miles) but environmentalists blocked all their efforts and through wrong-headed regulations created the catastrophe they have now.  So I don't feel sorry for California burning. On a recent farm tour, I had a lady from Brazil and asked her about the Amazon.  All hype, she said.  All to smear the Trump-like new president.  So who knows what's actually going on in Syria?

 3.  They're so mad they're acting foolishly.  People can get that angry, for sure, but you'd think if they were that angry they'd be throwing stones or something.  Potatoes?  How about tomatoes?  At least they splater.

 4.  They're too uncreative to throw something more substantial, like stones.  Which leads me to think it's all a put-on, some stunt contrived to garner support, like a photo op, a dramatic show.

             None of these really satisfies, but I can tell you it is jarring to see people throwing food in a photo at the top of the page, and then at the bottom of the page the same people sitting in squalor in a refugee camp saying all is hopeless.  Somehow it doesn't compute.

             What am I missing?


            Front page article in yesterday's Wall Street Journal about churches no longer bringing potluck type meals to feed the family at a funeral.  Seems more and more churches are using caterers instead.

             The reason?  Fears about food safety being driven by their insurance providers.  I think the average person has no clue how much food availability is driven by insurance companies.

             I have never heard of anyone being sickened by food provided by parishioners in a church.  I suppose it's happened, but I've eaten lots of meals in churches after funerals and never had an issue.

             More and more, insurance companies determine accepted practice, which of course is determined by government bureaucrats.  Most of the time whenever a food safety bureaucrat speaks at a small farm conference, attendees come out petrified of doing anything with food.  The obvious default position for safe food is industrial fare from extremely large purveyors.

             Insurance companies get their directives from the government food police, which has a fairly universal policy to discourage do-it-yourself food preparation.  I think if most inspectors had their way, the home kitchen would cease to exist.

             The overall problem here is that insurance companies are too timid to question bureaucratic orthodoxy because the whole culture has been duped into thinking such orthodoxy is the gospel according to food.  That now this threatens to destroy one of the most emotionally healing and charitable activities churches have historically offered to grieving families is not only wrongheaded; it's downright anti-human.

             Gradually local, social, communal food structure is being replaced by segregated preparation and service by strangers.  If that isn't a benchmark of societal dysfunction, I don't know what is.  So now Aunt Mabel can't bring her potato salad to the funeral dinner; she's supposed to earn enough cash to put enough in the offering plate to hire a professional chef off site to bring in the food.  Tragic.

             As I see this kind of thing developing, I'm hoping that someone somewhere will realize that reason and common sense are worth insuring.  It seems to me like there's enough room around the edges of these activities to create opportunities for a savvy entrepreneur to insure historically normal activities like church potlucks, community hog killin's, cider making, and apple butter made in open copper kettles.

People have been doing this for a lot longer than Sysco has been bringing factory farmed industrial junk to caterers to prepare in inspected kitchens adorned with government-certified licenses hanging on the walls.

             This is not progress.  And yet it's considered progressive to want more regulations, bigger government agencies, more licenses, more inspections, more anti-normal preposterous orthodoxies.  We live in interesting times.

             Is the risk of bad food greater from Aunt Mabel or from Sysco's wholesale offerings?


            I try to steer clear of politics in these posts, but I couldn't help myself on this one.  The Economist had a big story about the cost of conducting polls.  Here are the numbers according to the article.

             Most people won't answer their phone.  When it rings, they don't answer it.  If it rings, they look to see who it is and if they don't recognize the person, they don't answer it.  A few people do answer the phone, but when they hear it's a poll, promptly hang up.

             The bottom line is this:  only 6 percent of people called will actually answer the phone and stay on the line to answer pollsters' questions.  The point of the article was about the economics of trying to capture opinions when nobody answers the phone and fewer still will participate.  What used to cost a couple thousand dollars now costs $40,000 for even the most rudimentary poll due to the difficulty of getting folks to participate.

             To get 60 people, you have to call 1,000.  To get 1,000, you have to call about 17,000 people.  This has fundamentally changed the economics behind polling.  That's just one part.

             The part the article did not address but seemed to me to be the elephant in the room is:  who can trust a poll?  With this tiny percentage of participation, what's the slice of people, or the demographic, among people who participate?  I know  whenever we get a poll call at our house, we just hang up.

             Who answers a poll?  People with nothing better to do?  People who aren't working for a living?  Lonely folks?  Bored folks?  I don't know, but if only 6 percent of people who are solicited will participate, that seems like a pretty statistically insignificant slice of the population.  The characteristics of the people who respond would certainly not be representative of the random population.  Poll participants are now such a specialized slice of the citizenry polls can no longer be representative.

             So why conduct one?  Why trust one?  Indeed, why trust a news organization that uses one?  Remember when Trump got elected?  All the polls--I mean all the polls--had Hillary up by 10 percent or better. It was supposed to be a landslide.  I could not have been more shocked when I woke up the next morning and heard the news.  It certainly made pollsters look silly.

             I've now added another benchmark of untrustworthiness to my previous one, which was anyone who uses the term DEMOCRACY to describe the United States.  We are a REPUBLIC, not a democracy.  And the closer we come to democracy, the worse our country gets.  If I were elected to a public position, I would do all I could to limit eligible voters to people who actually have a stake in the success of our republic.  America's founders called democracy mob rule, and for good reason.  Indeed, that's exactly where we're headed, and it's not pretty.  In my view, any newspaper columnist, politician or talking head that calls our country a democracy should be discharged and never listened to again, so egregious and anti-American is that term.

             Now we have another one:  anyone who uses a poll to authenticate their position.  Unless and until we can find a better way to conduct polls than phone calls, we should abandon them categorically and abandon anyone who uses them to mean anything.

             Do you participate in polls? 


            Yesterday started our annual checkout period for next summer's Stewards.  Heretofore, they've been interns, but we renamed them due to increasing stigma attached to that designation.  It seems that rather than being something that indicates progress and an open door, the term intern is now considered somewhat derogatory, like "well, you must not be able to do anything else, so you can get the boss coffee and run the copy machine."

             It's too bad that positive, revered terms like this sometimes fall into disrepute, but language and perceptions are funny that way.  The reason we abandoned the term "chicken pens" for our chicken shelters is because the animal welfare zealots thought we used the term pen as shorthand for penitentiary.

             I didn't think much of it until I was speaking at a conference in Baltimore and happened by a booth by one of these organizations and saw my picture on the front of a brochure.  I picked it up and read the vitriol about how Polyface abuses its poultry by confining them in pens like penitentiaries.

             When we used the term pen, we were thinking about security, like a toddler's playpen; a secure, safe place for vulnerable children to explore and play.  The onslaught and misperception were too strong, though, so we changed the term to shelter, which of course has a more direct meaning and is harder to skew.  I'd like to tell these animal welfarists that in 50 years we've never had a single hawk take a young chicken in one of our pens . . . er, shelters.

             At any rate, our steward candidates began arriving yesterday afternoon.  Over the next two weeks we'll have nearly 40 here for 2 days apiece, checking us out while we check them out.  You can learn a lot about a person working with them.  Who holds back?  Who jumps in?  Who's obnoxious?  Who's fun to be around?

             The process starts Aug. 1.  We open our website up from Aug 1 to Aug. 10 to take queries.  Each query receives an application to fill out.  From those, we choose about 40 to invite for the two-day checkout.  After the checkout, we pick our 10 Stewards and are up and running for next year, May 1-Sept. 30.

             Here is our vision for the program, renamed the Polyface Farm Boot Camp:  To prove to myself, to Polyface, and to the world that I have the ability and character to continue the journey to become a master farmer.

             The Mission Statement is this:  As a Steward I am at Polyface for 5 months to receive introductory exposure to Polyface methodology and lifestyle which requires servanthood, repetition, accountability, teachability, and attention to detail, contributing to Polyface success.

             We will have monthly report cards, book reading assignments, and reports, along with pop quizzes and tests.   It's not for the faint of heart but we look forward to this two week period every year.  It's the launch pad for next season. Coming at the end of this season, it's always an emotional high to anticipate next season and meet the young people we'll invest in over the coming months.

             Do you like the name Stewards? 


            By now you've no doubt heard about the big baby food debacle, where heavy metals including arsenic have been found in lots of baby food.  And of course people are scrambling for "more government oversight."

             How about just not buying baby food?  Teresa and I raised two babies a few years ago.  We had a little baby food mill that went with us everywhere.  The kids ate whatever we ate.  We just stuffed it into the little cylinder, cranked the handle, and out came baby food.  Easy peasy.

             We never bought a single jar of baby food.  Ever.  We also didn't use disposable diapers.  We used cloth diapers and had the diaper pail by the toilet.  It wasn't smelly or yucky and sure was cheap.  What do people spend on disposable diapers these days?  And how about landfills?  I'm a big fan of cloth diapers.

             Strollers.  My goodness people spend lots of money on strollers.  That's something else we never had.  Ever.  We just carried them.  And in those days, we didn't have all these nifty cloth wrap-around carriers and papoose bags we have today.  And as soon as they could walk, they walked.  Do you know how far a 2-year old can walk?  Just slow down, hold their hand, and let them walk . . . most of the time.  They'll develop lungs and muscles and a can-do spirit.

             Toys?  Who needs toys?  Our kids spent hours playing with Tupperware.  They'd open up the kitchen cabinets where the Tupperware was stored and learn all about shapes and sizes and colors.  Big boxes?  Yes, they're wonderful.  A big box can be everything from an aircraft carrier to a fort to a dungeon.  Anything the imagination can dream up.  They don't need talking toys and phones.  Let them imagine stuff.

             We didn't have a TV either--still don't.  If we wanted to see something, we could always get to a friend's house that had one.  I remember as a child going to a neighbor's house to see the first human in space, then to see the moon walk.  Did I miss TV?  Not in the slightest and I'm much richer for it.  Our kids didn't have video games or any electronic hand held devices.  What a horrible childhood.

             But they knew how to cook at 6 years old.  How to move a herd of cows at 8.  How to butcher a chicken at 4.  How to plant vegetable seeds at 3 or 4, and how to tell the difference between weeds and vegetables.

             If we want the next generation to be less materialistic and consumptive, we need to start early.  Babies don't need to be expensive.  The time to develop an awe toward simplicity and desire toward imagination is now.

             One other item on baby food.  Perhaps if parents fed babies what we're eating as adults, we'd think twice about the quality of what we're eating.  Maybe then we'd eat better.  Do you think?

            Who needs baby food?


            In preparation for my next two days, where I'll be teaching the Stockman Grass Farmer marketing school in Nashville, Tennessee, I was reviewing some social media counsel and one of the points is that negative headlines stimulate much higher readership than positive headlines.

             It reminded me of all the publicity surrounding the alleged burning inferno in the Amazon.  A couple of weeks ago I had a Brazilian on one of our lunatic tours and I asked her about it.  She said nothing in the media is true, that in fact the fires are less than normal, and that it's all politically driven because their new president is a bit of a firebrand libertarian and friends with Trump.

             Then last week I saw an actual breakdown from GPS acreage and it turns out that she was right.  Indeed, this year's fires in the Amazon are down 30 percent from recent previous years going back 5 or 6 years.  It struck me that in all the media reports I've seen over the last couple of months about this that none of them has put in actual data.  They've all had pictures of fires and hyped headlines screaming  doomsday.

             Now that I have the data in hand, I'm not giving those fires a second thought.  But when you're told that we only have 10 years to survive, those kinds of shock headlines get your attention.  Sensationalism sells.

             That said, I do think we're on a trajectory toward problems:  soil erosion, nutrient deficiency, sickness, insufficient water, desertification.  Yes, there's a lot to be concerned about, but I don't for a minute think we're going to exterminate ourselves and that we only have 10 years before we destroy the planet.

             As many of you know, I'm a Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer--the first word is Christian.  We humans, in spite of our faults and our capacity to hurt, will not thwart the overarching plan God has for end times.  It will unfold in His timetable and His method.  Will human activity, depraved as it is, play a part?  Without a doubt.

             I've just become acquainted with the rising notion that the sun is not some nuclear thing; it's rather electromagnetic being fueled by other parts of the universe.  I don't have time to go into it now, but this notion that the cosmos is really electrical and not matter is quite a cool idea.  It points not to a big bang, but to a Source and Design that energizes it.

             As Pilgrims, then, our stewardship has everything to do with current occupation and care.  A Providential paradigm does not in any way diminish the mandate for caretaking and stewardship.  We have no idea what God's timetable is; we know we're supposed to take care of His stuff, love His stuff, respect His stuff as part of our responsibility.  So take the doomsday forecasts with a grain of salt.  Especially the ones that give a year and time for extinction. 

             Meanwhile, let's caretake in honor and deference, out of love for a benevolent Creator who holds things together and is counting on us to steward His stuff for who knows how long?  Let's not mess it up.

             Why does injecting God into the stewardship discussion make it less important or imperative?


            I spent Saturday at the Homesteaders of America conference at Warren County Fairgrounds in Front Royal.  What a wonderful gathering.  Some 2,500 people converged on the site and it was a true rush to spend the day with that many folks who don't trust anything orthodox.

             I opened the newspaper this morning to the big front page article about flu shots and how the Centers for Disease Control says we should all get them before the end of October.  I've never had one and have had the flu once in 30 years.  I know lots of people who religiously get the flu shot every year and get the flu every year.

  So having just been at this big shindig Saturday, I can't help but smile at this flu article, knowing that probably not a single one of those 2,500 people buys the flu shot orthodoxy.  That's the power of these kinds of gatherings.  When you swim upstream, it gets lonely.  Co-workers, family, friends all assault you with diatribes about being different, rebellious, or even injurious to society.  We need the encouragement and affirmation that assembling with likeminded people brings.  And by the way, I hope you've marked your calendar for next July 17-18, the first Mother Earth News fair held on a farm--here at Polyface.  It'll be a hum dinger, but it won't be the same without you.

             During the extended conference-closing Q&A session with all the speakers, I was struck by the number of questions regarding "how do you do it?"  For some, it was single parents trying to juggle a more self-reliant lifestyle.  For some, it was financial pressure that kept them from buying their little secluded dream place.  For others, it was job commutes that left precious little time to garden or tend a flock of chickens.  For others, it was health issues that consumed their time and energy, leaving nothing left for gardening and kitchen enjoyment.

             I was struck by these questions because this was from an audience that tends to be fairly self-reliant.  These folks are generally not peer dependent; they don't mind marching to the beat of a different drummer.  These are the elite change agents of our culture.  By and large, these folks garden instead of carting their kids 3 hours to play in a soccer tournament.

             My heart went out to the pleas.  Some of the hardships were heartbreaking.  I realized that no cookie cutter formula for success exists.  I can't offer a recipe to get out of every difficulty.  Looking back on my own experience, I realize how being poor and hungry was the best thing in the world for me.  Teresa and I drove a $50 car; we lived in an attic apartment; we never had a TV (still don't); we never--I mean never--went out to eat.  If we didn't grow it, we didn't eat it; we cut firewood for heat; we wore second-hand thrift store clothes.

             But it was that hunger and adversity that made us creative.  Eliot Coleman and I were talking about this one time because both of us started farming on eroded rock piles.  He observed that virtually all the successful gurus started on eroded rock piles.  Louis Bromfield; Ed Faulkner; Allan Savory.  If one thread runs through all of these stories, it's starting on an eroded rock pile.  So don't discount the adversity; it's the foundation of creativity and perseverance. 

             I can't tell you what to do.  You have to wrestle, struggle, seek, and do all of it aggressively, seriously, with gusto.  Attack it like Dave Ramsey says to attack debt:  beans and rice and rice and beans.  I'm startled by how easily folks quit and get disenchanted.   The opposite of success is not failure; it's quitting.  Successful people failed just as many times as everyone else--except they kept getting up.

             Objectives, if they are to be achievable, must be timed, measurable, and specific.  I think the biggest problem is folks want to whine or they want someone else to give them a recipe instead of wrestling with their situation and then formulating a set of objectives that are timed, measurable, and specific.  "I want a garden" is not an objective.  It's not broken down into measurable, specific, and timed parts.    If you're stuck, sit down and itemize smaller bits to get to the big elephant.  Make each bite measurable, timed, and specific.

             Are you stuck on something?


            I will not beat this horse incessantly, but I am very aware that these posts do not get read every day so if I really want you folks to know about something, I need to repeat it a couple of times.

             l've hooked up with John Moody, who worked for several years with the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund, to convene a one day conference Jan. 25 in Cincinnati called the Rogue Food Conference.

             The reason is simple:  food regulations have gotten so onerous in our country that creative alternatives to compliance are now in many cases more doable than compliance.  Hence, circumvention rather than compliance.

             Whether it's 501(c)(3) food churches, country club private transactions, membership dividends or pet food, clever, savvy folks around the country are figuring out how to get local food transactions done without entering "in commerce."  That's the phrase that gets you.

             You can give anything away, from raw milk to home made pepperoni; but if money exchanges hands and it enters "commerce," it's all illegal unless you jump through scale-discriminatory licensing and regulatory hoops.  More often than not, the cost of complying with the infrastructure, licensing, and overhead requirements puts launching embryonic entrepreneurial prototypes out of reach.

             If you wonder why authentic food is either unavailable or exorbitantly expensive, more often than not it has nothing to do with market desire, efficiency, production/processing know-how, or resources like kitchens; by far and away the primary reason is asinine scale-prejudicial inappropriate bureaucratic meddling.

             Clever work-arounds are popping up all over the country and it's time to both showcase these innovations and to empower others to utilize them.  This is an entire guerilla movement, under the radar.  It's not on TV news.  But it's alive and well.  It represents the same spirit as the Hong Kong human rights protests or any other basic human dignity protest effort around the world.

             In most of those areas around the world, the kind of food I'm describing is easy to sell and folks are glad to get it.  Here in America, our tyranny is in a different arena, but it's no less vital or important.  This will not be a conference of weirdos, I can tell you.  The speakers will be thoughtful, articulate, well-reasoned defenders of food freedom in a country where our judges write in their opinions that no American has the right to choose their own food.  Communists have not even written such anti-human rulings.

             I am pleading for folks who want to preserve food freedom to join us on this day.  We're hoping to get some media traction but that's a tough slog.  The main thing is to come together for encouragement and fellowship.  Freedom of food choice should not be this hard to defend, but it is.  I know plenty of things occupy our time and all sorts of causes vie for our attention.  But somebody needs to stand up to the food tyrants, whether corporate, consumer protectionists, or bureaucrats, and say enough is enough.  Let's take back our food even if we lose everything else.

             Tickets and information are available at

             Thank you for caring . . . and coming.  I look forward to seeing you there.

             Have you tried to make and sell a food item that you finally gave up on because regulations were too onerous?


             Many of you know I've enjoyed a developing friendship with Prince Charles.  He's come to hear me yak in Great Britain and then he invited me to his special place in Dumfries, Scotland.  Turns out he purchased a slew of FOOD INC. documentaries and gave them to all his friends.  Apparently that's how I got on his radar.

             Influential people are working behind the scenes to get him to stop by the farm when he's next in the U.S.  So I thought the Mother Earth News (MEN) Fair here next year July 17-18 would be a great opportunity to invite him.  I mean, it's not every day that a few thousand people collect on a dirt road to fellowship over homesteading and farming.  And I sure hope you're planning to come.  Scuttlebutt has it that rooms in Staunton are beginning to fill up for that weekend, even though fair tickets have not yet gone on sale.  My dream is 10,000 people over the two days.  That'll make a statement to Virginia--unorthodoxy is alive and well, thank you very much.  The revolution is bigger than you think.

             Anyway, I've done some sleuthing, but alas, the protocols governing British royalty generally and His Royal Highness (they say it HRH) Charles, Prince of Wales, prohibits any of them doing tours of the U.S. during a presidential election year. 

             How was I to know?  Good grief, if I'd known that, we could have pushed this shindig off a year and maybe gotten him.  Bummer.  It's just one of those cultural nuances that we Americans in our free-wheeling individualism can't imagine and certainly don't appreciate.  What do you mean I can't travel to the U.S. whenever I want?  I'm the next king, for crying out loud.

             "No, your highness, you may not go this year."  Can't you just hear it?

             So we're all suffering from the prohibition.  This will absolutely not diminish our party, but it's interesting to know even Prince Charles has restrictions.  Oh, he can't drive either.  Did you know that?  He has to be chauffered.  What a drag.

             As much as we Americans detest it, don't you find royalty fascinating?  What is it about royalty that so captivates the human heart?


            According to a study published in The Economist, activities that make you NOT desirable as a housemate include visiting farmers' markets.

             The study, conducted by R.M. Shafranek and titled "Political Considerations in Nonppolitical Decisions:  A Conjoint Analysis of Roommate Choice, ranks relative lifestyle and belief systems as liabilities or assets.

             I think this is profound because these were young people.  Studies like this really help to establish a trajectory, a "where we're going" kind of predictability.

             The single biggest liability is with a person who affiliates with a different political party--so Democrats and Republicans don't want to live together.  That's the biggest.  Second is housekeeping--messies are not desirable.  Well duh.  The next one?  Evangelical Christian.  Wow.  I thought we were supposed to be inclusive.

             The next negative and literally in tie with Christian is a person who goes to bed early.  You'd think with all the medical connections well established between sleep deprivation and health, an enlightened generation would realize the importance of going to bed early.  It always makes me wonder about people who cause trouble or get caught up in trouble late at night.

             Listen, if you're in a bar at midnight, nothing good comes from that.  I will never be shot in a bar at 1:30 a.m.  I won't be shot in a bar at 11 p.m. 

             Ready for the next liability?  Listening to country music.  Oh my.  And right behind country music is the one that got my attention:  visits farmers' markets.  Now why, in a generation that supposedly is interested in climate change and saving the planet, would visiting a farmers' market be a bad activity?  It really makes you wonder, doesn't it? 

             Tied with farmers' market patronage is hunting and fishing.  So let's see, anything involving rural life, music, activities, early bedtimes is a turnoff.  So what is the turn on?

             Yoga.  Hop-hop music.  Being Jewish.  Same political party--boy, I do not like my ideas questioned.  And the most desirable characteristic?  Watching sports.  I don't know about you, but this list does not make me optimistic about our future.

             At conferences where I speak people always ask me if our side is winning.  They want to hear a definitive "yeah, man, we're winning and all will be well."  Folks, I've got news for you, McDonald's is building 1,200 more restaurants this year.  And this list, sadly in my opinion, simply confirms that we are still heading the wrong way pretty stubbornly.  We still like our silos; we'd rather imagine a better future than work to create a better future.

             So let's all just sit around staying up late sitting in a yoga position watching sports with people who vote just like us.  That's the way to the future.  We're not going to talk about the country, eat nutritious food, connect with a farmer, or actually invest in anything concretely ecology-enhancing. 

             So how do you answer the question:  are we there yet?


            I'm quite reluctant about using this blog for things like this, but my team all assures me that a once or twice a year use of this sort will not compromise or cheapen the blog. 

             You'll get what nobody else gets:  the context.  Leanna Hale Barth was an intern nearly a decade ago, married an apprentice, Eric, and the two of them joined our team full time.  They live on the farm and are now as important to Polyface as any Salatin.  Eric is apprentice manager and Leanna has been inventory manager for several years. 

             They have two children, 4 and 2, and another one is on the way in late January.  With those increased responsibilities, Leanna realizes she cannot continue the inventory responsibilities she's held.  She will continue to be ultimately in charge, but she needs an assistant to do the lifting and hands-on working she's been doing.  Furthermore, our shipping and packing is increasing to the point she couldn't do it all by herself anymore anyway. 

             So this seemed like a good time to open up a slot for a new team member on our permanent staff.  That's the background, and here's the plan.  We welcome any and all interest.  Thank you for indulging this use of the blog.  My apologies.



Salary Position starting at $36,000 annually, paid monthly

                        About 40 hours per week           

                        Growth potential with efficiency and responsibility


Job Requirements 

            ~Must be capable of lifting 60-80 pounds on a daily basis

            ~Job requires working in -10 degree F freezers for a minimum of 10-15 hours a                                     week

            ~Must be able to plan and organize freezer space



            ~Must be very well organized

            ~Have attention to little details

            ~Problem solve

            ~EXCELLENT customer service skills

            ~Team player

            -Interest in local craft food


Job Responsibilities

            ~Packing customer orders 3-4 times per week

            ~Packing and shipping orders, weekly

            ~Packing and loading restaurant orders, 1 time a week (with help)

            ~Communicating when orders will be completed and ready for processing

            ~Sorting and Managing meat inventory

                        ~Weekly pick up of meat, typically Wednesday afternoon

                        ~Unloading meat

                        ~Sorting, categorizing, and totals of all cuts of meat

            ~Managing and stocking retail store

            ~Keeping all work areas (freezers, packing shed, storage shed) clean, organized,                         `and tidy.

            ~Scheduling and meeting customers as necessary during business hours for                         `            `special orders being picked up on farm.



            Workman's Comp

            Flexible hours and scheduling

            Two weeks vacation

            Most national holidays

            Substantial Polyface product discount

            Family friendly community-oriented workplace


Is it okay to use this blog for an announcement like this once in a blue moon? 

Email with resume /information. Application deadline 10/18/20


            My fall speaking circuit is now in full swing and I'm batting two for two with people stomping out of my speeches.  In a time of supposed tolerance, we're getting pretty intolerant.

             Saturday in Richmond it was a vegan (or vegetarian, not sure which) offended that I dared to question the wisdom of eating mono-culture chemicalized GMO soybean-extracted lab percolated earthworm-killing soil-destroying pseudo-food like Impossible Burger.  Why would anyone be offended at that?

             Of course, I'm supposed to smile, nod, and tolerate the following diatribe:

 1.  You can't love anyone or anything because you eat meat.

2.  You're destroying the planet because cows burp and fart.

3.  You're bankrupting the country's medical system because eating meat causes cancer and heart disease.

             I'm supposed to be inclusive and tolerant as these charges spew, but if the shoe is on the other foot, it's righteous and noble to stomp out of the discussion.

             And then in California this week, the same thing happened although this time it was a government food inspector.  I dared to question the cultural assumption that a bureaucrat needs to sniff and smell every morsel of food to make sure it's safe for consumption.

             I started down my narrative of consenting adults engaging in consensual voluntary transactions and he took offense.  Look, folks, today we're all about getting the government out of our bedrooms; how about getting the government out of my mouth? 

             If I want to go to your farm, ask around, sniff around, look around, and exercise freedom of choice to purchase your food, I jolly well ought to have that right.  Of course, we all know that if the government signs off on it, it's safe.  Every recall is a government inspected food.  While the regulators turn themselves into a knot trying to deal with vaping, they send SWAT teams to confiscate perfectly good food transactions between friends.  For an eye opener, watch the documentary FARMAGEDDON.

             Several years ago in a California university I asked for a show of hands:  "How many of you think a government official needs to inspect food from your own garden to make sure it's safe for consumption?"  About 25 percent of the audience raised their hands.  Folks, this is the trajectory of our culture.

             I'm reminded of the time I spoke at Stanford in California.  The professor squiring me around from class to class in a golf court spat and fumed as we drove by a building plaque bearing newly-etched names of university namesakes:  Condolezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld.  As she sputtered and fumed, I couldn't help but ask:  "I thought you taught inclusion and tolerance here?"

             She spat the response:  "Only certain KINDS of tolerance."  Oh, I see.

             For the record, I'm not a fan of either Rice or Rumsfeld, but they certainly are no worse than Obama ("if you like your doctor you can keep your doctor") and Hillary ("deplorables").  So let's just all settle down, breathe deeply, appreciate our differences, and have a civil conversation.  And if our neighbor dares to question my sacred cow, love him anyway.  He just doesn't know any better. But don't walk out; engage instead, respectfully.  You might learn something. 

             I'm trying not to let this new aggressive intolerance bother me, but it does.  Until now, the only times I know of where people have stomped out of my speeches is if I dare to mention I'm a sanctity of lifer.  Otherwise, curiosity for the other point of view--and hopefully my humor--keeps them in their seats.  Apparently those days are now over.

             How many times has someone walked out in disgust when you're speaking?


            It's 5:30 a.m. and I'm at the Ontario, California airport waiting to board and head home.  One of my speaker gifts from yesterday's Grow Riverside conference was a little baggie of organic fertilizer made from poultry manure at an egg farm.

             TSA kicked out my bag and of course this little baggie of fertilizer required a swab, a supervisor, and finally, they told me they had to sample it.  I'm not sure if they were going to put milk on it and eat it with corn flakes.  As I stood there under scrutiny for a tiny baggie of sample organic fertilizer, I couldn't help but realize how out of the mainstream farmers are.  I told the TSA guy "you people are ridiculous" and let him confiscate it.  They'll throw it away.  The chickens that made the poop; the farmer that went through mountains of compliance to get the fertilizer business legal; the people who handled the material, packed it--every animal and every person in this process is denigrated as that little aggie gets tossed in the trash, which will go to the landfill, joining other biodegradable planetary healing materials at a useless dead end.  And we worry about Trump's phone calls?  Really?

             Statistics are interesting.  And stories.  I'll share a couple from yesterday's conference and conversations.  First, the fact that right now the U.S. has 40 million extra egg laying hens in the country.  Egg prices have collapsed--50 cents a dozen.  All the egg farmers are losing money hand over fist.  They overbuilt as a result of a shortage a couple of years ago.  The thought of getting 50 cents a dozen can't even compute in my head.  At Polyface, our GMO-free feed cost is $1 a dozen and our labor (legal and well cared for) is $1 a dozen.  The idea that a poultry farm can exist even for a day at 50 cents a dozen shows the economic divide between commodity and craft.

             Story.  The lady who drove me out to last night's banquet has a farm in an area designated "mixed species."  Fifty years ago all these farms in the area had cattle, sheep, and crops.  It took me awhile to understand that "mixed species" did not mean a Polyface model with cows, sheep, chickens, turkeys, or what we commonly call "multiple species."  No indeed, mixed species means you cannot have any domestic livestock--it means "wild species."

             So here is a farm that cannot get fire insurance, with biomass building up and nothing to eat it, and planners and regulators won't let them have a cow to eat it.  Furthermore, they cannot cut an oak tree or even prune the branches.  So here they are sitting on supposed farmland worth $150,000 an acre, prohibited from livestock, unable to find fire insurance, prohibited from running a chain saw, watching their biomass get old and die and build and turn brown and dry . . .

             During my talk, I zeroed in on the carbon economy and eliminating fire by turning biomass into compost, substituting the money spent on chemical fertilizer for biomass harvest.  It seems so reasonable, but no reason exists here.  So think about all this the next time California burns.  Don't feel sorry.  It's what they deserve, even though many people understand the problem and would like to fix it.  So burn, baby burn, and I'll lose no sleep over your stupidity.

             Planners estimate that California's population will double by 2050.  Climatologists predict that the number of very hot days will go from 30 per year to 90 per year. 

             Are we insane?