This is continued from “Polyface Farm (Part 2)“.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
~ John 10:10 -11 ~
If this way of farming produces abundant, healthy food, with lower expenses, risks and dependence on outside systems why don’t all farms work this way?
There are three main reasons why more farms aren’t run this way (concepts pointed out by Joel during the tour, but we flushed them out in our own words below).
1. Change is hard – Change is always hard, it may be exciting, but the unknown is uncertain. It is extra hard if all you know is one way to do things. It is extra, extra hard if you have invested in the facilities and equipment for industrial agriculture, with contracts with these industries. Change is hard!
2. Lies are powerful – Industrial agriculture is built to benefit Big Pharma and Big Ag. The costs for fertilizer, shots, vets, feed, pesticides, etc. mean huge profits for the Pharmaceutical and Agricultural industries. Then add on that most pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, pesticides and all the transportation is based on petroleum, there are huge profits for Big Oil. These are three powerful players with huge bankrolls to influence government policy (and subsidies), education (of what farmers should do) and outlets (to control advertising and sales). These entities thrive on lies about how the food system should work and strive to keep it working that way, even if it is unsustainable, as we see happening with food shortages around the world. (We talk about how sad it is that people are starving “in the world, over there” because power hungry groups block food distribution. We have the same problems here. They are just so close that we don’t see them.)
3. More manual labor – Most farms today are run by a few technicians and a lot of machines. Moving chicken tractors around the field, calling cows to the next paddock, planting seeds in mulch, etc. all take manual labor. Sustainable farming takes the expenses that were going to the Pharmaceutical, Agricultural and Petroleum industries and invests it into people. These farms aren’t full of machines and a few technicians, they are full of a community of people with a few machines interacting with plants and animals on a healthy farm. This change of mindset and farm setup can be a hard jump to make (though more and more are making it).
As we thought about it, we realized that these same influences impact the decisions families make. Why don’t more people raise their own food, train their own children and have the peace of birth at home (the ways that things were done since the creation of the world until modern history).
Change is hard, when all you know is what your parents and the society around us has done. That doesn’t make it right or best, it just makes it what we know and change is hard. We are trapped in the worldly system in numerous ways we don’t even realize, or even if we do we are often too tired or too busy to make a change.
Lies are powerful. We have been told that the professionals can train our children best and that women need experts and machines for a healthy delivery. While there is a (rare) need for intervention at times, the peace of a homebirth, possibly with a skilled midwife, not only doesn’t have these problems, but often knows how to peacefully take care of problems that are considered medical emergencies in the hospital. However, there is big money and big advertising, promoting our need to follow the world’s systems. And for education… no one knows, loves and can care and mentor your child better than you as you seek to love the Lord above everything else.
Finally, more manual labor. Sending children off to industrial schools seems easy. Eating and living any way we like seems convenient as we buy our foods and don’t have to plant, water, weed, cook and prepare them. Then we can let the hospitals fix our health issues. Letting the system take care of our health, responsibilities and problems is tempting.
As we break free from the world’s systems, we have more freedom, but as we teach our children, great freedom comes with great cost and responsibility. We need God’s mercy and grace daily to live out our faith. In the meantime, our life has more substance with richer personal relationships. His blessings are manyfolds just like the crop a farmer plants. Hard work? Yes! Rewards? Yes, we always reap more than we sow. All for His glory!
Perhaps you have had a prompting that something isn’t right with the world’s systems, but you haven’t had the evidence, energy or desire to give it much thought. You follow the flow against your will and hope for the best since everyone else is doing it anyway. Our prayer is that we would have ears to hear and eyes to see and then to obey as God leads. We pray the same for you.
The trip to Polyface Farm was a wealth of knowledge about how the world works and our place in it. They will answer any questions about farming or anything else, as they want to help others duplicate this sustainable way of life.
The more we understand God’s amazing no-waste system, the less we feel we know. We have so much to discover, to learn, to apply and to embrace. We don’t have our own farm yet (though anywhere can be a “homestead”), but we still had so many insights and are excited to see where God takes us next in his plan for our lives! Writing this post is our first step of response as we reflect and apply what we do understand.
And therein lies the most important point. It’s not that everyone should have a farm, raise their own food, home educate their children, no longer need a doctor, etc. The point is that everyone should earnestly pray, seek God and follow the ways he lays out in his Word and leads by his Spirit. The “default” should be to invest into our relationship with Christ, seeking him and his ways, rather than defaulting to the ways this world presents as solutions and distractions.
We fail over and over and over again. We struggle and fall and need to get up again, repent and move on. Life is hard and gives plenty of opportunities for growth as Christ makes us more into his image.
While Joel has many books about how to do sustainable farming, his book “The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs: Respecting and Caring for All God’s Creation” gives a bigger view of the “Why” and “How” God created the world to work. We recommend it as a book that every Christ-follower at this time of history would benefit from reading (or listening to Joel read on the audio book). It is not the nuts and bolts of farming, it is more of an eye opening look at the world we live in and the way God created it to be (even after the fall). Just be prepared in your heart and mind to be transformed as the Truth leads you to more freedom!
It is important to note that Polyface wasn’t an instant success, Joel wasn’t a “celebrity farmer” and there are other farms doing what they are doing (though not nearly enough). His family moved to the farm when it was in shambles. They left all they knew. They didn’t know what was right as they figured out what was next, they just knew that the industrial ways were not right and that God’s ways are best. They took risks. They struggled. They questioned. They failed. They remained faithful. And God is always faithful. It wasn’t until Michael Pollen’s “The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals” that the world really heard about Polyface Farm and Joel Salatin. They had been faithful with God’s leading, and God chose to raise them up as an example.
We don’t need to know how our faithfulness will turn out. We just need to seek God, know that he is good, know what is right and trust and obey, no matter the cost.
In addition to his book ““The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs”, some additional recommendations are the films “Fresh: Sustainable Food Production in America” and “Polyfaces: Food Without Chemicals: From Family Farm to Table”.