If you're a real food-nerd -- and I'm talking a Michael Pollan-readin', Farm Inc.-watchin', vegetable lovin', pro-farmer food nerd -- then you've likely heard about Joel Salatin. The sustainable agriculture guru, known for his advocacy for back-to-roots farming, got a lot of attention when he popularized progressive methods to sustainably raise chickens with mobile coops. After he was featured in a documentary that lifted the veil on many of the issues facing our food system, he became a figurehead for food reform. Now, if you've ever been seduced by the spicy bite of a farm-fresh, baby radish, or coveted the orange yolks of an egg harvested yesterday, you've likely heard of Joel Salatin.
Last night, supporters paid $125 a ticket to share a table with the farmer who is leading a rebellion against the food system he feels is robbing the American farmer of his dignity and making many consumers sick. Salatin talked about the USDuh (USDA) like a punk rocker talks about the man, and his jokes got some chuckles and whoops from the crowd. But when he spun the seemingly infinite amount of microbes contained in two fistfuls of dirt into a metaphor for God, the whole room went so quiet you could hear a single leaf of parsley drop.
While the crowd sipped on raw milk, a product that government officials associate with substantial food safety risks, Salatin pointed to policies that endorse and subsidize the consumption of Twinkies and Coco Puffs and Mountain Dew. A reference to Monsanto, the chemical giant turned seed producer, drew a room full of boos that sounded suspiciously like moos, while points on local farms and local economies were met with predictable support. "How we eat and how we spend our money needs to benefit the earthworms," said Salatin, and the crowd filled with fellow farmers, advocates and food yuppies erupted in applause.
Everything served at the dinner was grown locally. And the meal featured vegetables far more prominently than the smoked pig that might have been the centerpiece. Arugula salad, roast beets and kale, baby lettuce plants in a cup made from crisped cheese, creamy greens, carrots and fennel -- the dishes that sprouted directly from the soil captivated diners most, as they lusted over the possibilities of a few more bites of cornbread.
Come to think of it, did anyone save any of that cornbread? I've got a savory pudding on my mind.
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Salatin is giving a carbon economy workshop today before participating in a sustainability summit hosted at Mountain View College at 8 a.m. tomorrow morning.