October 7, 2017
Podcast from: bengreenfieldfitness.com/pignessofpigs
[07:14] Why Joel named his book The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs
[09:03] Would Christians Abuse God’s Creation
[13:32] Examples of How the Bible is Full of Animal Rights
[21:52] Compare & Contrast Disrespectful Versus Respectful Farming Situation
[33:14] To Use Church or Church Property to Hydrate the Landscape
[37:22] Blue Apron/ZipRecruiter
[40:06] Other Uses of the Church Property to Provide Food and Water for the Community
[45:14] Joel’s Stand on GMO
[55:02] Daniel and His Report
[60:50] Farming with Faith versus Farming with Fear
[1:09:19] End of Podcast
Ben: Yo! What’s up? It’s Ben. I’m back. Turn off this episode right now if you feel like you would be offended by a Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer ‘cause that’s the dude I have on my show. Joel Salitan. If you’ve never heard of him, he’s actually mind-blowingly amazing and smart and you should read his book. If you’re not a Christian per se you need to get the book that we talk about. You’ll understand why when you listen in. He’s a super, super smart guy. Incredibly entertaining too.
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In this episode of The Ben Greenfield Fitness Show:
“Just imagine what it would do to the emotional equity of a church if they converted a healthy portion of that into gardens and then started using that for, families that were struggling in the church.” “Life, death, decomposition or digestion and then regeneration in some other form. Life, death becomes regeneration, I mean that is the pillar of physical life. That is even the pillar of spiritual life. Christ died that we all may live.”
Ben: Hey folks, welcome back to the show and in my podcast today I’m interviewing a guy who describes himself as a Christian libertarian environmentalist capitalist lunatic farmer. His name is Joel Salatin and Joel is an American farmer. He’s a lecturer. He’s an author. He has written books that my wife and I have used to set up our own little chicken and goat set up out here in Spokane, Washington. From salad bar beef to folks that’s ain’t normal to poultry profit to yukon farm to this latest book that he’s written called “The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs”. He is really one of the guys that I look to as a dude who’s on the cutting edge of running a farm or growing your own food or caring for the planet in a way that not a lot of other people are doing, you know. If you’ve heard of something like for example, rotational grazing. That’s something that Joel Salatin has actually made popular here in the US. He is basically the complete opposite of everything that you’d think of when you think of a huge corporate farm with a bunch of animals in cramped in dark pens and soil not being taken care of and basically the entire creation around us being abused.
Joel is a guy who has not only for a very long time defied that whole modern paradigm of agriculture but he’s also written some fantastic books about how we can feed ourselves. How we can farm and how we can take care of the land. This most recent book that he’s written. It’s got a hilarious name. “The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs” was one of the most fantastic books that I’ve read in the past several months and I’ve got plenty of pages folded over in this thing and we are all lucky enough to have Joel right here on a call with us today. So Joel, welcome to the Ben Greenfield Fitness Show, man.
Joel: Thank you, Ben. It’s just an honor and great to be with you. Thank you.
Ben: Yeah, no worries. I’ve got to ask you right off the bat, you call this book “The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs.” Why did you name this book “The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs”?
Joel: Well, because I wanted to capture the respect and honor for life and what more lovable critter could there be than a pig, and so the whole idea of respecting and honoring the pigness of pigs just conjures up. As soon as you hear that obviously you smile and be towards the end you start thinking about pigs but the pigness of pigs conjures up all the elements about. Yeah, their inquisitiveness, their curiosity, their lovability, their being able to dig and plow are all these things. You know, it’s just the idea of bringing a word picture quickly that’s light hearted and warm and fuzzy into the mind regarding, does pigness matter? That sort of thing.
Ben: Right, got you. In the book you talk about how we have this specialness of pigs and how factory farm hog houses disrespect and cheapen what should truly be the pigness of a pig like this animal is actually a pretty cool animal. That if you walk into the average factory farm hog house you see basically animals kept in this violent confined factory – type of environment and I know that in your book and what we’ll delve into today, you kind of get into the problem with a lot of that.
You know, one of the things that I want to start off with here, Joel is this idea that we live on a planet that’s pretty special and how some of the people who you’d expect to take the best care of the planet actually don’t. And you say early on in the book, even in the introduction of the book that Christians and I’m a Christian I hang out with a lot of Christians. You say that Christians abuse God’s creation. What do you mean by that?
Joel: What I mean by that is that the faith community as we know it, the Christian community as we know it does not as a group pretty much buys the conventional industrial agriculture orthodoxy that concentrate animal feeding operations are the efficient way to go. That Monsanto is the friend of world hunger i.e. the solution for world hunger. That genetically modified organisms are an expression of our dominion and our God-given intellectual capacity. You know, these are the common themes and so as a result the Christian community finds itself, I believe on the wrong side of creation’s stewardship almost every time. The result is that we squander a lot of cache or equity, emotional equity in the culture by continuing to defend things that are creation hurting and indeed encouraging things that are not appropriate.
The question is, is what I believe in the pew showing up on my menu? And that’s kind of the stance I took throughout the book is trying to each chapter is just one thing versus something else. It’s the just position of what we say we believe. We would believe in good neighbor policy and then we go get the cheapest chicken from a factory farm that stinks up the neighborhood and puts manure in the water. And the same thing could be said for a lot of things. And so the whole idea here is that we Christians do abuse it and in fact that you would appreciate just a little tidbit. When Faith Words published the book, yeah they have a whole list of pastors around the country that they send manuscripts to for cover blurbs, for…
Joel: Now you need to read this book. They sent [0:11:48.8] ______ of them. You’ll notice not a single pastor endorsement on the book. I think it’s the first one that they’ve ever done that they couldn’t get a single one. And the reason was because the pastors feared their congregation. What do you do if your choir director just gave a praise at a service, “My daughter just got a top research position at Monsanto.” What do you do if the head elder grows a round-up ready soy beans for Cargill or has a castrate animal feeding operation for Tyson.
Ben: Yeah, and I mean you get in to this in the book as well, about how if you go to the average potluck dinner, it’s Kentucky Fried Chicken from Tyson chicken houses and when you go to children’s programs and admittedly even in my church, and I love my church but it features sugary snacks and genetically modified organisms. GMO crackers and then you go to the average church potluck for parishioners home and you get cartons of high fructose corn syrup drinks, and candy bars, and industrial food, and microwavable breaded chicken nuggets with artificial and unpronounceable ingredients, and tons and tons of pharmaceuticals along with Styrofoam plates at the church potluck. All these things that really make you scratch your head about yeah, were supposed to farm and garden and have some amount of dominion, so to speak over the planet. But yeah there’s a huge amount of sad abuse going on that you get into the book. And one of the things you talked about in the book is animal rights. And animal rights isn’t something I’ve seen discussed very much in a forthrightly Christian book before, but you say that even the Bible is full of animal rights. What do you mean by that?
Joel: Well, what I mean by that is in the Pentateuch which we call Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, especially Deuteronomy and Numbers that have a lot of the law in them. Yeah, there’s a lot in there about well, for example, don’t muzzle the ox that treads the corn. In other words when the ox is working for you, if he wants to reach down and eat a little bit of it in treading mill, well, let him. Don’t plow with an ox and a donkey together. The ox is too strong and it pulls the donkey around. There’s all sorts of things about personal responsibility. If you have a bull that hurt somebody, you’re liable. And in fact, if the bull was known to be unruly and the bull actually kills somebody, it’s as if you did the act by yourself. There’s a very close connection to both the ownership and the relationship, the stewardship over animals. Now one of my favorite parts of the book is the whole discussion about glory.
In Christian terms we have our kind of everything has this jargon and we Christians do too. And one of our jargon words is glory, you know and of course like in catechism talks about that the end of man bringing glory to God. But we don’t use that word in normal parlance and yet biblically it’s the very practical normal word and it’s not relegated to God’s glory. We talk about the glory of old men is their gray hair. The glory of young men is their strength. The glory of nations, glory of rulers, glory of stars, glory of the earth and so biblically this idea that we have to change our voice to some secret place to use the word glory because it’s only relegated to divine things is completely erroneous. If I was very, very practical and so led me to ask, “What does the glory of something mean?” And what the glory means is its distinctiveness. Its identity and so when we talk about bringing glory to God, what we’re talking about is bringing glory to His holiness, and His omniscience, and omnipotence, and infinity, and grace, and mercy, and all the things that God shows. So but what’s the glory of a young man’s strength, glory of a civilization?
You know, Prince Charles says civilization is known by its architecture, its food and its religion. That’s the distinctives of a civilization. And what’s the glory of a pig? Well, the pig can root and has this big plow in its nose and it runs around and it sniffs out things and has these wonderful abilities that no other animals does. That’s the glory of the pig. And so that discussion of honoring the glory of beings and things in a practical way leads us to a very practical understanding of how we’re supposed to view the animals, the plants and the different things. And so they do have a glory, and so we’re to honor that glory and I would just suggest as I do in the book I suggested to the culture that doesn’t have a place for honoring the glory of the pig. Probably doesn’t have a place for honoring the glory of of Pam or the glory of Mary or the glory of a mathematician, the glory of a stone mason.
Ben: So it sounds to me that what you’re saying is that when we’re say, out grocery shopping or we’re purchasing food for whatever. It might be a church potluck, a church function or whether it be just putting food in our homes or getting food together for dinner we’re going to have people over when we’re looking at the actual labels that we’re getting at the grocery store, and we’ll talk a little bit later about why perhaps buying our meat et cetera at the grocery store might not be the best way to go versus some other options you present in the book. We should be looking and thinking about whether that animal was raised in a factory farm situation like a Tyson chicken house or a Smithfield Hog factory or an Iowa Beef Packers Feedlot and if that is the case then we might actually be supporting a situation in which there’s not only a whole lot of animal abuse going on but a situation in which we’re not actually respecting the glory of the animal. And by the way, I know that for some people listening in this might sound hypocritical for me to be saying this ‘cause I know I’ve said this before in the podcast. You know, I’m a hunter. I bow hunt.
Ben: Quite a bit.
Joel: Sure absolutely.
Ben: And for me, it’s not for me to take an animal out there on the field after stalking it and hunting it for several days, for me killing that animal and eating it is not in a very honorable fashion is not taking anything away from the glory of that animal because the earth in creation is all about life and death and the cycle of life and death, but what you get into the book quite a bit, Joel is how what we’ve got going on especially in America and all over the world is a cycle of life and death that puts these animals in these violent pornographic factory type of situations that completely strips the essence of glory completely out of the animal.
Joel: Yeah, well the truth is the way you create sacredness in that sacrificial thing whether it’s a deer, a cow, a chicken or a tomato, the way you create sacredness to that sacrifice of something, something giving its life so that something else may live. That is so foundational to ecology. It’s both a foundation to ecology and spirit that in order to give life something has to die. I mean, Jesus talked about lest the seed die it can’t grow into a plant, you know. And so this idea of something dying in order for something else to live is just ubiquitous. In life as you said, life, death, decomposition or digestion and then regeneration in some other form, life death becomes this regeneration. I mean, that is the pillar of physical life and that is even the pillar of spiritual life you know, that Christ died that we all may live, right?
And so that fact, but how does that sacrifice become sacred? How do we honor it? How do we elevate it to a place of sanctity and specialness? Well, it’s how we honored the life during when it was living. If we desecrated a life during living then death is not an honoring thing. It’s just an expiration relief, you know (chuckles). Whew, wow good I’m glad that’s over. As opposed to being something very special and honouring. And so that’s the point here is we elevate. And so a factory farm chicken don’t have a life, they don’t express any chickeness. Death is just the termination of a series of disrespect but a chicken on pasture that you’ve watched chase grass hoppers and bugs and has true liberty life expression and is expressing a chickeness, that death actually becomes a very sacred honoring thing.
Ben: Now Joel paint a picture for me. I know this is probably a question that’s relatively involved and that’s okay. We have time. Paint a picture for me of what a typical farming situation looks like in which we are disrespecting the soil, which were disrespecting the wonderful world that we’ve been surrounded with, in which we’re disrespecting the glory of the animal and then compare and contrast that for me with the idea of what you describe like a more beautiful, a more respectful and even a more we can argue like a Christian farm and food system would look like.
Joel: Yeah, what a great question. Alright well, so you know the history of farming, of agriculture if you will generally is a history of environmental degradation as a result of farming and agriculture in the United States we have less soil. We have less water. We have a lot of undrinkable water. We have what 700 dead zones of perennial area. Arguably, we have dust storms, and in Illinois and Iowa, black snow from the soil dust and erosion and when it snows and…
Ben: Really, there’s black snow?
Joel: Well, yeah I mean it’s not black but surely after it snows (chuckles) it turns black from the…
Ben: Oh, I got you.
Joel: Blowing stuff or from the blowing soil but it’s not black. It doesn’t come down black but the top turns black pretty quickly with the blowing soil. My point is that our relationship, our balance sheet with the ecology tends to go backwards as a result of what we’ve done. And on our farm and I talked about this in the book. On our farm I’ve seen it so first hand. We’re in the Shenandoah Valley here which has been actively farmed arguably since about 1740 something like that, and over those first hundred and fifty years, two hundred years, I mean, since that time depending on what archeologist you talk to anywhere from three and five feet of top soil have washed off of our fields into the Chesapeake Bay and we’ve got rocks out on the hillsides, we’ve used to be covered with soil and then we’ve got deep galleys and we have them and still have them but not all completely full yet. Galleys that where we just got these huge erosion places, and you know I ask the question, well we say it’s God’s stuff, right? We say that the earth is the Lord’s, the fullness thereof, I mean we say that all these is God’s stuff. Well if you were God and you had made these all these soil and plants and animals and everything and you saw the erosion, I want us to stay in the soil for a minute. And you saw the level of erosion where right now what is it a bushel of corn cobs, five bushels of soil, something like that. How would you feel about your property, about your stuff? Would you abide somebody treating your stuff that way? I ask in business terms, what’s God’s return on investment?
The opposite of this is He made the sun. The sun up in s-u-n, up in the sky shines down and it’s supposed to be turned by photosynthesis into biomass and [0:25:26.4] ______ of course, converts into sugars and carbon and materials for feed. The earthworms and the actinomycetes in the soil and decompose that actually build soil. Soil doesn’t deepen it uppens from the decomposing vegetation, manure and all that stuff on the soil surface. The plan was that the earth was supposed to gain weight all the time. That soil was supposed to get deeper and richer and thicker and more fertile and built. That was the plan even after the fall of the Garden of Eden. That was still the plan. That there will going to be brambles and thistles and other things, but the plan was still that this solar ball up in the sky was going to drive a biomass accumulation soil building program on the earth.
And so on our farm what we’ve devoted our lives to is how can we turn nature’s capital if you will, into cash the fastest by wearing up the soil but rather how can we build soil? How can we make more soil so that when we leave our pilgrimage behind our footsteps we actually have more fertility, more earthworms, more soil than was here when we came? That’s a very different picture and the fact that on our farm which before we came in 1961 was owned over 200 years by a collection of Protestants from the early Germans probably Lutherans and Episcopalians, and then the Presbyterians, and the Methodists and all these. The fact that it was owned all this time by people who dutifully put their money in the offering plate that was gained by destroying the land and turning the soil into money without regard to the erosion and the galleys and the degradation that was happening, that’s pretty profound actually, you know.
Joel: And it should give us pause.
Ben: Now there are some assumptions that you outlined in the book that especially if a conservative religious right makes when talking about progress and agriculture and some of the things that we accept as being really, really great parts of modern agriculture like for example, annual corn is more productive than perennial prairie or chemical farming is necessary to feed the world. Or you also say another assumption is wildlife proliferation and human dominion are incompatible. And herbivores are interesting but inefficient. Plants are more productive than animals. And ecosystems do not need animals. You go in to some of those things in the book and I’m just curious if you could talk about some of those assumptions and what’s actually wrong with some of those assumptions that are made right now and that we kind of accept the status quo on modern agriculture?
Joel: Yeah, well that’s a big question.
Ben: Yeah, let’s talk about annuals versus perennials, for example’s a perfect example.
Joel: Yeah, annuals versus perennials. You know, annual grain has been the holy grail of agriculture for a long, long time. Grain has been extremely expensive, extremely hard to grow because tillage was difficult and it was laborious. And so grain has always been this Holy Grail. It’s man, if you can grow grain you really got something. And so our culture was no different. And so we just don’t appreciate the perennial as an alternative but the fact is that with modern electric fencing and management and water lines so that we can actually stir the herbivores, these pruners around the landscape as precisely as a set of pruning sheers or a zero turn mower on a golf course, you can basically hook up a stirring wheel and accelerator and a brake on that four-legged pruning critter.
For the first time in human history, we can now actually stir those pruners across the landscape and perennials grasses, perennial forbs, and perennial legumes. Those are actually more productive per square yard, per acre than an acre of corn for herbivore. Now not for an omnivore. Omnivores need a higher octane. But the herbivore which is of course the main stay of ancient culture as opposed to for example, chickens and pigs which were kind of salvaged. They were salvagers around the sides. Whether we’re salvaging fallen acorns and masts in the woods for pigs or crickets and grass hoppers and kitchen scraps for chicken. They were kind of salvaged but the main stay was the herbivore the sheep, the goat, the camel, the yak, the cow. And those all ate grasses because grasses are actually more productive over time and actually build soil. Annuals don’t build soil.
Ben: Right. Annuals being like corn, soy beans, sugar cane, cotton, wheat, rice.
Joel: Yeah. Exactly.
Ben: Everything that we subsidize as taxpayers those are all annuals and those basically result in a huge amount of soil abuse, and they’re not as great for the environment versus some of these perennials like trees, and grass, and asparagus, and wild plants, and a lot of these things that you think we should be having a big focus on farming instead.
Joel: Yes. And the biggest one being grass. Grass for herbivores and just shut down the feed lots and honestly, if we really want to eat ecologically, we would eat less chicken and more grass finished beef or lamb. That’s the protein that doesn’t require any tillage. I mean soybeans require some sort of tillage and that’s an annual and it’s a soil depleter as opposed to a soil builder like a perennial.
Ben: Well, the problem is though, you talked about this in your book. If we did that it would flip all the power and the position and prestige of the industrial food system on its head. And all the big boys will be bucked off and the minority weirdos would be (chuckles) sitting in the saddle as you say. So yeah, that’s a tricky part and it’s an uphill battle.
And some of the things you talked about in the book, Joel is you kind of get down on the community level. And even though I think a lot of people listening in are familiar with this concept of things like community gardens and maybe going through your local community supported agriculture. Your local farmers market to buy food instead of supporting a lot of big agriculture and big farms and even buying your vegetables at the grocery store instead of buying them at the local farmers market or from a local farmer. What I’m interested in is the part in the book where you get into even the use of actual churches. You talk about for example, how an actual church could be used to hydrate the landscape. Explain to me how we could use all these churches we see all over the place in just about every neighborhood. What can we be doing differently with those aside from just considering what’s spread out on the church potluck table a little bit carefully?
Joel: Sure. Well, you know churches do own a lot of land. And a lot of roof space. How do you hydrate the landscape? Well, what you do is you try to keep the raindrops as close to where they fall for as long as possible. Wherever a raindrop falls the longer you can keep it there and not have it head downhill, the more that rain drop can be used over and over as it goes downhill. And so the whole idea of harvesting roof water from our church buildings and houses and then installing cisterns so that the rain water stays there and doesn’t go downstream to create more flooding and reduces the storm dew or storm drains and all that stuff. We can put grey water systems. Churches could put grey water systems in and so that they’re not using potable water in their toilets. And so that the dishwater, they’re down in the kitchen and cycle back to the toilets. You can drop your water consumption by almost half and not to mention the whole idea of landscape swale and all sorts of neat little pond techniques to create terraces and slow water down in order to increase infiltration and increase long term use.
One of the beauties of this kind of thinking is that it increases the commons. Christians, at least in the circles that I run in, I never heard Christians using the word commons. That’s what you hear at Sierra Club meetings and the conservancy meetings.
Joel: The commons, yeah. The commons. That’s the word kind of greeny, weeny and the faith community kind of abused the commons as something to exploit, but that God put it here for us to use. And so the idea of actually increasing the commons so that a community actually has more water than it had in a static state. That’s where we bring our mechanical ability and intellectual capacity as God’s servants and stewards to the landscape. I would even suggest that the notion that we can’t touch the landscape because however all the landscape fell together after whatever the last flood or the last earthquake or volcano or the hand of God or whatever, however the landscape fell together is always the best way. We can’t put a pond or we can’t make a swale, we can’t make a diversion. It’s nonsense. This is part of participatory ecology to bring our intellectual capacity and mechanical ability to the landscape to actually bring redemptive capacity to us so that it holds more water than it did before we came. So that it has more soil than it did before we came. I mean, that’s all about return on investment for God’s ownership as far as I’m concerned.
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Ben: What are some other thing as we get to use church property? I mean, could we do gardens? Could we do some type like a vertical gardening set up? What are some other examples that you’ve thought of as a way that we could make a bigger difference in our communities as far as feeding our communities with the way we have our church’s set up?
Joel: Yeah, well we could certainly build ponds and things like that on church property. We could certainly make gardens there. P. A. Yeomans the Australian water guru said we should strive to achieve zero run off. Some church wrap up reserve a pretty good size. And so when you think about zero surface run off, there’s a million ways I mean, you can certainly do. Imagine under the eaves of a building you can have a google culture bed. A google culture is a German idea where you use wood and you cover it with soil and you can grow things. And so you take advantage of places where water runs. A place where there’s excess water and you build into them catchments whether it’s a sunken catchment like a pond or whether it’s a wind row, a spongy wind row, either one will hold a lot more water. Goodness, you can make a pond and float gardens on a raft. Certainly, anything that increases the organic matter will reduce surface run off. I mean, all you got to do is increase organic matter one percent and you’ve just increased water holding capacity 25,000 gallons per acre. I mean, that’s a lot of water. And so instead of using chemical fertilizer using compost, for example as the lawn soil amendment.
Ben: It is interesting how you get in to this fact that we have these many churches on our landscape for example’s giant fertilized lawns that are full of fertilizer and weed killer and lawn mowers versus gardens that could be feeding the poor or water or ponds that we could be using to collect water and create this zero run off type of situation that you’re talking about. I mean, there’s a lot of stuff that we could do in addition to harvesting sweet potatoes or potatoes from a local farmer and getting our hands on some perennial crops and having those be the feature of something like the a church potluck versus free doughs, and cookies, and cakes, and casseroles that use all these GMO foods and basically support all the grain and the wheat and the soybeans that you talk about.
Joel: Actually, look intensive gardening including multi staged gardening like vines up above and shade tolerant things underneath, I mean this whole intensive gardening. It simply uses a lot more moisture than just a typical lawn. And so simply by creating gardens with succulent plants that are actively tended, that alone is way to convert the raindrops that fall on that church property into something more useful than lawn clippings.
Joel: I don’t think it’s a sin to have a little corner of lawn so you can have volleyball, a corner of badminton there or play some croquet or whatever. But do we really need three and four acre lawns out there. Just imagine what it would do to the emotional equity of a church if they converted a healthy portion of that into gardens and then started using that for families that are struggling in the church, start at home and turn the kitchen into a cannery and actually create an integrated visceral ecology and economy within the faith group. Anybody that did that would make the front page of next week’s paper.
Ben: And where do you talk about in the book is it makes sense from a community stand point as well. You say the more community feeds itself from the bounty of its own proximate resources the more vibrant and stable that community is going to be. So basically if we set things up so that we are developing community that’s able to feed itself and for example take all these churches sprinkle all over every single neighborhood and turn them into these places where we can grow food and we can harvest water and we can even produce energy, I mean, look at even the potential for the roof top at every church to become some kind of a solarium or something like that. You all of sudden, are making a lot of change in a community.
Now one of the things though that you talk about in the book that I think is kind of controversial is this idea of GMOs. For you as a Christian, you know looking at this from the standpoint of dominion over the planet that type of thing and genetic alteration of foods. Where do you stand on genetically modified organisms, Joel?
Joel: (Chuckles) Well as the old, as the Snuffy Smith cartoon says: “I’m a gettin’ it.” GMO, the problem with GMO is that it violates or maybe violates is not the right word it hurdles all the barriers that God’s design put in to make sure that it didn’t happen. But the only thing that cross [46:04] ______ in nature is a horse or a donkey but it makes the mule which interestingly enough is sterile. It’s almost like God says, “Yeah, you can go that far but no more.” And so this whole GMO thing where you actually override the sexual plumbing, the genetic make-up, the DNA to actually create completely new life forms that are combinations of things that would never be able to procreate by themselves is a big problem.
I mean, in Genesis God set down a couple of patterns he says, “I’m going to make all these plants. They’re going to bear seeds, they’re going to bear seed after their kind.” And if you look up after their kind in a concordance, you’ll see it mentioned numerous times the whole typing of kind from male and female to species kind to righteous and unrighteous, I mean there’s in Isaiah talks about standing on the wall blowing with a certain sound from the trumpet not with an uncertain sound. That’s the same idea of equivocating sound. And so God is interested in kind and so in Genesis when he made the creation He set it up so the plants would make seed that make it after their own kind. And in GMO not only do a lot of the plants might even make seed, their viable seed, they certainly don’t make it after their own kind. And so it’s an abrogation of both of those Genesis kind of boundaries or rules, if you will for life.
Ben: And you’re not talking about selective breeding of plants.
Joel: Oh no.
Ben: ‘Cause I know like the tomato, for example we’ve made fruit specific breeding patterns. What you’re talking about is actually genetically modifying by for example, inserting a sterilizing gene or selectively inserting genetic material into a plant that blasts the DNA with gene canons. That’s what you’re talking about.
Joel: Yes, inserting a night shade DNA pepper plants and tomato plants are in the night shade family, night shade into a salmon, a fish. That’s what I’m talking about. No, you know. When people laugh at me and say, “Oh, come on this is just all part of genetic selection like what we’ve been doing forever. This is Mendel’s peas all over again.” It’s not Mendel’s peas. Mendel’s peas were peas on peas. He wasn’t putting corn and pigs on peas, he was putting peas on peas.
Jacob, in the Old Testament were still on actually understanding all that was going there with the speckled and the spotted sheep but he was basically hybridizing, he was breeding up a flock of sheep that were stronger and better than his father-in-law Laban’s. And this is just good animal husbandry. All of us that do animal husbandry do this or plants or anything else. This is part of what creative human intellectual capacity brings to our living world. It’s this selecting good stewardship. Selection. Select the good ones. But GMO overrides all the protective things to maintain similar kinds and speciation. For then all become one great big hodge-podge of [0:49:51.8] ______ and (chuckles), you know half horse, and half people, and half tomatoes, half watermelons, I mean the whole protection here is this kindness.
Ben: So it sounds to me like what you’re saying is if we can show that GMO, I know you’ve got a little bit of evidence in your book about the link between the GMO and for example, like leaky gut and food allergies and if we can say that it’s going to cause harm to human or to actually harming that food or that animal by for example, rendering it sterile then it probably is not something that would fall into the ethical category of something we should be doing to the planet.
Joel: That’s exactly right. And it certainly doesn’t fall into God’s parameters of patterns of life as established. And again, I’m quick in the book and I say it several times, I don’t have all the answers and I’m not trying to put myself up as some sort of a cult leader or anything like that. I’m trying to at least get the faith community to think about these things. The problem is in the average church if you dare to question, should we have Styrofoam plates at the potluck or should we have Kentucky fried chicken at the potluck, if you dare to even ask the question, you get (chuckles) you know, you get this kind of disdainful look like, “Where’d you come from, you tree-hugging cosmic worshipping nirvana greeny weeny, you know, are you one of them?” And we can’t even have a conversation because to mention that brands you as some sort of raving earth nut.
Ben: And what you’re saying is we should instead like at the average again, not to kick the church potluck horse to death, but we should be asking, “Who cooked this food and where did the potatoes come from?” and “Do you know the farmer who grew the chicken.” And was this particular dish created in a format that respects animals and that respects agriculture and that respects soil versus… did we just buy this because it was convenient at the grocery store without giving so much of a thought as to whether or not it actually is essentially causing folks to abuse creation?
Joel: You said it extremely well and you know, Michael Pollan’s writing in “Omnivore’s Dilemma” used the term he said, “We actually eat thoughtlessly and boy, the longer I live the more I rot.” That just nailed it. We eat thoughtlessly. Now, as a Christian would you read thoughtlessly? No. There’s some things you read, there’s some things you wouldn’t read like pornography. Things like, well I guess you don’t read it, you look at it. But anyway, you know what I’m saying is that there are entertainment.
Ben: I don’t know, if you have read Shades of Grey. Shades of Grey, you can read it too.
Joel: (Chuckles) Yeah, that’s true. My point is if there’s anything else in life that we would say, well it’s fine to be thoughtless toward death. Thoughtless toward entertainment. Thoughtless toward recreation. Thoughtless toward education. No. Thoughtless toward selecting a pastor or doctrine or music, okay? We view all these things as under this kind of biblical moral mandate of thoughtfulness and Paul tells us to wrestle with truth and let these things be. But boy when it comes to food that’s in some sort of a segregated category over here, that is some sort of an amoral dimension in our life and yet look how much food is referenced in the Scripture, I mean even the sacrament of the last supper, communion is through food and Paul says, “I wanted you to eat meat but you’re still on milk.” I mean the whole physical spiritual integration in the bible is just profound if you’re looking for it including farming and spirituality.
Now I realized the Israelites were shepherding, they were an agrarian culture and we can even argue maybe there’s a reason for that. Maybe that gave a lot more good risk for Jesus’ parable there, if you will. If they had been simply, of course Jesus was a carpenter. He was not a shepherd but they had craft and all that stuff, I mean he had a whole culture. But what I’m getting at is that this segregation we have in our mind, this compartmentalization that there are these whole realm of our human existence that has an amoral nobody cares written all over it. That’s an extremely dangerous place to put someone in the Christian life.
Ben: Yeah, I heard you. Tell me a little bit about your son Daniel and this project that he did with the 4H because you talk about farming with faith versus farming with fear and I think this story is kind of a perfect example that kind of bring together some of the concepts that you lay out in this part of the book about faith versus fear. You tell a story about you son Daniel when he was 13 and he took his first 4H illustrated talk to senior contest at a Vtech.
Joel: Yeah, that’s right. He was down at the State. He took his first 4H presentation I think it was titled Symbiosis and Synergy in the Rabbits Ears or something like that. And these four veterinarians, I’m sorry three, three veterinarians were the judges of this. He was in the animal, he was in the livestock part of the competition and he talked about the chickens underneath the rabbits and the hole. We have a rack and house rabbit chicken combination of permaculture stacking kind of idea.
Ben: What is that? What’s the permaculture stacking idea?
Joel: Well, what that is is rather than having a rabbit tree and a chicken house, we combined them so the rabbits are up above and the chickens are underneath. And so as the rabbits drop stuff down we have the carbon on the floor they’re littered, and the rabbits urinate and poop and of course the rabbits gets some forage and hay and stuff as long and they’ve drop those down. The chickens are underneath and their scratching through that and aerating so it’s composting. So the whole place just smells beautiful like humus just a very wonderful odor and the rabbits are healthier. The chickens get to enjoy the extra bugs that the rabbit urine and manure is helping to create underneath. Note that the very hospitable environment and in the rabbit dropping they get composting by the chickens with their scratching eliminates their pathogens due to the composting process.
So the point is that both the rabbits and the chickens benefit from each other’s proximity and the things that both of them bring to the table. And so he does this little speech illustrated talk. He had posters and stuff on this and of course when he got done, the vet professors just couldn’t stand it because they’re coming from this very rigid linear segregated compartmentalized idea where we never mix animals and then we have the chickens over here, the cows over here, the pigs over here, the rabbits over here. We never mix them. And so one of them during question and answer after Daniel’s done, they ask a few questions. And they’re usually you know, pretty soft ball questions. Now many of the kids are 13 and so basic questions. They’re not there to bird dog somebody. This isn’t defending your doctoral thesis, this is a kid’s program and this one he just couldn’t stand he said, “Aren’t you concerned about sickness and disease?” And here was him with all these different kinds of animals, and close. And Daniel never batted an eye just looked and say, “Well we’ve learned that most pathogens don’t crospeciate and those three guys stepped back and you could see them they wanted to laugh but they couldn’t. They were just blown away and it was funny Daniel and I hadn’t even practiced this answer. We’ve done a little bit of a role play, so he’d be ready. But we certainly hadn’t practiced a question like that and it just showed, I’m from Mars you’re from Pluto kind of thing. How a big a gulf it was in this whole thinking.
The paradigm between the segregated thinking versus the integrated and our faith we don’t assume that wellness comes out of a bottle or vaccination needle or anything like that. We assume that nature’s fundamentally well and if there’s a sickness we made it and so by faith we’re saying the default position is proper immunological function. Our mandate is to figure out how immunological function can be helped not from outside but from inside using these ecological patterns that we see in nature which is diversity and complex relationships among animals. Not segregation but integration.
Ben: So what you’re saying is that if we do integrate a lot of these natural farming concepts versus an industrial farming concept we won’t see what we had seen in industrial farming. If we don’t see anti-microbial shoe dips and shower in shower out in plastic, hazmat suits and the whole industry paranoid about bio-security because they’re fearful because they think the animals are fragile and the plants are fragile.
Ben: And you have to have a refrigerator full of vaccines and pharmaceuticals on the farm, and what you’re saying is that instead we have a farm that instead has faith in the fact that if we take care of the soil and we plant a lot of perennials versus annuals, and we treat the animals like they’re actual real living beings that require respect and honor that a pattern of immunity and a pattern of natural wellness will follow versus the pattern of sickness and illness and all the other issues that we see in a typical factory farming or industrial farming scenario?
Joel: Exactly, which moves us from a place of fear and paranoia that, “Oh no, what’s gonna be and gonna get sick tomorrow. Oh no, I hope I have enough meds in the refrigerator.” The average farmers is just almost paranoid about sickness and disease and all these things. We didn’t even think about it, I mean it happens so infrequently that we don’t get up in the morning wondering, “Oh no, I wonder what’s sick today.” We don’t even think about it and that is the life that is just nice solid state. It’s like the difference between wondering if Jesus loves me. Again, this whole paranoia about you. Where am I going when I die? Why am I here? What am I doing? In this great identity problem, but for the believer we know why we’re here. We honor God. We know where we’re headed. We know that we’re loved and there’s this wonderful solid resilient strong foundation and it’s the foundation of faith as opposed to fear.
Ben: Yeah, and for people listening in whether you’re somebody who goes to church or you don’t. Whether you’re somebody who has a little farm or garden or you don’t, there are things that you can do when you’re picking a box of cereal off the shelf, for example and you decide to put it back because you realized that you’re not quite sure how well that wheat and grain was grown and what it actually did to the soil. When you’re grabbing your package of burger from the grocery store meat aisle maybe you should give second thought as to how that cow or how that pig or how that chicken was actually raised and what it did to the planet and what it did to that animal.
And yeah, when you start to make little decisions like these they add up. You don’t have to necessarily start off by planting a huge garden in your community and trying to feed everybody but you should begin to think about how we can affect change at a community level and how every little decision that you make can affect change and for those of you listening in too what I would recommend and this is what I would like for everyone to do if you do happen to be someone who goes to church or someone who has a pastor or someone who is a member of some type of religious organization that’s able to affect change in the community, I would encourage you to go out and grab this book and give and give it to whoever you identify as the leader in your community because they need to read this book. I think every pastor should read this book. I think every youth group leader should read this book. I think every freaking Christian farmer should read this book. And I really think that anybody who cares about taking care of the planet the way the planet was meant to be taken cared of should give this book a read.
And Joel I have a question for you. Have you ever think about taking everything you have in this book and just turn it into just like a freaking curriculum? You know that for six or eight or ten weeks you could bring like a group at a church through or you know like a community group through to learn some of these concepts?
Joel: Yes, actually the publisher when they first saw the manuscript, that was their first request but I was so, you know I’m a farmer, I mean I’m a farmer who writes I’m not a writer who farms.
Joel: And boy, you know these books they take time. You don’t just sit down a couple of evenings and slap it out (chuckles). I was so whatever, it has taken so much time and energy to get the book out that the thought of right at that point of creating a six to eight week like a Sunday school curriculum just was oh, daunting. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. But absolutely as interest increases I’m doing my first big church workshop actually in Indianapolis this fall coming up. So as I do a little more of this I think very possibly I could do something like that and it would definitely add a little more, grab or toss if you will to the idea. Just to facilitate the discussion because most people that are Christians, I don’t think we know the questions to ask. I don’t know how come people know where to start because a lot of this is pretty foreign to us and we just don’t know where to start.
Ben: Yeah, I hear you. For me personally, this whole idea of stepping back and looking at things from a very big standpoint of optimizing not just the mind but also the body, and most importantly the spirit comes down to making choices that affect not only yourself but also the planet and those around you and this idea of living with conscientiousness and this idea of living with regard and mindfulness for what’s going on around you. What’s going on with the food that you’re putting into your mouth, and the grass, and the water, and everything else that you should be taking into consideration, it’s sad that the people who should be doing this the most in my opinion Christians, right? Who should believe in this concept of honoring the planet the most are still ripping open bags of chips and Wonder Bread at the church potluck and spraying fertilizer on the church lawns and running the sprinklers willy nilly and not really caring for the planet in a way that it should be taken care of.
And a big kudos to you, Joel for writing a book that’s going to give a lot of people, I think a lot of pause about the choices they’re making in that community and again even if you’re not a Christian for example, I still think this book is a fantastic one to read. When it comes to gaining a perspective on how you really truly should care not just for your body but also for the planet, for your community, for those around you and for the good old pig. So Joel, thanks for coming on the show today and sharing all this stuff with us, man.
Joel: Been an honor, Ben. Thank you very much.
Ben: Well folks, thanks for listening in and again you can go to bengreenfieldfitness.com/pignessofpigs to grab Joel’s book along with the show notes and to leave any comments or questions that you might have. And until next time, I’m Ben Greenfield along with Joel Salatin signing out from bengreenfieldfitness.com. Have a healthy week.
In today's podcast, I interview Joel F. Salatin – a self-described “Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist-lunatic-Farmer”. We discuss his new book The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs and much, much more.
Salatin is an American farmer, lecturer, and author. He raises livestock using holistic methods of animal husbandry, free of potentially harmful chemicals, on his Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia, in the Shenandoah Valley. Meat from the farm is sold by direct-marketing to consumers and restaurants.
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.
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, the founder of regenerative organic gardening. 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 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, a self-described “Christian-libertarian-environmentalist-capitalist-lunatic-Farmer” produces high-quality “beyond organic” meats, which are raised using environmentally responsible, ecologically beneficial, sustainable agriculture. Jo Robinson, the author of Pasture Perfect: The Far-Reaching Benefits of Choosing Meat, Eggs and Dairy Products From Grass-Fed Animals (2004) 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.”
Salatin considers his farming a ministry, and he condemns the negative impact on his livelihood and lifestyle of what he considers an increasingly regulatory approach taken by the agencies of the United States government toward farming. Salatin now spends a hundred days a year lecturing at colleges and to environmental groups.
And now from Christian libertarian farmer Joel Salatin is a new book – a clarion call to readers to honor the animals and the land, and produce food based on spiritual principles: The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs: Respecting and Caring for All God's Creation. This book is an important and thought-provoking explanation of how by simply appreciating the marvelous pigness of pigs, we are celebrating the Glory of God.
As a man of deep faith and student of the Bible, and as a respected and successful ecological family farmer, Joel Salatin knows that God created heaven and earth and meant for all living organisms to be true to their nature and their endowed holy purpose. He intended for us to respect and care for His gift of creation, not to ravage and mistreat it for our own pleasure or wealth.
The example that inspires the book's title explains what Salatin means: when huge corporate farms confine pigs in cramped and dark pens, inject them with antibiotics and feed them herbicide-saturated food simply to increase profits, they are not respecting them as a creation of God or allowing them to express even their most rudimentary uniqueness – that special role that is part of His design. Every living organism has a God-given uniqueness to its life that must be honored and respected, and too often that is not happening today.
Salatin shows us the long overlooked ethics and instructions in the Bible for how to eat, how to shop, how to think about how we farm and feed the world. Through scripture and Biblical stories, he shows us why it's more vital than ever to look to the good book rather than corporate America when feeding the country and your family.
Salatin makes a compelling case for Christian stewardship of the earth and how it relates to every action we take regarding our food. He also opens our eyes to a common misconception many Christians may have about environmentalism: it's not a bad thing, and definitely not just the province of secular liberals; it's really a very good thing, part of heeding God's Word.
During our discussion, you'll discover:
-Why Joel calls his new book the Marvelous Pigness of Pigs…[7:10]
-How Christians abuse God's creation, and what's wrong with the average church potluck…[9:10]
-Examples of how even the Bible is chock full of animal rights…[19:17]
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I'm interested in…*
-Why Christians should be devoted to soil development…[22:00]
-How a church and church property could be used to actually hydrate the landscape…[33:15]
-How a church property could be used to provide food and water for the entire community…[40:05]
-Why Joel believes that God would not want us to create GMO foods…[45:20]
-What a beautiful, Christian farm and food system should look like…[55:08]
-What it looks like to be “farming with faith” vs. “farming with fear”…[60:50]
-And much more!
Resources from this episode:
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-HealthGains – Text the word “GAIN” to 313131 to receive a $250 voucher toward your HealthGAINS treatment.
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