Book Reflection: Folks, This Ain’t Normal by Joel Salatin (Part II)

From Part IGrowing, processing, and marketing the food items all in a single region mitigate many of those secondary issues, organic or not. It’s also worth mentioning that labels require hefty fees for each individual product to the government for licensing—fees that your small-scale organic farmer cannot pay for.

Part II

Do you want to eat grass-fed beef? It’d be a reasonable price if your local farmer could ship the animals locally for swift butchering. Instead, they ship the animals hundreds of miles away ($) to an industrial-scale facility that is operated by machines that sometimes whip around particles that warrant inspectors ($) to check how many parts of manure are allowed per pound of meat. Small abattoirs rarely need that oversight or the paperwork and personnel that processes the paperwork ($) that comes with that oversight. They also don’t invest in specialized infrastructure ($) that’s only cost-effective or even necessary if you’re processing on the full industrial level.

It’s amazing how much “the system” favors the corporations and shuts out the small farmers from the market. Even schools and restaurants have overhead that have paper-bound criteria that don’t permit buying supplies from a smaller source even though they can fill the order.

Farmhouse at Polyface
The farmhouse. It’s a house on the farm. It’s been that way for many cultures for thousands of years. Yet these days in some parts of the United States it’s illegal to build a house on a farm. (Photo courtesy of Flickr user Brian Johnson & Dane Kantner)

A lot of “wow” moments happened while I read this book, even when I was familiar with the concept. Nothing compares to someone’s pragmatic but out-of-the-box living experiences. Did you know because of many zoning laws many farming families are no longer allowed to build housing on their own property? Because you can’t have commercial and residential areas mixing. Have those lawyers driven on a country road? Wow.

My favorite chapter was one he wrote while flying back from a speaking circuit in Australia. He comes up with so many sensible, why-don’t-we-already-do-that ideas for airlines to cut back on waste. Everything you eat or drink on a flight comes in a tight package and unravels into piles of plastic waste. After all, it’s not hard to contract a kitchen to clean reusable utensils and plates or by bulk ingredients for snacks and stews.

One more: what would be a good alternative to constantly shipping foods to regions that don’t have long growing seasons? We could use the oil that would otherwise go to shipping (and be burned) and create hardy plastic tarps over stretches of vegetable farms to extend the growing season.

It’s all fascinating. I would love to find other sources that address the plausibility of some of the ideas in this book.


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